candidate outreach

11 Ways to Completely Ruin Your Candidate Outreach


It’s no secret that candidate outreach is absolutely necessary for any successful recruiter, but it’s one of those things that’s done poorly, if it’s done at all. If your organization is fortunate enough to have a thriving employee referral program, then your team can tap into a good-sized pool of relatively warm talent whenever necessary.

Even if your organization has an ERP, it’s still up to your team to turn up those recruitment marketing skills, source some great candidates, and reach out to them about your open positions. That can be a pretty big and time-consuming task for an overworked recruiting function. It’s also when many rush to get the job done and make critical errors during their candidate outreach activities.

Here are 11 ways to completely ruin your candidate outreach.

1. When reaching out about a specific position, don’t pre-qualify the candidate’s skills or career level.

There is so much information available about candidates online, via social media and through resumes posted online, that sourcing today is easier than it’s ever been. There’s just no excuse for approaching a manager with twenty years of experience about an entry level position or assuming that a financial analyst is the same as a marketing analyst.

Do a little homework before you approach a potential candidate to make sure your job opening is something that falls within their wheelhouse.

2. Never use multiple touch points to get in front of candidates.

There are several options for reaching out to candidates: email, phone, social media, text messaging. Don’t be afraid to reach out to promising candidates using whichever media you have available. Email is not your only option.

3. When you reach out to candidates via email, be sure to ignore recruiting email best practices.

When in a rush, it’s easy to make some of these mistakes with your email. The biggest issue seems to arise when people copy and paste the same email to several recipients. We’ve all received an email that was addressed to someone else. It’s not the best way to make a positive impression with a candidate.

Here are some email best practices to keep in mind.

  • Personalize your messages
  • Make your initial email short, friendly, and to the point
  • Make sure any links you send work properly
  • Use a great email signature
  • Ask for a response
  • Don’t use trigger words that will get caught by spam filters such as: opportunity, work at home, free, no obligation, etc.

4. Never follow up.

Failure to follow up is one of the biggest mistakes that recruiters make during candidate outreach. Just because a candidate didn’t reply to your email message or return your call doesn’t mean that they aren’t interested. You often hear sales people say, “The money is in the follow-up.” The same principle applies to recruiting.

5. Never call candidates. If you do, don’t leave voice messages. If you do leave voice messages, make them ramble thoughtlessly.

There’s a tendency among recruiters, especially new recruiters, to use email instead of picking up the phone. Unfortunately, many of the people that you’re trying to reach get a lot of email, and that makes it tough to get through and get eyes on your message.

Calling candidates directly is a great way to cut through the noise. It’s also a great way to start building a relationship with the candidate. It’s hard to do that with an email.

If you are going to make the effort to do candidate outreach by phone, be sure to leave a voicemail. That means you should probably think about what you’d like to say in that voice message before you ever start dialing.

Remember, that voicemail is probably the first contact the candidate will have with your organization and your brand. Make it good.

6. Make a terrible first impression.

As we just discussed, your outreach is probably the first contact the candidate has had with your organization or your brand. You only have one chance to make a great first impression. Don’t do anything that will sour the candidate on your employer branding and make them definitely NOT want to work for your company. Be friendly and professional in all your dealings with candidates.

7. Ignore relationship building during candidate outreach.

Sometimes you’ll reach out to a candidate that simply isn’t right for the position you’re trying to fill. On the other had, that same candidate might be ideal for a position in the future. Build a relationship with that candidate, check in with them at regular intervals, and go back to them when a more appropriate position opens up.

If you follow the same strategy with all the great talent you encounter, your candidate pipeline will always be full and you’ll be able to fill open positions more quickly.

8. Be sure to emphasize your own needs over the candidate’s needs when you reach out.

Recruiters sometimes get pretty focused on what they need (to fill a job with top talent) and forget to make the conversation revolve around the candidate and their interests. Candidates are much more willing to consider your company if you express an interest in their career goals, deeper-level skills, and what motivates them to go to work each day.

Instead of thinking about what a really great candidate can do for you, think about how you can serve the candidate by helping them to join your awesome organization.

9. Blow off your employee brand.

Your employer brand could be the difference between a candidate responding to your outreach or ignoring it completely. A positive employer brand is an incredibly effective tool in your effort to get top candidates to consider your open position. That’s why you should use every opportunity to point out positive aspects of your employer brand during your candidate outreach.

While only 36% of the workforce is actively looking for a new opportunity, 90% of the workforce is willing to learn more about a new opportunity when asked. Show off your brand and get that 90% talking to you.

10. Never use a call to action.

A call to action is exactly what it sounds like. It’s some kind of verbiage you put in your emails, texts, voicemails, etc. that tell the candidate exactly what you want them to do. Here are some examples:

  • “Reply back with a good time to chat about the position”
  • “Give me a call”
  • An “Apply Now” button
  • “Send me your current resume”

If you don’t use a call to action to tell candidates what you want them to do, it’s likely that they will do nothing at all.

11. Do not use counter-objections.

When doing candidate outreach, objections are pretty common. Some of the most frequently heard objections include:

  • “I’m happy in my current job.”
  • “I’m not really looking right now.”

The best way around objections is to be prepared with a counter-objection. When a candidate says that they’re happy where they are, you can counter by suggesting that there’s no pressure to make a quick decision or that it’s the ideal time to see what else is out there for them.

An objection turned around is also a great opportunity to start building a relationship with the candidate.


Once you’ve posted a great job description, tapped into your employee pipeline, and worked your employee referral program, it’s time to begin candidate outreach. Whether it’s passive candidates who really aren’t looking for a new job or active job seekers, reaching out to candidates is something that all successful recruiters must tackle. If you can avoid the 11 ways to completely ruin your candidate outreach, you’re much more likely to be successful.


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