6 Candidate Outreach Messages that Don’t Suck (Why It Works and How We Applied It)

Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned recruiter, we all have that common challenge: 

How do I get a candidate to notice me? 

How do I get them to respond to my message? 

It gets even harder in a tech startup where you’re virtually unknown and competing with tech giants. Looking at this from an angle of learning and growth, let’s explore various innovative strategies used by companies like Canva, Mollie, Google, Zapier, Vulcan Technology, and Magical to engage potential candidates effectively. 

Each example offers unique insights into the power of creativity, personalization, and transparency in recruitment messaging. Hopefully, it fills you with creative juices to infuse your unique take in your outreach campaign. 

Creative Outreach Messages That Illicits Responses 

#1 This is the pitch deck that landed Canva their first technical hire, Dave Hearnden (presently Canva’s CTO) 

Why it works:  

This effort was not merely about recruitment; it was about instilling a shared vision. The presentation exceeded expectations, embedding in Dave a deep-seated conviction about Canva’s passionate team

Source: It Took Canva a Year to Make Its First Technical Hire. Now It’s a Hiring Machine


#2 European Fin-tech Mollie, added a Spotify playlist in their outreach

Why it works: 

I know it’s odd, but hear me out. Imagine a sea of emails coming into your candidate’s inbox. They’re all branded as “amazing opportunities.” How do you stand out, then? By doing something so creative, your message creates a profound impression. 

While Matchr’s Adriaan Kolff doesn’t recommend this as a first outreach email, it would be good to add to your succeeding candidate touchpoints as a way to break the ice. 


#3 Google leverages both skills and interests 

Why it works: 

The message was far from the standard recruitment template; it was tailored with a touch of humour and a deep understanding of the candidate’s diverse skill set. The recruiter skillfully wove in references to the candidate’s expertise in system architecture and Perl but didn’t stop there. 

He also playfully acknowledged the more unconventional aspects of the candidate’s profile, such as his affinity for Nyan Cat costumes, his ability to talk like a pirate, and his penchant for correcting others on the internet.

Source: 5 Creative Outreach Messages That Grabbed Candidates’ Attention


#4  Zapier’s no-fluff personal approach 

Why it works: 

The first email to a potential candidate doesn’t have to reveal a deep personal connection but starting with a personalized approach rather than a generic template is highly effective

Source: How to write recruiting emails that aren’t terrible


#5 Vulcan Technology’s informative approach

Why it works: 

While the author implied that the email missed the mark when it came to sending it to the right people, he felt compelled enough to open, read, critique and even make an article about his experience because it was well-written and made mention of his name multiple times throughout the course of the message. 

Source: This Cold Recruiting Email Just Worked On Me


#6 Magical’s transparency about their culture and potential growth 

Why it works:

A co-founder, CEO, or a person in authority sending a message weighs differently compared to one sent in recruitment. That’s a very well-known fact. Now, why is this included in the list? Recruiters can do it too by using the U.O.M. Or undercover outreach message. 

How do we know this?

We tried it for ourselves and built 3 cross-functional teams in less than a year. 

Check out the 3-part series here:

And here’s a screenshot of our CEO Rob’s first message to our Head of Product Design, Joseph over LinkedIn.


What do these outreach messages have in common?

1. They involved a level of personalization and creativity that goes beyond standard recruitment practices

From Canva’s pitch deck to Mollie’s Spotify playlist, these approaches are tailored to create a unique and memorable experience for the candidate.


2. They aim to establish a connection beyond the job role. 

For instance, Canva’s pitch deck was about instilling a shared vision, while Google’s message acknowledged the candidate’s unique interests and skills, creating a more holistic and engaging interaction.


3. Several examples focus on conveying the company’s culture and values. 

It brings us back to a basic human need: to belong. Magical’s transparency about its culture and potential growth, and the personal touch in Vulcan Technology’s outreach, highlight the importance of aligning a candidate’s values with that of the company.


4. They’re designed to make a profound impression and engage the candidate effectively. 

This is evident in how Google’s message incorporated humour and personal interests and how Zapier’s approach was straightforward yet personalized.


5. The involvement of high-level executives or the use of authoritative tones, as seen in Magical’s strategy, adds weight to the messages. 

It demonstrates a serious investment in the candidate and elevates the credibility of the outreach.


What do candidates actually want to read when they see your email? 

Setting aside that element of delight, we recognize that it takes hours of research to make a personalized email, so let’s approach this from a bird’s eye POV. What are candidates really looking for when they read your email? 

Nieves Sancho Pérez, a Tech Sourcer and Sourecon speaker, delved into this topic in her talk: How to Speak the Developer’s Language. 

What she found was that: 

1. Mentioning opportunities for development, such as mentorship programs, pairing, and exploratory projects, is attractive to candidates. They are keen on roles that offer opportunities to work on problems that help them grow in their craft.


2. Highlighting unique benefits, such as time allocated for open source or civic engagement projects, can grab a candidate’s attention. These points differentiate the company from others and can be a deciding factor.

3. Candidates value transparency in communication. They prefer recruiters to be upfront about the salary, role, and the company.


Now that you have all of these data points and sources of outreach inspiration, you can test, iterate and build the outreach that resonates with your target audience.