A computer screen is center with an email window opened. The subject line of a recruiting email is highlighted. A fishing pole is show coming out of the subject line and it's hook is being cast into a pool of candidates.

Keep Your Recruiting Emails from the Trash Folder with These Killer Subject Lines

Recruiting Emails. Love them or hate them, as hiring professionals, we are forced to live with them. And let’s be honest, we’ve all put serious time into perfecting email copy. For what though? Crickets…. according to studies, which report that the vast majority of recruiting emails go unopened.

Subject Lines Are the Key to Unlocking Candidates

So what is the cause of unsuccessful recruiting emails? Most often, it is the subject line. People spend hours crafting the perfect recruiting email, only to slap on a hastily written subject line as they go to click send. Unfortunately, this process couldn’t be more backward. Why? That brief string of text is literally the gatekeeper between your beautifully crafted recruiting emails and the skeptical eyes of a candidate. Based on subject line alone:

  • 47% of email recipients decide whether or not to open an email
  • 69% of email recipients decide whether or not an email is spam

On top of this, you must consider the competitive landscape of modern recruiting. With current technology, it has become incredibly easy to identify qualified candidates and initiate contact with them, but this is both a blessing and a curse. Sure, with the click of a few buttons, you can find the inboxes of several great candidates, but guess what? The same holds true for every other employer. As candidate inboxes become bombarded with recruiting emails, the subject line is your one opportunity to break through the noise and grab your candidate’s attention.

Recruiting Emails Beware, Newton Has Killer Subject Lines!

At Newton, we’ve learned the importance of subject lines the hard way. Through years of trial-and-error in both our own experiences and in consulting employers that we work with, we like to think that we have become recruiting email subject line experts. But what good is information if not shared, right? Immediately below are some subject lines that are working great for us currently. Followed up by these are several strategies that you should use to write attention-grabbing subject lines.

[FIRSTNAME], This job is better than a Fri PM at [inset popular bar where prospect went to college] (I have 10 characters for the first name)

Did you dream about this job at  [insert name of college or university] ?

[FIRSTNAME], Picture yourself creating [insert a work product from their LI profile here] at Newton

Personalization, Localization, and Relevancy

Did you know that emails with personalized subject lines are 22.2% more likely to be opened than those without? Think about your own email inbox. The majority of spam or “junk” email sticks out like a sore thumb because it lacks any form of personalization. The subject lines may be saying something, but nothing immediately relevant to you. These messages can be easily identified and kicked to the trash bin.

Keep in mind, many recruiting emails are the equivalent of a cold call and candidates have no reason to give you the time of day. Convincing them otherwise takes a little bit of psychology. Including elements familiar to your candidate in the subject line boosts the perceived relevancy of your email and increases the likelihood of capturing your candidate’s attention.

Of course, personalization requires research. Skimming your candidate’s social profiles (LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook) is a great starting point. This will allow you to glean insights about what their interests are (both professionally and personally) and see what they are talking about. Pull out the most personal tidbits and work them into your subject line. Of course, you don’t want to go too far so use some common sense.

For example, if your candidate is an avid biker, you could add a biking theme to the subject line of your recruiting emails. Your email will hit close to home and is guaranteed to draw some interest. Furthermore, it shows that you actually care, which is half the battle.

Get to the Point

Again, remember you are already on borrowed time and candidates will only spend a second or two scanning your subject line. You must get to the point as quickly as possible. Although there are some contrasting reports, the majority of studies suggest keeping subject lines under 50 characters. One Entrepreneur article cites research that 40 characters is the ideal number. To give you some perspective: This sentence is 36 characters long.

When determining the length of your subject lines, also consider display on smartphones. Although email may seem like a desktop activity, research shows that 68% of all emails are opened on mobile devices. Too long of a subject line and you could end up with an email that looks like “Hey Candidate X I’d really like to talk to you about this grea…” In portrait view, smartphones only display between 35-38 characters.

Be Authentic

This point ties back to personalization. Being a complete stranger, the last thing that you want to do is break trust by using cheap tricks to draw a click. Avoid spammy words like “urgent,” “re:,” and “reminder” that have nothing to do with the essence of your message. Don’t be afraid to assume a conversational tone. The familiarity that this breeds will alleviate initial uncertainty and be a great way to break the ice. After all, you are trying to build a relationship here.

[FIRSTNAME], Let’s Grab Coffee Sometime!

Also, have a little fun with it. Often, email subject lines are incredibly boring and monotonous. Breaking away from this mold will appeal to the candidate and endear them to you.

[FIRSTNAME], I’m Building an Avengers Marketing Team

[FIRSTNAME], Work Got You Stuck in the Mud?

Get the Inside Scoop

As hiring professionals, selling candidates on a given role is what we do. However, it can be hard to know what the top selling points are for every position at your organization. When a new req opens that you may be unfamiliar with, reach out to coworkers who have a better understanding of the position. Ask what subject lines would catch their eye and what communication would drive engagement from them.

For example, let’s say that you are hiring for a technician. Chances are, you won’t know much about their day-to-day duties and responsibilities. By speaking with your colleagues who have more knowledge of this, you can get the inside scoop for attention-grabbing subject lines.

Test, Analyze, Adjust, Repeat

Once you are ready to let your killer subject lines loose on candidates, your work is not done! The beauty of subject lines is that they are more of an art than an exact science. There is no “right answer,” but through constant iterations of testing, analyzing, and adjusting, you can form an idea of what works and what doesn’t.


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