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Q&A: How to get candidates to respond

It’s not only about finding the right candidates, it’s about access: getting people to respond.

Q: “Somer, since starting my own search firm my email/InMail response rate is low. I think it’s because I don’t have a big brand name on my email address anymore. Any tips?”

A: Following up on my earlier post, my two cents.

It’s not 100% a problem with your unknown email address...

First, it's ok. Recruiting is hard! The more junior the search, the fewer people respond and the more follow ups you need to do. I had a Director level search a couple years ago where I reached out to over 400 people to create a candidate slate – really. The VP/C-level searches have a much higher response rate. Why? They aren’t getting slammed with as many irrelevant recruiter emails so there’s less noise to break through. They also value developing relationships with recruiters.

Things you can do:

✔ Subject line – not salesy. I just put the title the of job.

✔ Opening and closing sentence with a CTA. Make it clear why you’re reaching out, and what next steps are.

✔ Have a sell. This isn’t just “hey I have a job, here’s what my client needs, interested?”

- What motivates this specific type of candidate to make a move? That needs to be addressed. Is it impact, autonomy, growth, commitment, investment, complex challenges to solve, certain things to learn, reporting to a senior person, getting in at the ground floor of a big transformation, building a big team, leading a small world class team, visibility, etc etc.

- What’s attractive about your client?

- Have a sentence on your client’s culture. Hardly anyone does this, and it’s something everyone cares about.

✔End with your CTA, asking for a time to chat over the next couple days. Have a long term relationship oriented ask. These relationships last for decades.

✔Follow up using a different channel. If you sent an InMail, send an email or connection request. Use a different message, keep it brief, and refer to the original one.


Want more tips and insight?

📘 Check out Search in Plain Sight: Demystifying Executive Search on Amazon. If you've read the book, please consider leaving a review. It helps more people find it. It's geared toward executive job seekers, but recruiters have told me they like it too.

📰 Sign up for the newsletter on the Distinguished Search website.

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