Confession: I Have Way Too Much Fun Crafting Subject Lines

As a sourcers, our day to day functions of searching, scraping, and viewing profiles can get mind-numbing at times. Generating effective subject lines for candidate outreach has been a heavily discussed topic lately. For me personally, creating them is always a welcome break in my day. I recently started a new role where most of our openings require some level of security clearance. As I was getting to know the TA team during my first week the resounding feedback that I got from everyone was that the biggest struggle is not finding qualified candidate profiles, it’s getting them to respond. I immediately got excited because that meant I would get to start brainstorming ways to cut through all the noise to stand out in an industry where candidates are hounded by recruiters multiple times a day. 

I have always enjoyed utilizing video in my outreach, which I planned to incorporate into my messaging, but ultimately, the video would be a moot point if the message isn’t even opened. I sat down with another sourcer on my team and we had a good hour or so of laughing to ourselves at what we came up with for subject lines. Most of what we created was on the humorous side, and some were downright strange. Ultimately, what matters is that our crazy ideas are working. Since we started utilizing these subject lines our response rates have risen by 12%, and the number of interested candidates has risen by 45% over the previous month.  

  A crucial step in my outreach is testing the subject lines with various tools to analyze any potential pitfalls as I craft my messages. I cross reference through 2 or more resources since no single tool is perfect in predicting open rates. My preferred tool for subject line testing is Sendcheckit which was first introduced to me by Tangie Pettis. This tool gives you a score out of 100 and letter grade A through F which will indicate the likelihood that your email will be opened. In general, I aim to use subject lines that generate a score of 95 or higher which generates an A letter grade. In addition to Sendcheckit, I ran the same subject lines through SubjectLine.com to compare ratings and feedback. Subjectline.com also gives a score out of 100 but doesn’t give as many detailed suggestions for improvement. It does however give feedback from the perspective of an email marketer. The following subject lines are the ones that have received the highest response rates from candidates.

“Pumpkin spice jobs are back at Maxar Technologies”

This subject line has generated more responses than any other I have created. SendCheckit rated it at 96 points. One of the strengths of this subject is the satirical reference to the pumpkin spice craze we experience every fall. From a scoring standpoint, subject lines with emojis tend to score higher since it creates a stronger visual to draw attention to your email. It also is rated as reading at a 6th grade level. Anything lower than 7th will increase your score. SubjectLine Rated it much lower at a 70 out of 100. The main detractors that factored into the score were that there were too many characters for it to read well on a mobile device and there was no call to action.“pop tarts are ravioli, change my mind”

 This subject line has inspired some entertaining discussions and debates with candidates. It’s zany, fun and is a subtle call to action for the candidate to engage with me.  The reading level came back as 2nd grade which as previously stated, the lower the level the better.  Sendcheckit rated this line as 99 out of 100 and Subjectline.com rated it as 71 out of 100. According to SubjectLine the main detractor is that it doesn’t project enough of a sense of urgency.

“Care to enter our orbit?”

This subject line is an ode to our company since we’re within the aerospace industry. A contributing factor to the score is that it reads well on both a mobile and desktop. It’s a bit less comedic than my usual subject lines but the fact is, not everyone will respond well to humor. It’s important to try different approaches especially if you have an outreach strategy that include multiple emails should the not respond to the first one. What was interesting about cross referencing this line was that while SendcheckIt added points for having no capitalization, subjectline.com had it as the main detractor of the score. 


“Come on down to full stack pancake house”

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With this subject line I also put into the body “We have plenty of parking on the back end and our health inspections always get at least a C++.” Despite several candidates being disappointed that I don’t actually have pancakes for them, I have had a good amount of success getting full stack developers to open my emails. A contributing factor to the subject line score is that is exudes a positive sentiment. SubjectLine gave it a rather low score due to length and lack of capitalization. 

“Hi there!”

As with all AI or NLP software, you should also run a sanity check on the results.  Because you can get a pretty high score with some really generic subject lines.  For example, a super generic “Hi there!” will get 84 points on Sendcheckit and 82 on Subjectline.  So when it comes to any software, make sure you don’t trust it completely, because I would never open an email from a stranger with “Hi there!” as the subject line.

In Conclusion

Overall, Sendcheckit seemed to be more accurate in predicting which subject lines would be effective. That’s not to say however that SubjectLine is a less useful tool. They each appear to weigh the attributes of each subject line as more or less important than the other. Using 2 tools in conjunction when reaching out to candidates will just give you more things to consider for improvement. 

Erin has been in talent acquisition for the past 6 years and has recruited for a broad spectrum of professionals including SAT prep tutors, costumed mascots, promo models, healthcare workers and software engineers.  She currently works as a talent sourcer in the aerospace industry.

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