Many companies have an employee referral program, but it’s not enough for it to exist. Rather, you need to remind the team of its presence and why it’s so beneficial for each team member to participate. This is where an effective employee referral letter comes in.
The reality, of course, is that it’s only more difficult and is taking more time (and thus costing more money) to get the right people in the right roles. And while this unfortunate truth can be attributed to any number of complex market forces, the most successful hiring leaders and recruiters are doing their part to power through and build at-the-ready talent pools that they can call on in a flash.
A key part of building these candidate pipelines of sort is outreach, and to do that well, you need to know how to write an informational interview request letter. This is a document that you can send to both someone a mutual acquaintance has recommended and to someone who you have no connection to but who you think might be a great addition to the company.
As this letter could be the first and only opportunity you have to convince a quality candidate that they should start a relationship with you and even consider joining your company, it’s essential that you put your best foot forward.
Follow the tips below to get a leg up on your own quest to write an informational interview request letter that candidates can’t ignore.
How to Write an Informational Interview Request Letter
1. Focus on starting a conversation.
When you write an informational interview request letter, the number one objective is to start a conversation. Don’t focus on selling a specific job you have or getting the letter recipient to send their resume. Rather, aim to build the beginning of a relationship. As the conversation progresses and the relationship warms, then you’re in a better position to request certain documents or to tell the candidate about a role that you think they’d be a good fit for.
2. Grab their attention from the get-go.
One of the most pointed challenges of outreach is getting people to actual open your letter. In a world where most communication is digital, that means you need a super engaging subject line. In this regard, you need to think like a marketer. More specifically, you can count on the fact that the person you’re trying to contact is receiving countless messages every day – perhaps even some from other hiring leaders. To cut through the noise and make your letter stand out, try using a few of these marketing hacks in your subject line:
1. Ask a question
2. Personalize the subject line with the recipient’s name
3. Use a special character, like a bracket, to differentiate your subject line from others
4. Keep it short.
In a nutshell, when you write an informational interview request letter, you don’t want to waste your time or theirs. Keep your message short and to the point. After all, there’s nothing that says ‘spam’ or ‘trash’ like a long, intimidating block of text from someone you don’t really know.
5. Personalize, personalize, and personalize.
Go beyond just substituting the generic “Hello” or “Hi there” with the person’s actual name. That’s not enough. You’re very likely reaching out to people who are already employed and, possibly, very happy at their current job. That means that you need to really go out of your way to make them feel special and to communicate that you’re very interested in their talents. To do this, do some research on social media to learn a little about their past experience, skills, and interests. Alternatively, if you have a mutual contact, ask this person to give you some insight into these sorts of things. And if these options aren’t available, consider speaking to someone who’s in a similar role to learn about what kind of experiences your potential candidate has likely had.
6. Make it opportunity-centric
In other words, make it clear what’s in it for them. When you introduce yourself and your company, focus on how your organization’s mission and values could benefit the candidate. Drive home how your workplace is a place for opportunity, not just another employer desperate for good talent. Whatever you do, don’t just list off your company’s achievements or the requirements you have for an open position.
7. Leverage your network.
If a contact of yours has referred a candidate, then you should absolutely mention that contact toward the top of the letter, after your introduction. This could be something as simple as, “Brandon passed on your contact information and mentioned that you’re an all-star software developer.” Data has long proven that employee referrals lead to the best quality hires, so this is absolutely a channel to be take seriously.
8. Don’t forget the call to action.
A strong closing won’t leave next steps up in the air. You want to keep the momentum and the relationship moving forward when you write an informational interview request letter. So, ask the candidate to pick a date on your calendar for a quick chat, to get back to you with their availability, or to choose one of a few suggested times for meeting.