Tracking your open rate kills your yes rate

Ryan Winemiller

Tracking the open rate of your emails sounds like a good idea. The more data, the better – right? However, the reality is that there is a major cost to tracking opens, and it impacts recruiting disproportionately.

Tracking email opens is actually one of the biggest mistakes a recruiter can make and will likely decrease the effectiveness of an otherwise effective recruiting strategy. These tactics have been shown to deter candidates from responding and can quickly tarnish a company’s brand.

The truth about tracking pixels

Click through and open rate tracking is common in marketing. In a marketing context, when a prospect clicks on an ad or opens an email, that indicates intent. Marketers use this information to send that person emails and ads all across the web. Eventually, the customer might buy.

In sales, email tracking triggers a real-time notification to a salesperson as soon as a prospect opens their email. This allows the salesperson to call the prospect at the perfect moment when their product is top of mind.

But when is the last time a recruiter cold-called a candidate as soon as they opened a message?

You might be thinking, “I don’t cold-call candidates, but I still would like to know when my messages are being opened.” In order to know when someone opens an email, a tracking pixel is added to a message. Candidates can see this, and it can reflect negatively on the company.

What is a tracking pixel?

Tracking pixels are small images embedded in emails. Most email clients (like Gmail) tell the recipient about this image. Here is an example email I received from Patagonia. Gmail told me that there are images (tracking pixels) in the message.

Patagonia blasted out this email to everyone, and they didn’t take the time to personalize it. I expect to see tracking pixels when the goal is to send me product updates.

But what if your friend sent you a casual email to ask you to grab lunch? You’d likely find it off-putting or at the very least, weird if it had tracking. When it’s a personalized email, you don’t need to track it. The goal isn’t to measure some conversion metric, it’s to genuinely connect.

Tracking pixels can mark your message as spam

The most desirable candidates receive a ton of recruiting emails. Unsurprisingly, most of them will have developed pattern nonrecognition for tracking and send these messages straight to the trash or mark them as spam.

Eventually, emails with tracking pixels will be automatically detected and sent to spam. Google’s tabbed inbox almost always buries these emails in Updates or Forums.

Tracking pixels undermine the authenticity of your message

When recruiters say things like “I think you’d be a good fit for this role,” or “I noticed your background and wanted to reach out to you,” it sounds personal. The recruiter took the time to think through this individual’s background and chose them specifically. A tracking pixel sends the opposite message. Now the candidate thinks that the recruiter is sending the same note to everyone.

If I receive a recruiting email asking me to meet for coffee and I see tracking, it feels cold.

The message may sound genuine, but I can clearly see that it isn’t. I know everyone gets the same message. The tracking pixel completely defeats the purpose of doing a thoughtful reach-out.

Don’t make this common mistake

Recruiting and sales have a lot in common, so it‘s natural for recruiters to borrow ideas from sales. But recruiting isn’t transactional. In fact, aggressive sales and marketing tactics undermine the genuine relationship-building that’s key to successful recruiting.

We all want to be better recruiters and often times data can help us achieve this. However, the open rate is a vanity metric and won’t actually lead to a better bottom line, which is more hires. We could write ridiculous and offensive subject lines if we wanted to maximize open rates. It’s far more important to maximize positive reply rates. The more “yes” replies we get back, the more candidates we are able to engage with and interview.

The positive reply rate is the metric that matters, not the email open rate.