Not All Recruiter Messages are Created Equal: A Data-Driven Analysis of my Inbox

I’ve seen a lot of recruiter outreach messages over the course of my career. From my year and a half in the recruiting space to my own personal experience as a candidate, the language of talent acquisition is a unique code in and of itself. But, with all the time I had spent reading these messages, I have never taken the time to truly analyze them in a comprehensive way. Driven by an innate curiosity, I have uncovered some major insights into the language of the recruiter (in the context of my own candidate experience as a early-in-my-career-digital-marketer). Taking 56 messages over the course of almost three years (my time being active in the marketing space), I have found the following trends:

  • Recruiting Firms use up to 21% more words in their outreach than in-house recruiters.
  • All outreach messages, regardless of affiliation, use similar tropes in their templated messages that can lead to disenfranchisement and misplaced messages (in my own experiences).
  • The sentiment of recruiting firm recruiters’ messages are 28% less positive than internal recruiters, showcasing the transactional relationship of contingent recruiting directly affects the linguistic traits of the outreach.

Setting Up The Framework:

56 messages copied on LinkedIn from December of 2015 to September of 2018 and stored within a CSV file. Data analysis was conducted with Excel and Python. For the Python portions of the analysis, the following external libraries were used: Pandas, NTLK (for ngrams counting and stopwords) and TextBlob (for sentiment analysis). No additional sources of outreach (word of mouth, or other sites such as Indeed or Angel List) were used for this analysis.

Finding Hotspots in Messaging

Looking at the two main periods of time where messages had been received (omitting 2015 / 2016 due to inactivity of recruiter messages), the two main periods where I had received messages aligned with then my most recent job hunt was at its peak. Between Q4 2017 and Q1 2018, I had hit one year of employment with my previous employer. Which meant the floodgates were wide open with messages. Since making the switch, I have seen overall decreases in messages though recent inclines due to having more experience in my niche role (and just general supply/demand of SEOs in the market).

Content Within my Messages:

Messages that I have received from recruiters change be radically different depending on if that recruiter is working for an agency or in-house. On average, a recruiter coming out of a recruiting firm is using 45% more words in their subject lines and 21% more words in their messages than an in-house recruiter or HR professional. From my experiences, this extra space has been used to talk more about the company without revealing the confidential nature of their clients. With the average speed of reading being around 200 to 250 words per minute and the average user spends about 18 seconds reading a message online, the executive recruiter is presented with some major disadvantages.

Subject Line Tropes

Plenty of recruiters and HR professionals are pretty ecstatic to tell me about the opportunities that they are currently working on. 35% to be exact. With over a third of my messages boasting opportunities immediately in the messaging, jobs falling into my mailbox have begun blending into each other. Even in my job hunting past, I have missed out on messages due to thinking they were from previously read yet inapplicable jobs in my inbox. I purposes left the term connect in this graph to portray a point that I have harped on to anyone who is ever willing to listen. In my every day, I’m not thinking about a career switch. BUT, I will almost always connect with a recruiter who is willing to take the time and build a relationship / invest their time in helping me with my career. Opportunity-on-the forefront-recruiters who see my profile as a transaction in progress are the ones who I don’t trust my resume or future with.

A Lot of Recruiters Must Be Sharing Templates…

Here’s the data-driven way to prove that you’re not just seeing double when you are looking through your messages on LinkedIn. Between the 17% of recruiters who started their messages with “Hope you are well” and the 21% of recruiters who really want me to let them know whatever decision I make (whether I respond, send a referral or otherwise, they want to be in the loop), my messages start to have the same feel to them. At least some break from the fold and address me with a “dear” ( 19%) than the go-to “hi” ( 62.5%). I get it, sometimes recruiting is a plug-and-play numbers game. But, when your messages start blending into other recruiter’s outreach messages (especially in a candidate driven market), adding some uniqueness to your next message might just give you the upper hand.

Again, with Feeling!

Sentiment analysis revealed that the way recruiters would interact with my profile has changed dramatically in tandem whatever point I was in within my career. On the 1 year mark of my tenure with AC Lion, recruiters saw my profile with more excitement and used more positive sentiment language to communicate their desires to begin a conversation. Once I ultimately took a new position, sentiment decreased as my career clock has reset to brand-new, It has only recently begun to climb up with my recent milestone of six months at MRM//McCann. An interesting finding that I had not even thought about prior to conducting this analysis was that I ultimately ended up taking my position from the recruiter who one of the highest sentiment of all my messages leading up to a career change.

In (Kind of) Short:

Outreach messages, like B2B cold emails or cold calls, are a balance of quality and quantity. Looking through the abundance of messages that I have been fortunate enough to receive, there are trends that can be identified and resolved to improve overall quality. Crafting more sentimental messaging can cut through the swarm of messages that the average candidate receives on their LinkedIn while utilizing unique language in the immediate. Tools such as Grammarly and self-analysis of messaging can lead to overall improvement in opens and replies. For the candidate, there are key identifiers in terms of the quality of the recruiter you are working with that can be identified in their initial messaging. Focus on these distinctions (on top of the opportunity they are presenting) as you continue to form a partnership with your recruiter. As for myself, I just hope that this article doesn’t come back to bite me the next time I need a recruiter to knock on my door.

Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn if you have any questions about the dataset or code used for this analysis.

Originally published at on September 10, 2018.

SEO Manager for @reprisedigital | SEO/SEM/Linguistic Marketing | Writer | Programmer | Start-up Enthusiast | Sneakerhead

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