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How to Write Subject Lines that Make Candidates Open Emails

The subject line could well be the most important part of your recruitment marketing email. If it doesn’t cut the mustard, the message within will never get read: candidates will not learn why you are a great employer, and how amazing your opportunities are.

At Beamery, we’re pretty lucky. We see daily data on the email subject lines that work for Talent Acquisition teams, and the ones that consign you to the trash folder. Here are some of our top tips...

1. Keep it personal

Templates and bulk messages are never the best way to make a candidate feel special. The subject line is your first opportunity to stand out from competitors, and show candidate’s that you’ve done a little research and that you’re genuinely interested in talking to them. The easiest way to do this? A little personalization.

Simply mentioning the candidate’s name will increase your open rate. You don’t just have to stop there, though, we’ve found it’s particularly effective to reference something like education in your email subject lines. A subject line formula that we’ve found particularly effective is:

“[Candidate Name: From [University or College] to [Company]?”

This is how this might look if Beamery were trying to hire me again: “Ben: From Oxford University to Beamery?”. This subject line works particularly well because it shows that you’ve taken the time to research their education.

2. Highlight a mutual connection

If you have any friends in common, don’t wait until the main body of the message to highlight them. Mentioning a mutual connection in your subject line will highly increase your chance of getting a response. 

The reason for this is simple. The candidate may not have heard of you, but by mentioning a friend, colleague or acquaintance in the email subject line, you’re providing an endorsement of trust and giving them a reason to speak to you.

How much more likely are you to watch a film or visit a restaurant that a friend has endorsed? That seal of approval makes a huge difference to your decision-making process.

You can tap into that same impulse to get more opens and replies by mentioning mutual connections in your LinkedIn Inmails.

3. Keep it short and sweet

Time is the digital world’s most precious resource.

When you’re writing your subject line you need to make sure candidates know exactly what your message at a glance. You need to state exactly why the recipient should open the message in as few words as possible.

If you’re wondering how many words is ‘perfect’, Campaign Monitor recommends about 17-24 characters; approximately 3-5 words.

Also, remember that many candidates will be reading your message on their mobile. Make the subject line too long and you risk them missing half of it!

4. Create urgency

Humans are hardwired to put things off unless we think we might be missing out (think about how Christmas sales spur shoppers into action!)

If you want to encourage immediate action from your candidates you need to use your subject line to inspire the same sense of urgency. People have to feel like they might be missing out on something special.

Use simple email subject lines like: “Got time for a chat today?” or “Not accepting applications after today” to spur your candidates into action.

5. Ask a question

Whenever you sit down to write an email to a candidate you’ve never spoken to, there should be only one thing on your mind. How can I start a dialogue with this person?

The best recruiters know the value of building a relationship and starting a conversation with candidates before ‘selling’ their opportunity.

One of the best ways to start a dialogue is to include a question in your subject line. The question doesn’t have to be about a role you’re trying to fill.

In fact, asking a candidate a question about their work or a project that they were involved in is one of the best ways to kick things off. Try something like: Noticed you were part of [project] – what was your motivation for getting involved?

6. Avoid the spam folder...

There are certain trigger words or phrases that, if found in subject lines, will likely get your email sent straight to the bin. These include  Work from home, Earn per week, Extra cash, and Make $. You can see a lengthy list compiled by Hubspot here.

Emails with punctuation marks in subject lines are also more likely to be viewed as spam, so avoid those.

7. BONUS: Don’t forget preheader text

Just beyond the subject line is an area many people neglect: Preheaders, the text that appear at the very top, summarize the content in your email, letting your audience gets a chance to preview the email right from their inbox.

Whether your customers open their emails on mobile devices or desktop computers, preheaders add more space for you to hook your readers and impress them.

Summary

There are plenty of other factors at play when it comes to writing the perfect LinkedIn message or email.

Ultimately, though, none of them matter if you can’t get a candidate to ‘click’. The subject line might just feel like a few words, but if you get them wrong it’s over before it even began!