The Best Recruiters – followup to The Recruiter Honeypot (

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the best recruiters

Of the 530 emails directed to Pete London, there were a few standouts. Thirty-seven emails contained personalization, role, and company information but within that group, just 5 recruiters went beyond an occasional detail and spent a minimum of three paragraphs explaining the team’s priorities, charting the company’s trajectory, and describing why Pete’s background set the perfect stage for a new opportunity.

The best recruiters

According to these metrics, the extraordinary recruiting folks who represent that top 1% are:

what’s their secret?

I’ve re-read Pete’s emails multiple times and analyzed the best recruiters’ tips and tricks. Here’s my attempt to articulate the unspoken rules of a fantastic recruiter email:

2nd person

Tip #1. You, your, and yours

The most common mistake a recruiter makes is framing the opportunity from their perspective instead of the candidate’s: “Hi, I’m a recruiter, I’ve got a great position for you. We’re doing amazing things. Call me!”.

Ronda and Brad’s brilliant emails stood out for one simple thing — the predominant use of the second person. Instead of selling the company and listing its virtues in “I, me, we” language, they paint the position from Pete’s perspective with “you, your, yours” language:

“This opportunity would take you more in the direction of new media… it would give you the opportunity to really stretch your skills… you’ll have the chance to learn SproutCore directly from the guy who developed it…”Ronda Woodcox

“Specifically I have you in mind as Software Engineer for our Application Development team which is responsible for building and scaling innovative features for <company>. You’d be responsible for seeing projects through from inception to development, production, and rapid post-production iteration. You’d be working on UI to the meaty challenges in back-end scalability, optimization, and performance primarily in Javascript and PHP…”Brad Fuellenbach

By adopting the second person, the potential benefits to Pete are more apparent and the recruiters become a storyteller instead of a salesman.


Tip #2. First impressions…

Though everyone wants their emails to stand out, most email openers fall into one of three categories: 1) 35% “Hi, I am a recruiter” 2) 22% “I came across your profile and was impressed, and 3) 7% “Sorry to bother you but…”

email greetings

None of these greetings is ideal. The most common introduction, “Hi, I’m a recruiter, ” or “Hi, my name is and I work with…,” seems like a harmless and polite opener, but it’s not necessary (your name is already in the to header) and it immediately puts the focus on your status as a recruiter instead of the candidate’s potential opportunity.

The second category, “I came across your profile and was impressed,” isn’t specific and once you’ve received 100 recruiter emails that are similarly impressed, the flattery falls flat.

And finally, the apology. There’s no reason to apologize for being a recruiter or for a cold email. An organization is nothing without its people and your role is to leave no stone unturned on your quest to match an opportunity with an ideal candidate. If your email is strong and well-written, there’s no need to start your outreach from a weak and tentative position.

For contrast, consider these approaches:

1) “I’m reaching out to you given your strong front-end development experience, particularly with Javascript.”
2) “Your unique mix of front-end and back-end knowledge and experience really caught the attention of our current Web Developer manager.”
3) “I see that you have experience with large scale software development involving distributed systems that lines up nicely with the work being done in our Cloud Technology Team”

In all three cases, the author’s recruiter role is implied, the flattery is specific, and the critical opening sentence is not wasted on frivolous social niceties.

Of the five top emails, only one began with a “I saw your profile and was impressed.” The other four began with a specific compliment or a non-standard opener.

follow-up don't spam

Tip #3. Follow up; don’t spam

Within the 172 organizations who reached out to Pete, 44% of those emails could have referenced a previous email or colleague, “Pete, I wanted to reach out again…” However, the actual number was much lower – just 12%.

email greetings

When recruiters reference previous emails, they maintain the conversation and history. When a subsequent email is sent without referencing the previous outreach, it’s worse than starting over. The ignored history implies that regardless of what the recruiter says, the candidate is unmemorable and the recruiter’s words read insincere.

And beyond mentioning a personal follow-up, just 1 recruiter picked up the torch for their team member by name, “It’s been a few month since my colleague, Thomas, reached out to you.” Teamwork brownie points go to: Ryan Eriksson (Expanxion).

blah blah blah

Tip #4: The limelight belongs to the candidate

External recruiting firms and VC’s are especially likely to justify their outreach by talking about their firm, their firm’s specialty, years of experience, previous LinkedIn testimonials, etc. A laundry list of credentials doesn’t prove you are a great recruiter — the proof is in the email where the focus should be on the candidate’s qualifications, not your own.

The top five recruiters take a different tact and show a friendly, insatiable curiosity to learn more about Pete while never mentioning anything about their role or title:

“From what I gather, you’re a JavaScript and front-end expert, having worked on web applications that scale to millions.  I also noted, however, that your skills go beyond front-end work, demonstrated by your experience at Plaxo in C/C++ (and even violin!).  What I take from this is that you are really an engineering generalist, although maybe having some obvious strengths and likes, with a clear understanding of the web.  I thought I would get in touch with you in hopes of learning about your situation and sharing some info from my end.”Bill Umoff

“…I am extremely impressed with the experience you’ve gained from Meebo, Plaxo and Disney … but primarily your passion of “scaling applications to millions, and pushing the bounds of what’s possible on the Web” … Well, I’d love to learn some more about you and your interests and am curious if you’d be open to having a chat with us here at <company? either tomorrow or Wednesday…”Brad Fuellenbach


One last tidbit, recruiters don’t read blogs. Surprisingly, Pete’s inbox has continued flowing since the initial honeypot email post — roughly one ping every 31 hours — with no signs of dwindling. While the field attracts a wide range of talent, this shouldn’t detract from the amazing recruiters who are getting recruiting right.

A special thanks to Bill Umoff, Brad Fuellenbach, and Ronda Woodcox for allowing their non-anonymized emails to be reprinted.

Happy team-building,

via Hacker News 20

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