Initial Outreach For Sourcers

I’ve been asked several times over the course of my research career to share examples of my initial email outreach to prospective candidates after having found them through various sourcing avenues. When I share what I do, people are usually surprised at the simplicity of it. But my feelings on making a connection with someone who most likely doesn’t know you from a hole in the wall are that less is more.

For those of you who do initial outreach via email to potential candidates before throwing them over the fence to your recruiting colleagues, it is tempting to want to go into great detail about how incredible your company/client is and what a fantastic opportunity you have to offer them. I urge you to put yourself in the position of the person you are emailing: if you received an email from a someone you’d never met before, from a company you hadn’t previously either known of or been interested in, and the email was three paragraphs long with most of it being a stock company and/or job description, what’s the likelihood that you’d make it to the final paragraph where the job opportunity was shared? That’s what I thought…  

It’s important for us to wear our candidates’ shoes and think about how our outreach is being perceived. People want to first know that you’re interested in them… not in filling your position. To be cliché, they don’t care what you know until they know that you care.

Here’s an example of the outreach that I’ve used in the past:

Hi <first name>,

My name is Amybeth and I work for <company name>. Hope you don’t mind the outreach; I found your information while I was looking around <website> this morning. It looks like you’ve had some great experience with <skillset/industry/company> which is what compelled me to email you. I’m looking for a <job title> for our <city> office and we need someone with experience similar to yours. I’m not assuming that you’d be interested, but at the very least I figured you might know someone with whom I should connect. I am hoping that you would be willing to connect me with one or two colleagues with similar professional backgrounds as yourself. Of course, if you’d like to discuss this opportunity yourself that would be fantastic too!

Either way, I look forward to hearing back from you. Take care and have a great afternoon!


Amybeth Hale

#1: I am always honest about who I am and why I am contacting them, and I share this information at the very beginning of my outreach. No sense in keeping people guessing!

#2: I let them know quickly how/where I found them and share a unique piece of information I learned about them from my research. This information lets your potential candidate know they are not being sent a generic cookie-cutter note. (I do keep this template handy in a Word document to save some time but I modify it for each new lead)

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#3: I give a VERY brief idea of the job – usually just a title or a very short synopsis; I’ll save the entire job description for when they write back to indicate interest. This accomplishes two things: one, it saves me from carpal tunnel syndrome by typing out or copy/pasting the whole job description each time I write to someone new, and two, it prevents them from not responding to me and simply forwarding my note on to someone else with no acknowledgement. They have to respond to me to get more information which enables me to further develop the initial relationship instead of just being a(nother) transactional sourcer.

#4: I let them know that I in no way assume they’d be interested. This gives them an easy out if they aren’t, and makes it more acceptable to refer other individuals.

#5: I let them know that I want to hear back from them even if they’re not interested. I don’t only want to hear back from people who are interested or who have networking connections for me; timing is everything and even if this person isn’t interested now, they might be in the future. The more communication you can have with a new lead, the more likely it is that they will warm to you and remember you when they DO want a change.

BONUS: my email signature contains links with several of my social profiles. Some people will click on those to learn more about who I am; this way I don’t have to write a dissertation on my background in the email. If they’re interested, they’ll click!

These initial outreach emails have always been well received by potential candidates. I have been complimented on several occasions by people on things ranging from how I was able to find them, to the authentic and personable nature of my email, to the comfort level they felt in referring their friends and colleagues to me. My response rate has always been high with this sort of outreach as well; while I don’t have specific metrics to back it up, I would estimate that at least 2/3 (probably closer to 3/4) of the people I have used this approach with have responded. Some respond to say they’re not interested, but most respond with a thank-you and either indicate that they want to learn more or provide contact information for a colleague that I should connect with. Any response is a win in my book because it gives me the opportunity to respond and thank them for their time, again giving more warm-fuzzies to potential candidates even if the timing is not right for them. Timing is everything in this line of work.

Do you have a specific outreach method that works well for you? Please share it below in the comments! The more we can learn how to properly and effectively reach our target audience, the more respect we will win for our profession.

Amybeth Quinn began her career in sourcing working within the agency world as an Internet Researcher. Since 2002, she has worked in both agency and corporate sourcing and recruiting roles as both individual contributor and manager, and also served previously as the editor of The Fordyce Letter, and, with ERE Media. These days she's working on some super cool market intelligence and data analytics projects. You can connect with her on Twitter at @researchgoddess.


12 Comments on “Initial Outreach For Sourcers

  1. Marvin, good stuff, but since your goal is to be succinct, I think the line “Of course, if you’d like to discuss this opportunity yourself that would be fantastic too!” is unnecessary, as it’s clearly implied previously. Another reason is that just in case this email was accidentally sent to someone who’s currently employed by one of your employer’s partners or is on a list of hands-off companies, you want it to be perceived purely as a networking email and not a solicitation, which can get you/your company in legal hot water. Given that, you might want to tone down the job references even further — at least in the first communication!

  2. Glenn, thanks for the comment. The wording that I’ve listed here has worked very well for me in a corporate role, & your suggestions could certainly help out in a 3rd party situation or one in which there is an agreement between companies not to poach. Thanks for sharing!


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  4. Amybeth,

    I love your conversational style and authenticity. That type of approach has always worked well for me too and really hit home when I became a jobseeker a while back. The obvious ‘form letter’ emails were a real turnoff.

    Another reason for not giving the entire job description is that people tend to take them literally and eliminate themselves from consideration if they don’t see a perfect fit with their background. In talking with thousands of candidates throughout the years I’m amazed at how much this happens. I prefer to talk through the individual’s background as it relates to the qualifications because some people aren’t able to see their own transferable skills. Only after that will I send off the job description.

  5. Late for a date here, apologies.

    M approach, when I actually did internet research for my Sourcing and Recruiting brethren was super, duper simple, and it went something like this if I recall:
    My name is Suzy Tonini and I was wondering if this is a good time to present an opportunity with “X company” (of course it certainly helps if “X company is pretty well-known).

    If so, I would be pleased to provide further details and connect you with the right person.

    Thank you,
    Suzy Tonini”

    This tactic piqued people’s interest, they wanted to learn more, what did they have to lose, and provided me with an almost 100% response rate-whether it be “Sure!” to “No thanks” to “Let me get back to you”.

    1. Hi Sean — I think a lot of that has to do with the filters on the receiver’s end, but in my opinion the best thing you can do on your end is just write a personalized, compelling message and not a generic cut-and-paste note that lots of people receive. I hope that helps!

    1. I would love to know what other subject lines people have come up with as well. For my initial emails I typically use headers like this:
      Subject: Opportunity for a Manager in Financial Services.
      (for an operations manager role)
      Subject: Opportunity to work in Virtualization
      (for an IT role involving virtualization implementation)
      I seem to get fairly good responses from that. But I am sure there are other great ideas out there and I would love to see what others share!

  6. @ere-e2c2f3cbf2dd0015083bca58f6998548:disqus as asked by @4fa6f23863891009bd1d20521f424b87:disqus what is the best subject line worked for you? if you can share that too, will be helpful.

  7. Amybeth I liked the article and you are spot on. I can’t emphasize the importance of personalizing your initial message. I’ll be the first to admit that when I started out I was guilty of the template message to a mass audience. Since the change my response rate is right around 80%. It’s not always the I am interested response, but with any response it gives you an opportunity to engage on a different level with that person. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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