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Webinar Q&A: Sourcing Secrets, How to Nurture and Win Top Talent

On Oct 23, 2019, Gem partnered with Greenhouse to offer a webinar on sourcing secrets. Speakers included our own Head of People, Caroline Stevenson; Jennifer Ho and Alexis Tissian of Greenhouse; and Shannon Zwicker, Manager of Recruiting Operations for Cockroach Labs. There were a lot of great questions posed in the Q&A during the fireside chat, and we couldn’t get to all of them. But we promised a follow-up, and here it is: 

On Best Practices

Q: A goal is to keep outreach messaging short; but sending job post links in messages can be less fruitful than describing the role itself. So what do we consider a short message, exactly?

A: One answer to this is that the “best message length” is the one that takes the fewest number of words to get the prospect excited enough to respond. The goal, after all, is to get the person on the phone, not to drown them in detail! LinkedIn recommended between 200 and 500 words for InMails awhile back; they had discovered a correlation between email length and response rate (the shorter the InMail, the higher the response rate). And the majority of email messages sent on Gem’s platform are between 90-220 words. We think there’s a sweet spot in there, between 150-200 words; but there will likely be a difference in length between your first and fourth outreaches. And as with all best practices, length is worth playing with for your own team.

Q: How often should a recruiter send follow-up emails? At what point is it considered “spamming” or annoying?

A: Gem’s data, based on over a million outreach emails, suggests that a four-stage sequence strikes the right balance. It brings in the most replies without jeopardizing the brand’s reputation. And remember: With Gem, the sequence automatically stops when a prospect replies, so there’s no concern with being spammy in that way.

Q: I’ve heard the data about 4 messages as a best practice. But does this include the responses from prospects who aren’t interested? How do we know that this persistence creates more interest rather than annoying them?

When you look at the data, the response rate goes steadily up from 15% to email 1 all the way to 35% when you send 4 stages.

A: The data below shows replies with positive responses: after four emails (one initial outreach and three follow-ups), the number of positive responses declines. Four emails elicits the highest number of positive replies without becoming irritating for recipients.

Although the response rate continued to increase after 4, we saw a big spike of ”no’s”, which can harm employer brand.

Q: When is it best to follow up with a cold prospect who hasn’t responded to an initial message?

A: We looked into email cadence at Gem and discovered that the most common wait times between emails were 6 days between the first and second reachout, 6 days between the second and third reachout, and 3 days between the third and fourth reachout. Following up within the week means that you stay top-of-mind for your prospects, and speeding the cadence up toward the end imbues the messaging with a bit of urgency, which may help overall response rate. The great thing about the 6-6-3 cadence is that it ensures all emails are delivered on a different day of the week—which is useful, as we all typically have busier days of the week than others.

Q: Do you have data on the best and worst times to send reachouts to candidates overall?

A: Yes! We broke the data down by role in our Definitive Guide for Email Outreach. There, you can find best and worst send times (by day of week and time of day) for engineering managers, engineers, sales roles, and recruiters—along with some hypotheses as to why the data shows what it does. Of course, test these for yourself depending on what role you’re hiring for—maybe you’ll try sending emails at 8:50 instead of 9:00 to catch sales folks between meetings, for example—but the data suggests a great starting place. And again, don’t send your follow-ups at the same time for the following week! This won’t allow you to observe if one day works better than another. 

Q: Do you have data on student/intern/entry-level candidate send times and replies?

A: Our data didn’t include these segments… but we’ll keep you updated on what we discover in future data-dives! In the meantime, experiment with days and times—and consider A/B testing your subject lines and message content, too, to see what resonates with these segments. 

Q: What are some examples of successful subject lines you all have used? Are subject lines like “hello {{first_name}}” successful?

A: Personalization of any kind is a great best practice, and the {{first_name}} token is one that the majority of our customers use in their subject lines: Nearly 22% of subject lines in our database use tokens, and 84% of those are {{first_name}}. But we recommend you play with more than first name. Again, we dive into some great strategies for subject lines—along with examples—in our Definitive Guide.

Q: Have you had more success with emails or LinkedIn messages?

A: The reality is that both are valuable. But surveys keep showing that candidates prefer to be contacted via email instead of InMail. According to SocialTalent, 79% of respondents would prefer to hear from recruiters via email (versus 20% for InMails); we’ve seen numbers as high as 90% elsewhere. In other words, you’ll get responses to both your emails and your InMails… but if you’re concerned about prospect experience (and you should be!), email might be your best bet. 

On Shannon’s Sourcing Secrets (Cockroach Labs)

Q: Can you go into more detail regarding the company guide you link to in your outreach? Is that on your company’s website?

A: The company guide is a powerpoint deck that lives in our Google Drive at Cockroach Labs. It isn’t public on our website; but we include in the first stage of any sequence we send out to potential prospects.

Q: Shannon, you mentioned the blog post you use in your outreach about what it’s like to work at Cockroach Labs. Can you share that post and other types of content you share in outreach?

The company guide describes what it’s like to work at Cockroach Labs. Other information is on our careers page and our blog. The point of sharing this content is to give prospects a sense of what it’s like to work at your company as early in the conversation as possible. Not knowing is the reason most candidates reject offers; and we want to make sure that isn’t the case at our company.

Q: Can you please describe what a boilerplate is?

A boilerplate is a body of text that can be reused easily without making significant adjustments – so we include an “About us” section and a “What it’s like to work with us” section at the bottom of the first touch.

Q: Can Shannon possibly share some examples of outreach messaging she/her team uses?

A: Unfortunately, our templates are customized to Cockroach Labs specifically; but I can say that it’s helpful to tailor your message(s) to your values and to use an authentic voice. Really think about how you’d feel receiving the email and if it would be interesting enough to respond. As I mentioned in the webinar, it can be a useful exercise to send the email to someone on your team and ask how they’d respond to it.

On Caroline’s Sourcing Secrets (Gem)

Q: Caroline: When sending a message through Gem on behalf of the Hiring Manager, how do you manage the relationship with the candidate (who believes they are talking with or already have spoken with the HM) moving forward?

A: It depends on the role. Sometimes the next step to a positive reply is a coffee with the hiring manager. If so, we get that scheduled. If the next step is a call with the recruiter, then usually we coach the hiring manager to respond (or we respond ourselves, depending on how SOBO is setup) with something along the lines of: “Great! I’m excited to hear you’re curious to learn more! I’m going to connect you with Caro from our recruiting team, who’ll get the process started with you. I look forward to speaking with you soon!” 

Q: For engaging the hiring manager, are there specific roles this is better for? For example, for more difficult roles to fill, like devs and execs?

A: There are different levels of hiring manager engagement: SOBO with replies going back to the recruiter, SOBO with replies going to the hiring manager for follow-up, the hiring manager sourcing and writing their own sequences, and so on. That said, our recommendation is just what your question asks: The harder the role is to fill, the more you should consider using all the tools—including SOBO—to get positive replies. 

Questions for Jennifer and Alexis (Greenhouse)

Q: In Greenhouse, can you add “silver medalists” into folders or lists by their job titles and skillsets?

A: You can add specific jobs, departments and/or offices. You can also add customizable tags. 

Q: The folks at Greenhouse spoke about reorganizing their CRM. What did they find in the organizational structure of their last CRM that was helpful and unhelpful?

A: We’re still in the process of reorganizing! We’re happy to send on more information once we nail down a new structure. Our main goal right now is to make sure every stage and pool is actionable. 

Questions for Everyone

Q: For candidates who want to speak to the hiring manager on the first call, how do you incentivize and coach managers through the sourcing and information-gathering aspects of the call (for example, what comp they’re looking for, what their visa status is, and so on)?

A [Caroline]: I think there are two things to note here. One is that if you reach out to a candidate and they want to speak to the hiring manager as a first step, you should consider whether that’s the right approach. For technical roles, it might be—often because recruiters don’t do much screening on that first call, and it’s really about getting the candidate excited about the position! But for business roles, the first call might be more of a first interview. If you’re hiring for a sales position, for example, where communication and articulation are important skills, the recruiter can do a first phone screen to check for these things before passing the candidate on to a hiring manager. 

If someone asks to speak directly to the hiring manager and you think a recruiting phone call would be the best initial step, it’s okay to say something like: “Hey, I’d actually love to take this first call with you. I’d love to learn more about your background and what you’re looking for, and I can also tell you more about the role and answer any questions you might have.”

The second thing is that if you do decide you want the hiring manager to take a first call, giving them guidance on the standard recruiting-type questions they should be asking is a great idea. I’d suggest putting together a document of questions for them. You could also consider customizing your Greenhouse scorecard. This way they’ll see that they have to offer feedback on things like “Comp expectations,” “Work authorization,” “What the candidate is looking for in their next role,” and so on. If they know what they have to respond to in feedback, they’ll know what to ask.

Q: You mentioned setting up networking events and coffee chat events. Do you do these open-house style? How often do you do them?

A [Caroline]: Events can be a bit more “open house” style, sure! It varies by event, but at Gem, we typically invite folks from our networks (people we’d like to work with again/hire) and encourage them to bring their friends as well. After all, smart people tend to know other smart people! We do these events monthly. Coffee chats are a bit more targeted. Sitting down 1:1 with a candidate can take time, so you should be somewhat selective about who you invite to do that. 

Q: Do you send out one-pager summaries of your company to candidates?

A [Caroline]: At Gem, we don’t currently use a one-pager summary. We tend to describe in the email the points that we think the candidate will most care about and then link out to blog posts that describe what it’s like to work at Gem. But some of our customers send one-page summaries. Sometimes they’re used as a way to add a trackable link so you can better measure potential interest. (The prospect may not have replied, but did they click on the link?) Sometimes it’s because the one-pager has a solid Employee Value Proposition (EVP) that’s worth sharing out as early as possible.

Q: You mentioned that you send candidates information about company culture and benefits. Can you speak more on that?

A [Caroline]: Like Shannon mentioned, it’s important to remember that one of the most common reasons a candidate rejects an offer is that they can’t really imagine what’s like to work at the company. So the more quickly—and the more vividly—you can describe it for them, the more likely they are to move through process with you. That means describing what a-day-in-the-life looks like. It means linking to career pages with images and videos of your team. It means listing benefits, so that prospects know exactly what they’re in for if they say ‘yes’ to you. However you can help them imagine what their lives would be and feel like working for you, do that.

Q: Can you give an example of what clear and concise email outreach looks and sounds like?

We’ve got some really strong examples in our Definitive Guide. And if you’re looking for more, check out our blog post with examples of great email outreach for recruiters.

Q: Are you emailing candidates directly or using LinkedIn messages?

A [Everyone]: We’re always emailing when possible!

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