min read

How I got a candidate response rate of 41%

Response rates are a reliable success metric for recruiters, but many recruiters struggle to get their response rate up and at the same time be scalable enough in their approach.

September 29, 2020
Yuma Heymans
May 13, 2023

Candidate response rates is one of the most reliable success metric for recruiters in proactive outreach. The response rate is simply the percentage of candidates who respond to your outreach from the total amount of caniddates that you reached out to. It could be via emails, calls, texts, or any other communication medium used in your hiring process. 

This metric can offer profound insights into the effectiveness of your recruitment approach. It can dictate the pace of your hiring, the quality of candidates you attract, and ultimately, your hiring success.

A good response rate primarily indicates two things: 

  1. You’re reaching the right people
  2. You’re doing quality outreach (good messages and good message cadence - being the amount of touchpoints and the intervals between them)

So how to do this right?

The way to 41% responses

In this real-life example I sourced for a niche Lead EVM Engineer role for a blockchain startup (Ethereum Virtual Machine is a core technology of the Ethereum blockchain). 

Blockchain lead engineers are candidates who earn six figure salaries already elsewhere, are generally hard to find and even harder to convince. 

Since these candidates do not always have a clear presence on LinkedIn, I added GitHub and Stack Overflow to my recruitment sources. 

From an outreach perspective, I chose email as the main outreach channel because it’s scalable (no limitations as with connection invites and InMails), it's fairly cheap compared to alternatives and because emails allow for far going automation.

I sent a series of highly personalized messages including follow ups to the candidates I found. I know from our data that a single follow up message can double response rates.  

See here the results:

42 out of 102 candidates replied to my outreach (41%), 30 of them were interested replies and 5 currently under review and interviewing.

To get to these results I:

  1. Chose the right tool for my goal: one that can find all the candidates I needed, can find verified personal email addresses and automates the entire outreach flow.
  2. Followed a couple of core principles in candidate outreach

These are the rules I followed:

  1. Target the right candidates
  2. Use verified contact details
  3. Hyper-personalize messages
  4. Always send follow ups (if not replied yet)
  5. Track everything

This is what that means:

1. Target the right candidates

Although not part of the direct messaging part, you’re targeting is key in getting many (and relevant) responses. If you’re reaching out to a candidate who’s actually unqualified or just not interested in the job it’s very likely they won’t respond to you (why should they if it’ just not relevant).

Tips to target right:

  • Make use of the right search tool, again LinkedIn is not the only tool out there, use a cross platform talent search engine that is more powerful and more affordable
  • Go beyond LinkedIn (LinkedIn can be very competitive), check other channels that are relevant for your search (for this req I chose to add GitHub and Stack Overflow)
  • Let the engine of choice do the pre-screening but do a last check on the profiles yourself, spend some time to build the right search and understand how things like keywords, job title and location influence your search results 

2. Use verified contact details

Bad contact details are bad for so many reasons. If you use an inactive or even undeliverable email address you not only waste time and money but also risk being marked as spam by your email service provider.

Tips to use the right contact details:

  • Use software that automates the email retrieval so you don’t have to waste time on manually getting contact details 
  • Make use of an automated verification service to make sure the email addresses that you use are actively being used and your emails are deliverable
  • Use a tool that finds personal email addresses because candidates appreciate you reaching out to their personal email a lot more than to their work email 

3. Hyper-personalize messages

Candidates typically do not respond to standardized emails that clearly don’t include anything in the message that directly relates to them personally. Including personalizations in your message is key to get them interested and get their reply.

  • Use automated personalizations like [first name], [current job title] and [top 3 matching skills] to relate to the candidate’s actual skills and background. 
  • Test several templates and see which perform best to get a good idea of what to use, iterate on your best template to make it perfect
  • Keep your templates in a list so you can always go back to them and reuse them for next roles

4. Always send follow ups (if not replied yet)

Sending followups can dramatically increase your response rates. Here are some of the statistics from ou data to back this up: 1st email on average gets an 8% reply rate, a single follow up message doubles that response rate to 16%, the third message (so the second follow up) adds another 4% reply rate. 

  • Send 3 messages in total (so two follow ups after your first message), this is the optimal amount of messages, after the third message the additional reply rate is just 1% and that is not worth the backlash of sending too many messages 
  • Keep a 6 day interval between messages because 6 days is on average the interval (delay) between messages that performs best
  • Use a tool that has ‘if not replied’ function so you can make sure that your follow up messages are not sent to candidates when they did already reply to your earlier message(s)

5. Track everything

Having no idea of how successful your outreach efforts are is a key mistake that keeps recruiters doing things that just don’t work. If your outreach doesn’t convert to replies, that means that you should do something about your approach. But many recruiters don’t use analytics to get a good sense of this. By using sending analytics you have a full view of the performance of your sequences.

  • Use a tool with a clear dashboard on sending performance so you always have a view on if your sequence is working 
  • Launch a new sequence for every new role so you can keep track of the performance per role
  • Improve based on your results, bad reply rate? Try to improve your targeting and outreach messages 

If you think “this is a lot of work” you can have a look at HeroHunt.ai which integrates all these principles in one tool.

HeroHunt.ai will also soon launch RecruitGPT which allow users to tell in a few lines who they're looking for and their top matches will be returned in seconds.

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