Cut & Polish

Staffing outreach: 2022 benchmarks and best practices

This week is National Staffing Employee Week—a week, as the American Staffing Association puts it, that “celebrates the contributions of the millions of individuals employed by U.S. staffing agencies.” Staffing agencies and RPOs across the country will be hosting events to honor their temporary and contract employees over the next few days. At Gem, we’re celebrating the agencies themselves—you’re some of our greatest partners, and we’re learning so much from you. 

We thought we’d use this celebratory week to dig into our benchmarks and offer up some best practices specific to staffing outreach. After all, you can’t celebrate your employees unless you’ve placed them; and you certainly can’t place them if your messages aren’t reaching them—let alone appealing to them. The below insights and best practices are drawn from nearly 1.5 million staffing outreach sequences sent from June 1, 2021 to May 31, 2022.

Staffing outreach benchmarks

When it comes to any kind of hiring data, you’re likely using internal comparisons to understand your agency’s performance—gauging success by percentage of improvement over last quarter or year, for example. In some cases, internal comparison makes sense. But ultimately, if you don’t have a wider context for your outreach data, you can’t be confident about whether those numbers are objectively “good.” 

That’s why most forward-thinking recruiting agencies don’t just want clarity on their own metrics; they want clarity on, and fluency around, the state of recruiting performance for their industry. In that sense, benchmarks are a vital starting place for asking valuable questions about your process. Here are the high-level outreach benchmarks we’re seeing at Gem:

  • 76.5% of staffing outreach sequences are opened
  • 18.8% of outreach sequences see replies
  • 5.1% of sequences see interested replies

Best practices

Number of stages in an outreach sequence: 4

  • The first email sees a 57.6% open rate, a 6.2% reply rate, and a 2.3% interested rate
  • By the second email, most sequences have cumulatively seen a 71.3% open rate, a 14.0% reply rate, and a 3.9% interested rate
  • By the third email, most sequences have cumulatively seen a 75.3% open rate, a 17.6% reply rate, and a 4.8% interested rate
  • By the fourth email, most sequences have cumulatively seen a 76.4% open rate, an 18.7% reply rate, and a 5.1% interested rate

The data points completely flatten at Stage 5 and beyond: any sequence of 5 or more stages sees a 76.5% open rate, an 18.8% reply rate, and a 5.1% interested rate. 

The takeaway? Send follow-ups! They’ll exponentially increase your response rates and interested rates. As a general rule, the total number of responses goes up as the number of emails in a sequence increases. A three-stage sequence, for example, sees more than 2x the replies and more than 2x the number of interested candidates as a one-off email does

That said, by stage three, most opens, replies, and interested replies have been captured, though we see incremental gains from sending a fourth stage (“the breakup email”). Anything beyond a fourth stage has little to no benefit. A four-stage sequence strikes the right balance between connecting with talent and preserving brand. 

Send times: consider Sunday sends

You’ll discover the best window for your prospective candidates through testing, over time. In the meantime, what we’ve discovered at Gem is that Sunday outreach—particularly outreach sent Sundays at 6 pm, 2 pm, and noon—tends to do surprisingly well for staffing agencies, seeing 63.3%, 63.1%, and 62.9% open rates, respectively. 

If you prefer to send your outreach during the week, Mondays at 9 am and between 2-3 pm see high open rates, but Sunday still takes the cake. Consider a solution—like Gem!—that lets you set-and-forget candidate outreach, so you’re catching candidates on Sundays when they’re more likely to open your message.

Best send times: tech v. non-tech

That said, “best times” were more nuanced when we dug in. After all, different roles have different relationships to email; and it may be worth it to hypothesize why some of the following numbers are what they are: 

Best Send Times: Tech Roles

Sunday at 2 pm: 63.9% open rate

Sunday at noon: 63.7% open rate 

Sunday at 1 pm: 63.0% open rate

Sunday at 11 am: 62.9% open rate

Sunday at 6 pm: 62.9% open rate

Best Send Times: Non-Tech Roles

Sunday at 6 pm: 64.3% open rate

Sunday at 7 pm: 63.2% open rate

Thursday at 6 pm: 62.1% open rate

Sunday at 8 pm: 61.8% open rate

Monday at 9 am: 61.5% open rate

Best send times by role

Engineers

  • Sunday at 1 pm: 63.1% open rate
  • Sunday at noon: 62.8% open rate
  • Sunday at 2 pm: 62.7% open rate

Eng managers

  • Sunday at 6 pm: 69.9% open rate
  • Sunday at 3 pm: 68.0% open rate
  • Saturday at 10 am: 66.6% open rate

Product

  • Saturday at 11 am: 74.9% open rate
  • Friday at 8 pm: 70.9% open rate
  • Monday at noon: 70.1% open rate

Design

  • Sunday at noon: 78.2% open rate
  • Thursday at 5 pm: 77.0% open rate
  • Thursday at 8 am: 76.4% open rate

Sales

  • Sunday at 9 am: 74.0% open rate
  • Thursday at 6 pm: 68.4% open rate
  • Sunday at 6 pm: 64.5% open rate 

Sequence cadence

Open rates for staffing outreach are highest when the recruiter instills a sense of urgency by only waiting a day between sends. But interested rates tend to be highest when nearly a week passes between sends—perhaps because it gives talent time to consider the opportunity. 

Time between stages 1 and 2:

1 day: 17.6% open rate, 15.9% reply rate, 1.6% interested rate

2 days: 15.3% open rate, 9.6% reply rate, 1.7% interested rate

3 days: 15.9% open rate, 9.0% reply rate, 1.5% interested rate

4 days: 14.6% open rate, 8.3% reply rate, 1.9% interested rate

5 days: 14.5% open rate, 7.8% reply rate, 1.9% interested rate

6 days: 14.5% open rate, 7.6% reply rate, 2.1% interested rate

Time between stages 2 and 3:

1 day: 7.3% open rate, 5.6% reply rate, 1.0% interested rate

2 days: 6.4% open rate, 5.5% reply rate, 1.5% interested rate

3 days: 6.2% open rate, 4.6% reply rate, 1.1% interested rate

4 days: 6.2% open rate, 5.2% reply rate, 1.3% interested rate

5 days: 6.4% open rate, 5.3% reply rate, 1.5% interested rate

6 days: 5.8% open rate, 5.9% reply rate, 1.6% interested rate

Subject lines: {{company}} tokens perform best

Gem’s tokens represent values that are either auto-captured from the prospect’s LinkedIn profile (i.e. {{company}}) or manually entered by a sourcer (i.e. {{reason}}). These variables can be dropped anywhere in subject lines or message copy when the sourcer is creating the email sequence. The value will automatically populate the email, replacing the token when the outreach is sent. In short, tokens offer the best of both worlds: personalization and automation.

Our staffing customers use these tokens most often in their subject lines, in order of popularity:

  • {{title}}
  • {{first name}}
  • {{first name}} + {{title}}

But interestingly, what recruiters think is a best practice for subject lines isn’t always so. Here’s what the data shows: 

  • {{company}} + {{title}} = 66.1% open rate
  • {{company}} + {{first name}} = 62.5% open rate
  • {{first name}} + {{title}} = 60.4% open rate


The takeaway? Staffing firms aren’t always able to name the companies they’re recruiting for in their outreach. But a combination of {{company}} + another personalization token sees the highest open rates. {{first name}} performs well, too—especially when paired with {{company}} or {{title}}.

Message length

In aggregate, the majority of our staffing customers tend to stay in the 170-200 word count range for the initial message of their outreach sequence. That said, we observed a pretty meaningful pattern in our data: reply rates see an overall downward trend as messages get longer:

There’s a commonsense element to the argument that short-and-to-the-point outreach (assuming it’s also personalized and genuine) will outperform long emails. Remember, passive candidates aren’t exactly swimming in free time. And you can deliver the essentials—a personalized mention, a compelling detail or two about the opportunity, a call to action—in fewer than 10 sentences. 

Given that, we’d recommend initial messages in the 20-120 word count range (though by all means, A/B test longer ones with an outreach solution that will give you the data to optimize! We’ve certainly seen long messages do well—both for ourselves at Gem, and for our customers.)

To our staffing partners: we’ll continue to offer up benchmarks and best practices as they shift and change in this market. In the meantime, we’re celebrating you and the remarkable role you play in the talent acquisition industry and we hope to see you in Las Vegas next month at Staffing World 2022! Come find the Gem team at Booth #258!

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