The Power of the Email Subject Line

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Apr 28, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

The subject line could well be the most important part of your message. If it doesn’t cut the mustard, the beautiful flowing prose that you’ve written will never actually get read! At Beamery we’re pretty lucky. We see daily data on the subject lines that work, and the ones that consign you to the trash folder. There are a few major trends that we’ve picked out, and SourceCon has been kind enough to let me share them with you.

1. Keep it personal

Templates and bulk messages are hardly 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 personalisation. Simply mentioning the candidate’s name will increase your open rate by as much as 26%! Shocking right? You don’t just have to stop there, though, we’ve found it’s particularly effective to reference something like education in your 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 increase your chance of getting a response by as much as 27%. The reason for this is simple. The candidate may not have heard of you, but by mentioning a friend, colleague or acquaintance in the 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’, take a look at subject line lengths and their corresponding open and click rates:

4–15 characters: 15.2% open; 3.1% click

16–27 characters: 11.6% open; 3.8% click

28–39 characters: 12.2% open; 4% click

40–50 characters: 11.9% open; 2.8% click

51+ characters: 10.4% open; 1.8% click

(Data from

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 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?

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!

The post first appeared on the Social Talent Blog

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.