10 Things Not to Do in Your Pitch Emails

March 3, 2016 at 12:22 PM by William Clarke


Pitch emails are your first touch point with candidates and ideally they begin a long, fruitful conversation that’s mutually productive.

The stronger the pitch, the more responses you will get, and the bigger your pipeline will grow. As we’ve said before, your pipeline is your lifeline. Here’s a guide on what not to say and do in your candidate emails so that you can recruit like a pro, and hire like a boss.    

Let’s start with a few things candidates will see first.

Unclear Subject Line
Short, punchy, and straightforward are rules to live by here. NO ALL CAPS, ever. In general, you’re aiming for a subject line that is specific, brief, conversational and doesn’t feel too serious. You want to engage them without being pushy, vague or obnoxious.  

Here are three styles I like:

  • Personalized and warm: Jack, loved your medium post on Series B rounds
  • Open-ended:  Quick question when you have a moment
  • Direct, no-nonsense: Sales Opportunity with Fast Growing SaaS Startup
  • Thought-provoking question: Patrick, What’s Next?

If you’re doing research into your candidates, you should be able to get an idea of what they’re like.  Pick a direction you think fits their personality and background. Some may go for the direct, straightforward message that gives them an overview before they have even clicked the message. Others may respond to a softer touch that begins as a conversation about something else before transitioning to their job prospects.

Bad Timing
In hiring, timing is everything. What do we mean? Well, most candidates switch jobs around their first, second or third work anniversaries, which makes two to four months before that anniversary the best time for you to message them.

Now let’s move on to your email message.

Make Demands 
Remember, someone you’re sending a cold email to owes you absolutely nothing. While you may want to offer them a job eventually, your goal right now is to begin a conversation. You are already occupying their time, so always use a light touch. Make sure to convey that you respect their time and have zero expectations. That way you are deferring to them and their availability. 

Being generic
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out when you have just received a mass email, so don’t be that recruiter. Instead, personalize every message. Call out something cool they worked on or led, like a GitHub fork, a blog post, a Tweetstorm, or a particular marketing campaign.

See a someone you know connected to them on their professional profile? Use the opportunity to namedrop your mutual connection. 

Typos or bad grammar
The mistake of death. Misspelling a job candidate's name makes you look careless. Using poor grammar makes you look careless. A 2015 Hubspot study reported bad grammar as people’s number one pet peeve. If you’re not a stellar writer, Grammarly is a great way to double check your writing and even learn rules. 

Burying the Lede
Don’t write a novel. Get to the point, explain why you are reaching out, why you’re touching base with them specifically, and propose any next steps. Two or three brief paragraphs at most should do it. If your message can’t be read in less than a minute, it’s too long.

Sounding like a Robot
You don’t want your email to sound like Siri wrote it. Use real human language and put some personality into it (but not too much). “Hey Bob, Hope you’re well. I don’t know whether or not you’re looking to change companies, but if so, I think you would be a great fit for an Enterprise Sales role here at Entelo.”

Before sending your message, read it out loud. If you wouldn’t say it verbally, don’t write it.  

Misrepresent Yourself, Your Company or the Position 
Don’t fudge details on salary, job title, or expectations. If you wind up losing a candidate because what you told them something that was not true, you’ve burned a bridge, made your company (and yourself) look untrustworthy, and wasted the time of anyone else who participated in phone screens or interviews.

Honesty is the best policy. Always. If your company can’t match their salary expectations or the candidate doesn’t want to make a lateral move, so be it. Your employer brand is sacrosanct.

BCC Multiple Candidates 
Emailing multiple people at once puts you in the fast track to get embarrassed. We’ve heard multiple stories about people who received a pitch at the same exact time as a co-worker. Neither of those people are going to respond to you, so just don’t do it.

Leaving out an action item
Make sure they know what you’re looking for. Say, “I would love to hear your thoughts on the declining tech valuations and how you think that might impact hiring,” or “Do you think you’d be interested in hearing more about our company?” or “Let me know if you have any interest in hearing about new opportunities.”

Even better, send them a link to your careers page or a company culture video to revisit if they want a primer before responding to your email.

Not thanking them
People are busy and they receive a lot of emails. If they bothered to read your entire message, be sure to end on a positive note. Thanking them shows them you appreciate their time and ends on a note that could just be enough to get them to respond.

If you follow all of these tips, you’ll be in good shape. Think we missed something? Share it in the comments, and be sure to check out our most popular eBook on the fundamentals of candidate outreach!

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