Thoughts on Recruiting Emails

Hey </NAME>

I saw you program in Java. That’s awesome! I love Java! I love it so much in fact that I’m working with this hot startup in Sioux Falls IOWA that is looking for developers just like you. They are disrupting the shoe shining space and are just killing it!

Call me immediately and send me your CV.

Rock out



What hasn’t been said about the infamous recruiter email? Developers hate it. Recruiters are nervous to write them, and it remains a black hole of sorts, and yet is so important.

Many pixels have been blackened on the topic – you can find info here and here.

Here are my thoughts –

You are going to engage to somebody who knows much much more than you on the given subject. 

How would feel if you were going to talk about edible foams with Ferran Adria, about particle acceleration with a CERN scientist, or recruiting with yours truly. Just kidding :)How would you behave in that case? Would you try to wing it with a few big words and hope they just might think you are the chef/physicist/recruiter you claim to be? No, you would speak with humility and curiosity. Keep it about them, understand what they are doing and what they would like to be doing – not go off on how amazing your tech stack is.

Speak to the top of your intelligence. 

Its not because you don’t know all that much about tech that you have to sound like an all around ignoramus. Speaking to the top of your intelligence is a borrowed from improv comedy and essentially means to play a character that knows everything that you, as a person, know. It makes for much richer characters and scenes, and for much better emails and phone calls.

So what you didn’t get summa in CS at MIT? It doesn’t mean you have an IQ of 80. Don’t just say “oh well that is tech stuff so I have no clue”. Instead, go talk to your engineers, find out why they use the tech that they do, why decisions were made..etc…and when you feel you have something that you understand with confidence then congrats! You will write better emails than 90% of the recruiters out there.

Personalize in one way or another…just personalize. 

There is a lot of talk of email personalization. And for good reason, it simply works. But here is the thing, sometimes its hard to personalize on tech especially when you are speaking to somebody who knows a lot more than you (see above). And sometimes, there just is not that much to say.

“Hey, I see you know Java. Wanna job?” is not going to cut it. Neither is complementing an empty github account. In fact, its this is exactly the sort of thing that drives developers insane.

Instead, personalize on something else. Maybe they are into kabuki theater, skydiving, or (more likely) artisanal craft beer made with hops grown on Brooklyn/SOMA rooftops. Whatever it is, they will be much more receptive to that than to a boneheaded tech email or nothing at all.

Cause at the end of the day, when you get an email from a stranger you really just want to feel like they’ve paid attention to you as a person. Sure it might be better to write about the details of this github repository or that new javascript framework. But that is a minefield that is not worth the risk.

Follow up. Via email AND phone. 

Don’t follow Woody Allen’s dating advice, but DO listen to his thoughts on persistence. “90% of success is showing up” has been thrown around quite a bit in the business/motivation world  – but I don’t think it makes more sense than for emails.  Response rate goes up drastically for the 2nd email, especially if the first one was personalized. Use Boomerang or Followup.cc to manage.

And if you are looking for the ultimate productivity hack, consider the good old phone. A simple phone call can be the equivalent of a dozen emails and can uncover stuff that you would never get in writing.

These are obviously non-exhaustive observations, so please add some of your own gems in the comments!