Social Recruiting Days 2017
September 15, 2017
#SOSUEU17 day one
October 11, 2017

Over the past two years I’ve had the chance to speak to and train a lot of recruiters. One thing that’s very clear is that while they would all like to use a more personal approach with their candidates, they don’t always have the time. There’s no point in me pushing them to make time, so I thought a lot about how to help them write more personalised messages quickly. This is how the smart templates method came to be 🙂


First things first: what does it mean to personalise a message?

Before we get to the details of how it works, let’s just make one thing very clear. Simply insterting your candidate’s name into a message isn’t really what I mean by personalisation. Any CRM will do that for you nowadays and let’s be honest, we are all quite happy to delete spam whether the sender uses our name or not. Which is exactly why we need to make sure that the approach messages we send to our candidates are truly personalised, which is to say they answer their personal needs and will not be treated as spam.

Answering a candidate’s needs has nothing to do with using their name. What they really need isn’t to know we read their name on their profile (I mean, it is right there, on the very top… so nice try but that doesn’t prove that we took the time to actually read the entire thing!). They need to know that we know who they are as a professional, that we understand what they do and what they may want to be doing in the future. There’s clearly no universal recipe for how to do this across our candidate pool as each candidate could have different aspirations, even if they share a very similar background.


Understanding your audience to create smart templates

Using the smart templates method requires you to understand your target audience. Let’s say you’re recruiting for the position of a recruitment manager for a medium sized company. Before you draft your smart templates, answer these questions:

  • What role could my ideal candidate be in at the moment?

Of course, the way most companies go about recruiting, you’ll probably want them to be a recuritment manager already. But maybe you’d consider someone who’s currently a team leader too? Maybe a very senior recruiter ready to step up to a manager role? Or perhaps an HR manager who wants to focus purely on recruitment in the next role? (I know, this one seems a bit of a stretch, but let’s just go with it for now ;))

  • What company does my ideal candidate work for?

Is it a company in a similar industry, or maybe they could learn about your industry once they start work? Could they come from a smaller company? Or maybe they could come from a bigger one? Does their current employer have a more recogniseable brand?

  • Where does my ideal candidate work?

Do they have to be located in the same city? If it’s a very niche role, maybe you’d consider someone from another location – which locations are they likely to relocate from? Are those smaller or bigger cities? Maybe a different country?

Of course you won’t have to write this down every single time. If you use candidate personas, you’re likely to have all the answers already 🙂


The method – step by step

Finally we get to the good part 🙂 You can actually create smart templates as you go once you understand how they work, but the first time you write them it helps to start from scratch. You can also use any tool that you find useful here – I tend to use the sticky notes app as I can easily colour code my templates.


Step 1. Introduce yourself

The first thing you want to do is to write an introduction. You can use that one for all of your future messages, regardless of the position you’re recuriting for (with some exceptions, possibly). The trick is not to write just one, but many versions of your introduction. Let me show you an example:


Introduction 1:

My name is Kasia and normally my job is to train recruiters, but on this occasion, I’m actually working on a recruitment project myself.

Introduction 2:

I just wanted to quickly introduce myself: my name is Kasia and I work as a digital headhunter, if you will, finding the best talent for companies online.

Introduction 3:

My name is Kasia and I represent the HR department of company XYZ, which is why I was hoping to speak to you.


The idea behind this is that not everyone will understand some of the terms we use, they might be more or less receptive to particular phrases too. How do you know which introduction to use? I tend to only mention I’m a sourcer to people in the recruitment industry (they will probably know the term), but when speaking to people outside of it I either mention HR or the phrase “digital headhunter”. Between those too I would use introduction number 3 for most people, but number 2 when I speak to people whose online presence suggests to me they like to feel special 😉

You want to save all of your introductions either in one document, or, the way I do it, each on a separate sticky note.


Step 2. Describe the company

I think you can already tell you’ll need a couple of versions for every single part in the message. You want to write a different company description to someone who is already following it on LinkedIn of Facebook (which you would know hacing sourced them), and a different one to someone who’s probably never heard of it before. Similarly, you will write it differently if you are approaching someone who works for a much larger company (emphasise the impact someone can have in a smaller company) or if they work in a much smaller one. This exercise also helps you clarify what the selling points are when you’re speaking to different candidates.

This reminds me I was recently at Social Recriuiting Days where Bill Boorman introduced the idea of an IVP – individual value propostion – in his keynote. This is really what you should be trying to achieve here, adjust your message to what the candidate as an individual will perceive as a selling point.


Step 3. Describe the role

Here, again, you want to make sure you have a version of the description written with each of your possible candidates in mind. If we go back to the example of a recruitment manager, you want one version for someone who’s currently in that role, another for someone who’s a senior recruiter and one more for a current team leader. In each case, it should be very clear to the candidate how the role relates to the one they are currently in. If it doesn’t represent an improvement on their current situation, why would they take the time to go through a lenghty recruitment process? You may even decide you need two versions for someone who’s currently in a similar role (usually that’s the trickiest candidate to approach). This part is all up to you 🙂


Step 4. Discuss the next steps

This is where you introduce your call to action. I find that different people will be receptive to different calls to action, depending on their personality and culture. For example, some prefer something pushy like “Would you prefer to discuss this tomorrow at 3pm or 5pm?”. Others prefer something more subtle, maybe simply asking if they’re interested or sending a link to a scheduling tool such as calendly, saying something along the lines of “I’m happy to answer any questions you may have – you can choose a time that’s convenient for you with this link to my calendar”. Once again, make sure you have a couple of versions ready.


The method in practice

Now you’re all set and can start sourcing and messaging your candidates! What does that look like in practice? Once you’ve found a candidate you think is suitable for the role, read through their profile (that’s one step you should never skip!) and create your personalised message from the bits you had prepared. Mix and match based on what your candidate’s experience is, what language they use on the profile, what you instinctively feel will work best.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s also possible to just look at the messages you’ve sent already and cut out the parts you need according to the method. So if you want to try it out, you don’t need to write everything from scratch 🙂


The method has a number of benefits:

  • It improves your response rates by proving to candidates you understand who they are as a professional. You don’t just know their name, but in fact create a message that relates to their existing experience;
  • It forces you to understand your candidate better which will prove useful at later stage of the recruitment process;
  • It saves time on writing messages without putting you at risk of damaging your own recruiter brand (candidates talk to each other and share messages they don’t like… make sure they don’t do that with yours!)


Why should you invest the time? The numbers

The number of messages you’ll be able to create by only creating 2 versions of each part of the message is 16, and if you create 3 versions – you’ll have 81 possible combinations. If you’re able to write one template message to send to your candidates for each position you’re recruiting for (which probably takes about 5 minutes), taking 10 more minutes so you end up with 81 possible approach messages seems like a good deal… doesn’t it? 🙂


Kasia Borowicz
Kasia Borowicz
Social Recruiting geek turned trainer; Recruitment Open Community manager; blogger. I enjoy coffee, reading and yes, recruitment :)


  1. Thijmen says:

    Is there a specific reason why you start the message with info about yourself?
    I always try to avoid talking about myself and focus on the candidate and his/her experience and knowledge and tell something about my company 🙂

    Happy to hear your thoughts, because in my opinion there is no right or wrong. Just curious!

    • Kasia Borowicz says:

      Oh dear, how did this go unanswered! It’s just my personal preference to introduce myself first, but you are completely right, that isn’t always the right choice! Focusing on the recipient is always important and doing it in the first sentence can be much more productive 🙂

  2. Scott Quinn says:

    I get that the message has to engage the recipient, but I believe there is an overemphasis on doing away with beginning messages essentially identifying who you are and why you’re sending the message. You have the rest of the message to focus on the recipient. If a candidate can’t/won’t read a message as long as the average tweet, then I’m happy that he won’t respond. And while I like your introductions, I never send all of the information about the position, company, or next steps in an introductory email. I like to intrigue people and get them on the phone to discuss the details and learn about their goals.

    • Kasia Borowicz says:

      Hi Scott, that’s a fair point. Everyone has their own style 🙂 I’ve been told for example that the introduction isn’t really necessary and in fact, should be avoided. But I bet you could still apply the same principle even if your messages consist of different elements. I think that’s the main point – avoid unnecessary rewriting of the same thing over and over, but remember to keep the messages consistent with your personal style 🙂

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