Nothing like a template e-mail from a recruiter to make you feel like a number. A low number. It really shocks me that people recruit like this.
I just got an e-mail from a small local software company. Obviously, the person that sent the e-mail has no idea who I am (not that I am special, but recruiters should at least know who the heck they are sending the template to). The e-mail was perfectly friendly. It said "Hi Heather" at the beginning and the font was consistent throughout. But it's clearly a template. And it's clearly for an HR ("SPHR certification preferred") role that requires "moderate supervision". That is so not me (not that there's anything wrong with it...it's just not me). I'm sure that Microsoft is not everyone's ideal company, but if you are going to try to recruit someone out, you have to work harder. That sounds horrible, but we do have a pretty good deal going on here so if you aren't offering something significantly better, what's the point?
There was nothing in the mail to sell me on the company or the opportunity. It was just a job description and a request to complete the questionnaire at the bottom if this is something I would be interested in. There's nothing about me that should have given the person the impression that I would be interested. I'm sure that a number of other people received the same e-mail. I know e-mails like this go out from recruiters at many/most companies. Hey recruiters, these templates make candidates feel like crap. If you are recruiting top talent, your targets are not going to respond to this kind of thing.
My team does a lot of initial contacting of candidates so I suppose we have some expertise in this area. Let me be clear about one thing. I use templates. With the volume of resumes that we receive, it's virtually impossible for me to be uniquely charming in each e-mail communication (hee!). But there's a way to use templates successfully.
1) Font and color of text should be consistent throughout. If your mail merge makes it obvious that your mail was not sent directly and individually to the candidate, then don't send it.
2) If you are e-mailing more than one person at a time, include language that allows the recipient to opt-out of hearing from you again. I'm no legal expert, and I am not going to get into the technical definition of SPAM. But I do know the difference between mail I want to receive and mail I don't want to receive. There's a difference between a conversation and a blasted e-mail.
3) Write your e-mail in language that is friendly and professional, but casual. Don't put on your template voice. It's so obvious. When I send out an e-mail response to the resume, it sounds just as if I had just composed the mail. My personality dictates my e-mail voice.
4) Include something you know about the person so they don't feel like you purchased their name off a list. Don't have time to look the person up on LinkedIn? Then don't send the mail.
5) Never assume the person will be interested. Keep the mail short and ask the question..."are you interested in hearing more?"
6) Never, and I mean NEVER, include a screening template in your first e-mail. Candidates want to be courted. They don't want to feel like you just sent the e-mail out to everyone and their dog just to see if you could get anyone interested. I will admit that my team does send out some standard questions to candidates, but this is after they have expressed interest. We want to know whether they can work in Redmond and whether they have work authorization. That's about it. I have never been a fan of screening templates. If you are interested in the person for a position you are owning as a recruiter, then they are worthy of your time for a phone call. I think the screening templates come off as arrogant (we are so important that we don't have time for you but expect you to make time for us).
7) Consider that the way you recruit says a lot about how employees are treated at your company. The way that a candidate is treated during the process, while they are being "wooed" should be no worse than how an employee is treated. If "I don't have time for you" is the message you are sending out during your recruiting process, that is what people will expect as employees. If "we care about you" is the message you are sending out, then there's a high likelihood you will feel the love once you are in the door.
Now before anyone tries to set up a call with me, I am no longer in a role where I am owning open positions, but I can certainly get your resume to the recruiters that are. I know recruiters don't have time to phone interview every candidate (duh), but once they have established some mutual interest, the next step is a phone call. Recruiting is about relationships.
8) Never send your e-mail template to a recruiter who is likely to blog about it. We all make mistakes but it's hard to ignore blog fodder like that. I've had people e-mail me to apologize after stuff like this because they thought I was angry. I'm not angry. I just don't find the whole template intro thing to be a compelling recruiting strategy and it definitely does not make me want to join your company (it doesn't even make me want to refer people to you).