With an estimated 89 billion business emails sent every day, it’s harder than ever to get yours noticed.
And since email is often the first point of contact for job seekers and hiring managers, the subject line can make all the difference. It not only communicates who you are and what you want but also can be a marketing tool that shows off your qualifications and helps you stand out.
So how do you motivate a reader to click on your email and give you their time? Depending on the context, career and communication experts offer the following advice that job seekers should bear in mind when crafting their job-search subject lines.
Keep it short. A typical inbox reveals about 60 characters of an email’s subject line, while a mobile phone shows just 25 to 30 characters, says Amanda Augustine, career expert at professional job-matching service TheLadders. With such limited space, eliminate any unnecessary words like “hello” and “thanks,” and get right to the point in about six to eight words.
Example: Human Resources Assistant Application
Place the most important words at the beginning. A whopping 50% of emails are now read on mobile phones, says Dmitri Leonov, a VP at email management service SaneBox. Since you don’t know how much of the subject line hiring managers would be able to see from their smartphones, it’s important to put the most important information at the beginning of the subject line. Otherwise, compelling details could get cut off.
Example: Marketing Manager with 8 Years of Experience
Be clear and specific. Recruiters spend just six seconds reviewing a resume, says Augustine, so they likely spend even less time scanning a job seeker’s email. The subject line should communicate exactly who you are and what you’re looking for without a recruiter needing to open the email. Don’t use a vague subject line like “resume for opening,” and instead specify which opening you’re applying for.
Example: John Smith Following Up on Sales Position
Use logical keywords for search and filtering. Hiring managers typically have filters and folders set up to manage their email and probably won’t focus on your message when they first see it, says Leonov. That’s why it’s important to include keywords like “job application” or “job candidate” that will make the email searchable later.
Example: Job Application: John Smith for Social Media Manager
Include the position and your name. For a standard job application, Augustine says the most important information to include in the email subject line is the job title and your name, as well as the job’s ID if it has one. Anything less will require the hiring manager to spend time opening the email and trying to decode it.
Example: Data Scientist, No. 123456 – John Smith Application
List your designations to show that you’re qualified. The subject line should be a place to distinguish yourself and immediately catch a recruiter’s eye. Augustine recommends including any acronyms you have that are pertinent to the job. For example, you might add MBA, CPA, or Ph.D. after your name, depending on its relevancy to the position.
Example: Marketing Director – John Smith, MBA
If someone referred you, be sure to use their name. If you’ve been referred by a mutual acquaintance, do not save that for the body of the email, says Augustine. Put it in the subject line to grab the hiring manager’s attention right away. Moreover, she suggests beginning the subject line with the person's full name.
Example: Referred by Jane Brown for Technical Writer position
Don’t capitalize words. Using all caps may get someone’s attention, but in the wrong way. It’s the digital equivalent of yelling, and your job is to make the email as easy as possible for a recruiter to read rather than giving them anxiety, says Leonov. Instead, use dashes or colons to separate thoughts, and avoid caps and special characters like exclamation points.
Example: Job Inquiry: Award-Winning Creative Director now in New York
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