How to (and how not to) cold-email a candidate

June 6, 2012 · 2 min read

Like most engineers in the Bay Area, I get a lot of recruiting emails. I got two today.

One was pretty bad. Multiple spelling and grammar mistakes, unsubstantiated bragging, virtually no description of the role, no description of the company culture:

I'm super excited to be recruiting for the super hot startup, [company] ( [] )!!!

[Company] empowers people to [value proposition]. [Company] offers [product description] for iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, and Android devices including [list of Android devices], and works with [etc].

[Company] recently recieved $XX Million in series C funding and are looking for iOS pro's such as yourself... we need YOU!

Interested in the opportunity? Let's set up a chat- let me know the best contact number and time to reach out =)

I didn't even bother to respond to this: it's a form letter, with nothing to indicate that the recruiter even looked at my profile. That's my bar. If a recruiter personalizes the message at all, I will respond. Easily half the contacts I get fail to meet this bar.

Usually I dash off a one-liner saying that I'm not available. To get more than that, you have to acknowledge at least some of the key facts of my situation: I'm a former co-founder and I recently sold my company, so I'm very unlikely to move, and when I do, it's likely to be to a co-founder role again.

The other recruiting email I got today gets it right:

My name is [name] and I work at [company]. I found your Twitter profile when browsing through some groups of iOS developers, which led me to your blog, and then your LinkedIn profile. Both [other person] (our current iOS "team") and I are quite excited to get the chance to talk to you given your impressive history, from CMU to co-founding Kima Labs. Admittedly, we also found ourselves shaking our heads in agreement as we read through your recent blog posts.

A little bit about us. We're a small start-up based in San Francisco, and combined our team has previously shipped products to over XX people. We're using this consumer product expertise to improve [industry] by creating beautiful tools that deliver [value prop]. We've already launched an app called [app name], and there's lots more to come.

We're looking for an amazing iOS engineer to help us create next-generation [industry] products that drive meaningful [industry] change. Given that you recently joined Groupon, we know that the chances of you making a move are slim. But if you would like to learn more or know of other folks that might be interested in us, please don't hesitate to reach out.

Highly personalized, fully acknowledges my situation, and gives me plenty of reasons to be interested in the company. This is how to cold-email a dev.

After thanking them for a great email, I said that I'm fully committed to Groupon right now and I'm not considering other opportunities. But if there are any iOS devs out there who want to work for a startup, drop me a line and I'll forward you the details. (Of course, I will also pitch you on Groupon; I'm hiring for my team!)

These days I do most of my writing at The Roots of Progress. If you liked this essay, check out my other work there.


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