Executive recruiters are important sources of executive jobs.
But don’t overlook the most important job search strategy: Networking your way into the goldmine of hidden jobs at the companies or organizations you’re targeting.
Of course, you’ll need to reach out to recruiters and apply for jobs they’re trying to fill that interest you. And you want to stay in touch with them, so they’ll keep you top-of-mind when a good-fit opportunity for you comes their way.
But they’re busy people, sometimes overwhelmed by unsolicited emails from people they don’t know.
They’re in the habit of deleting emails, or hitting “Ignore” on LinkedIn, when they contain various blunders.
And you’ll probably never know why, or if, they’ve overlooked you.
You don’t want to risk them ignoring or getting rid of your email, before they see what a great candidate you are, right?
So how do you make your email messages to them stand out, so they’ll actually fully read them and respond to them?
For one thing, according to Lars Schmidt in a Fast Company article, Recruiters Explain Which Types Of Messages They Actually Reply To:
“Show recruiters you take networking seriously enough to deserve their attention.”
Fast Company asked a handful of recruiters which messages they delete and which ones they’ll respond to. Granted, this is a very small sampling, but their answers are telling, and the advice is good.
Here’s what the article says they found:
Things That May Cause Executive Recruiters To Ignore or Delete Your Email
Questions that five minutes of research can answer.
If you’re not willing to put a little time into finding the answer yourself, they’ll wonder whether you’ll be willing to put in the effort and perform well at the company.
Anything too generic.
If your message is an obvious mass email, they’ll spot it, and be turned off. Personalize and customize the content. Take some time and research the recruiter to find out tidbits about them that you can refer to. This is how you begin to build a relationship.
Anything that makes them look up basic info on you.
Let them know the basics about you, right off the bat – who you are, where you work and what you want to do next.
Anything too long.
Keep it short and sweet, and show that you’re genuinely interested. A great tip noted in the article: Add hyperlinks to provide more information without adding length.
Blanket requests for job-search help.
There are different kinds of recruiters. Learn about them. A corporate recruiter is not focusing on getting you a job or helping you find one. Their job is to fill their client companies’ openings. Asking them to help you find a job is not realistic.
For more on the types of recruiters and what they do, see Job-Hunt.org’s article, How to Find Jobs Working with Recruiters, Staffing Firms, and Head Hunters.
How To Get Executive Recruiters’ Attention With The Right Email Messages
A clear objective, request, or call to action.
Don’t beat around the bush. Let them know in your first email why you’re reaching out to them, and what you hope they’ll do for you.
Don’t bombard them with your various awards and accolades, especially if you email them via LinkedIn, and those things are on your profile. Tell them about your work and what you have to offer, without overselling.
But you can go overboard with modesty. Be sure you don’t come off as needy or desperate.
Messages that are personal, accurate, and specific.
Tell them why you’re a good fit for the specific type of job you’re interested in. What will you do to benefit the company? You should have researched the industry and company to uncover pain points and determine how you will problem-solve.
A measure of polish.
Don’t let any typos or grammatical errors go when you hit “send”. Recruiters complain about this all the time. Have someone proofread for you. Don’t rely solely on Spell Check.
Writing Email Messages for Executive Recruiters
You can certainly use an AI writing tool like ChatGPT to help you write your email messages.
But you shouldn’t rely solely on it to compose a knockout email.
ChatGPT pulls from information already existing online.
It can’t know the details and particulars of your personality and the way you operate and get things done, unless that information exists online.
It can’t provide the specifics of your unique career, or give examples of specific contributions you’ve made to past employers, with metrics. The things that will differentiate you and help you stand out and above others.
So it can’t completely write your email messages for you, because it won’t be able to find such specific information about you online.
You’ll need to plug in the personal information about you that needs to be in a strong email.
Once you do this, you’re fairly close to writing the content yourself.
Then you can plop what you’ve written into the tool and let it help you with layout, grammar, spelling and keywords (when you feed it a job description).
If you let ChatGPT write most of the content for you (based on job descriptions), you’re in danger of sending out email messages that are very similar to others who used the tool.
Recruiters notice when they receive duplicate content and they don’t like it.
Writing Cold Emails to Executive Recruiters
Too many job seekers send either the same automated email to every recruiter, or a generic one that could apply to anyone seeking that particular job.
Remember that the purpose of your email (when sent accompanying your resume) is to be even more specific than your resume.
Don’t rehash what you already put in your resume. This is your opportunity to provide more info about yourself.
The email message is meant to address specific achievements and contributions of yours that will resonate with that particular recipient.
You may be able to re-use some of the content for several of your emails. But make sure the info really applies to that particular job, and the qualifications needed for the job and company.
If the best you can do is send the same generic email to every recruiter and employer hiring authority, assuming they will somehow interpret your good fit from your unfocused mishmash, don’t bother.
A generic email does nothing to differentiate how you’re uniquely qualified for the job.
Being generic in your emails positions you as the same as other candidates. How does that help anyone determine that you’re a standout who needs to be considered?
Tips for the best cold emails
Will Allred, cofounder and COO at Lavender, offered his proven framework for cold emails, based on the analysis of millions of successful emails:
- Confirm the job is still open. “Are you still hiring for . . . ?” initiates a dialogue and primes them for a reply, unlike unengaging intros like “I hope this finds you well” or “My name is . . . and I’m a . . .” Job seekers often feel a need to introduce themselves and meander through an intro. Don’t.
- Give context to show you’ve researched the company. What is going on at the company and within their competitive market? This shows you’re interested and you have authentic reasons why you want to work there.
- Emphasize your strengths. Align your strengths with the company’s needs, based on your research.
- Address a weakness positively. Any role will require things you’re weak at. Call those out but position them as opportunities to grow.
- Mitigate the risk. Show you’re working on the weakness or lean into a strength that shows you’ll overcome it.
- Tentatively close. Confirm they’re actively hiring. i.e. “If the role is still open and you think it’s a good fit, check out my portfolio here.”
More Questions to Avoid in Email Messages to Executive Recruiters
Additionally, the Undercover Recruiter posted a list of 10 questions and requests via LinkedIn that are sure to turn off a recruiter, including the following. Some of these may seem obviously wrong to do, but they happen surprisingly often.
- Can you help me find a job?
- Do you have any job openings that fit my profile?
- Can you review my resume and send me your edits / feedback / suggestions?
- Can you please send me John Doe’s email address / phone number?
- Do you know anyone at Acme Company?
- Can you endorse / recommend me?
Be Mindful of Your Email Address and Subject Line in Emails to Executive Recruiters
Two other critical things you need to be mindful of when emailing executive recruiters (or anyone, really), are your email address and the subject line.
These are the first things people and your spam filter will see.
If you have an off-putting email address, or an inappropriate or non-existent or spammy-sounding subject line, what do you suppose will happen?
The recipient will hit “delete” and/or the email will land in the spam filter, and may not be retrieved or seen.
And you’ll probably never know if that’s why you got no response to your email.
Following Up with Executive Recruiters
Executive recruiter Richard Triggs offers these do’s and don’ts, once you’ve sent an email applying for a particular role:
Do: Be patient and wait five days before following up to see if you are being shortlisted. However make sure you do follow up as each conversation is another opportunity to leave a good impression.
Don’t: Be a stalker and leave multiple messages/emails per day. Don’t be aggressive, needy, or belligerent.
Do: If you get a rejection email, always follow up and ask for feedback. Offer to buy the recruiter a coffee (it’s amazing what a $5 investment will get you) so you can meet and build a relationship.
Don’t: Expect that recruiters will drop everything just to meet with you face-to-face immediately. Accept that a 15-minute Zoom/Teams meeting is the norm nowadays.