Cold Outreach

The Data Behind Successful Cold Outreach Campaigns - 2022

We’ve analyzed over 5 million recruiting emails from roughly 300 companies to better understand what works and what doesn’t when contacting new candidates.
Daniel Jakaitis
Daniel Jakaitis
We’ve analyzed over 5 million recruiting emails from roughly 300 companies to better understand what works and what doesn’t when contacting new candidates.

Recruiters have a tough job, and it’s only getting harder.

If you’re like most recruiters, you treat sourcing like a numbers game. Without planning ahead, you furiously send as many emails as possible to see what sticks. Probability-wise, that may work, but its definitely not the optimal strategy.

It's difficult to stand out in a sea of emails. And many recruiters compete for the same talent, meaning the person you are trying to contact receives more messages than the average candidate.

Not only does this pattern put you behind your hiring schedule, it also leaves you discouraged and burnt out. And it is very important to have a stable hiring funnel.

But what if you knew how other companies were optimizing their campaign strategies?

At Chatkick, we’ve analyzed over 5 million recruitment emails from roughly 300 companies to better understand what works and what doesn’t. And today, we’re ready to share those nuggets of wisdom with you. Read on to find out what makes an excellent campaign.

What you will find ahead:

  1. How long is the ideal email subject line?
  2. How soon to follow up on an unresponded cold email?
  3. How many candidates do I need to source to get the most replies?

Let's dive in.

How Many Emails Are In a Successful Campaign?

Every recruiter wants to know how many emails is too many. While they don’t want to bother a candidate, they also know candidates may not have seen their initial reach outs via their email sequence. So what’s the sweet spot?

Our initial analysis showed that most campaigns consist of three emails. But that doesn’t mean those emails were opened or replied to. Let’s examine how the number of emails in your campaign affects email open and reply rates.

How Do You Increase Email Open Rates?

Narrowing our focus to open rate, we found that the more emails you send, the higher your open rates一up to a point. Open rates decline after sending six emails.

There is enough evidence to say that sending 4 - 6 emails will likely get you the most opens. You may not get that many more opens than if you sent 3 emails, but it’s worth giving longer campaigns a try.

Email Count Per Campaign

Another interesting finding was that open rates are higher among the first few emails in a campaign series, dropping off after the first four emails. Since the open rates on these first few emails are the highest you’ll get, pay attention to your open rate. If you’re not getting a lot of opens, you may want to examine other variables like your copy, send times, or subject lines.

How Do You Increase Email Reply Rates?

By following the same methodology as the open rate analysis, we found that reply rates slightly increase directly with the number of emails sent一just like open rates. Curiously, there was a bigger increase in reply rates between the second and third emails. Therefore, sending at least 3 - 5 emails should get you the highest reply rate.


Reply rate by number of emails sent

We saw that, like opens, replies happen earlier in a campaign. Typically, recipients reply to the first or second emails. Keeping a close eye on your reply rates after sending the first two emails can help ensure you’re on the right track.

How Long Should Subject Lines Be?

Subject lines are challenging to write. You want to make them personal and informative, but there is only so much space.

In our dataset, subject length was concentrated around six to seven “words” (including emojis) and gradually decreased from there to roughly 20 words. Shooting for 6 - 7-word subject lines will put you in the middle of the pack.

Open rate by subject line length

But mimicking the average isn’t always the answer. For example, when looking at average subject length and open rate, there were spikes in open rates around 5 words and 17 - 19 words. This pattern suggests that you should either go short (use 5 - 7 words) or go long (use 17 - 19 words).

How Far Apart Should I Space My Campaign Emails?

As the old adage goes, “the money is in the follow-up.” Sending the right number of emails strategically spaced apart can increase your chances of getting noticed by a busy candidate.

Talent CRM data shows that most campaigns send a second email two days after the first. Although there isn’t much difference in reply rate when first and second emails were sent 1 - 2 days apart, there is a dip when they’re sent three days apart. To boost your chances of getting a reply, we suggest sending a second email 1 - 3 days after the first.

Time between 1st and 2nd emails vs. reply rate

We also considered the timing of a campaign’s second and third emails. Most campaigns had two to three days between their second and third emails, and the overall campaign reply rate decreased by 1.01% with each additional day.


Time between 2nd and 3rd email vs. reply rate

Taking this trend into account, we recommend spacing your second and third emails by 2 - 3 days.

How Long Do the Best Campaigns Run For?

Knowing how long your campaign should be enables you to work backward and nail down content and timing.

In our analysis, we defined the duration of a campaign as the time between the first send date and the last delivered date. A majority of campaigns ran for less than fifteen days, with most running for seven days. Aiming for a 7+ day campaign should yield optimal results.

How Long Should I Run My Campaigns to Get the Most Opens?

As with all these metrics, we wanted to see how campaign length would impact email open rate. We observed a small direct relationship between open rates and campaign duration, increasing from 0 days to 20 days, then tapering off into a consistent average.


Days between first and last email vs. open rate

However, there were some outlier campaigns with very long durations (over 40 days) that had the highest open rates.

Reply rate vs. how long a campaign was in use

While long-running campaigns could help you get to an 85% open rate, the data suggests that you shouldn’t pursue them if you’re not already hitting 55% open rates consistently.

Try running your campaigns for 7 days first, then gradually increase campaign length to see if your open rate changes.

How Long Should I Run My Campaigns to Get the Most Replies?

In this analysis, reply rates were calculated as a rollup of all responses across entire campaigns. So if a single campaign with two emails got two responses, the reply rate would be 200%. In this way, our evaluation is more indicative of engagement rather than a binary statistic.

With that foundation in mind, we saw that campaigns with a 0% response rate had the lowest average durations. But we also saw that slightly longer than average durations (7 to 23 days) have better response rates, indicating that longer durations may give recipients more time to reply.


Reply Rate vs. Days between first and last email of a campaign

These observations lend more credence to starting with a 7-day or longer campaign and then monitoring reply rates as you up its length.

How Many People Should I Send My Campaign To?

Sending your campaigns to every possible candidate may be tempting, but it’s rarely fruitful. In fact, most of the campaigns we assessed sent emails to just 45 recipients. In our view, sending highly tailored emails to a smaller set of people produces better outcomes.

How Many People Should Be on My Campaign List to Get the Most Replies?

Most campaigns are sent to 100 people or less, and the distribution of replies across campaign volumes is wide. Ultimately, this meant that the total number of replies per email sent stayed consistent across our dataset. When more emails were sent out, fewer of them were replied to.

How many candidates contacted vs. reply rate

Your best bet is to create effective, catchy emails and send them to less than 100 people.

Consider doing some performance testing of your own. Start by sending your campaign to a small subset of people, then test the performance. That way, you won’t waste time sending poorly written or poorly timed campaigns to your most precious contacts.

Revamp Your Campaigns and Reach More Candidates Today

While there’s no silver bullet for recruitment campaigns, 5.3 million emails can tell you a lot about what you should and shouldn’t be doing.

Realistically, designing the most effective recruitment campaign will take a great deal of experimentation. But knowing where to start gives you a leg up. Sending at least 3 - 5 personalized emails to roughly 20 - 50 recipients, spaced out over a week, with 5 - 7 word subject lines is a fantastic foundation. From there, you can make tweaks that steadily grow your open and reply rates and ultimately improve your conversion rates.

Want to know how to apply our methodology to your campaigns? Book a personalized demo of Talent CRM today!

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