How important is an email subject line? When you’re job searching, it might mean the difference between getting the interview—and getting stuck in a spam folder.
These days, much of your job search is likely conducted via email. But employers receive thousands of emails a day, and many times, whether or not an email gets opened depends entirely on its subject line.
To make sure your emails are read, you need a clear, professional subject line.
Campaign Monitor reports that one of the best ways to get your email message opened is to improve your subject line. That's especially important when you're emailing a resume to apply for a job.
Why the Subject Line Is Important
The subject line (along with the name or email address of the sender) is the first thing people see while scanning their inboxes. Because emails can contain viruses, as well as irrelevant information, busy people rarely open all their email.
The decision to open—or delete—an email is made based mainly on the subject line and the sender. Since the subject line is your first impression, you want to be sure that your writing is clear and free of errors.
When you leave the subject line blank, your email may end up marked as spam or deleted.
Since recipients may not be familiar with your name, the subject line is also an opportunity to introduce yourself. This is the first step to making a strong first impression so that your resume is opened and read.
Tips for Writing an Effective Email Subject Line
Keep it professional. This goes for both your subject line and your email address. The subject line shouldn’t include any informal words or phrases like “Hey” or “What’s Up.” Use only professional, polite language. Make sure that your email address is appropriately professional—firstname.lastname@example.org could make the hiring manager wonder how serious a contribution you would make to their company.
Note why you are writing. You need to make sure that your subject line will be of interest in order to get your email read. Make it relevant by including keywords related to your reason for writing.
When you’re networking, use your subject line to state why you are contacting the person. You might be asking for information, or requesting a meeting, advice, or referral. If someone recommended the contact, definitely include their name. Networking emails can be the most difficult to get noticed because the person emailing isn’t seeking to solve a specific problem or fill a position.
Your subject line is your opportunity to grab their attention and make them want to know more about you.
Include the job title. In an email applying for a job, use the job title as the subject line, so the employer knows what position you are interested in. That helps busy hiring managers who are recruiting for multiple positions see at a glance which job you are applying for. Mentioning the job title is also helpful in case there is an automated filter that categorizes the hiring manager’s email. With the right subject line, you’ll be sure that your application is placed in the appropriate folder to be seen in a timely manner.
You can include your name as well, or “referred by” if someone recommended that you apply. In your follow-up correspondence (particularly a thank-you email after an interview), “Thank You” can precede the title of the job.
Follow the instructions. The job posting may specify what to include in the subject line of your message. If it does, be sure to follow the directions.
Keep it short and specific. The more specific you can make your subject line, the easier it will be for the recipient to categorize your email quickly and respond appropriately. Be as succinct as possible, as lengthy subject lines may be cut off, and could lose the most important information.
Many people check their email on mobile devices that display only 25 to 30 characters of the subject line. You’ll have much more space if they are reading on a computer, and when they open the email, they will see the whole subject.
Use the first few words to get to the point, and leave the extra information like your credentials and experience for the end.
Campaign Monitor suggests optimizing your subject line length to between 41 characters (portrait view on an iPhone) to 70 characters for Gmail. While Mailchimp notes that it's best to keep your subject line at no more than nine words and a maximum of 60 characters.
Proofread and edit your message. When editing your email before sending it, also be sure to proofread your subject line. Since the subject line is your first impression, you want to be sure that your writing is clear and free of errors.
Email Subject Line Examples
For inspiration, here are several examples of clear, to-the-point subject lines:
- Administrative Assistant Job - Your Name
- Job Inquiry - Your Name
- Managing Director Position
- Job Posting #321: District Sales Manager
- Communications Director Position - Your Name
- Application for Sales Associate
- Public Health Associate Position - Your Name, MPH
- Inquiry - Your Name
- Social Media Expert Seeking New Opportunity
- Marketing Director Looking for Next Role - 10 years experience
- Research Assistant Resume
- Referral - Your Name
- Referred by FirstName LastName
- Informational Interview Request - XYZ College Student
- Thank You - Job Title Interview
- Meeting Follow Up - Subject of Meeting
- Meeting Request - Your Name
What Else to Include in Your Email
The subject line is an important aspect of an email cover letter, but it’s not the only thing to consider when you’re composing your letter.
Since the subject line is your first impression, you want to be sure that your writing is clear and free of errors.
You'll also need to make sure that the rest of your email is polite and appropriate. That means paying attention to issues of email etiquette, as well as adhering to the norms of professional correspondence. Think about:
- How to address the letter's recipient
- How to choose appropriate sign-off
- Which font and font size to opt for
Sample Email Message For a Job Application
Subject: Referred by Lara Barrett
Dear Mr. Klass,
I'm writing regarding the open content marketing role at 3L Logistics. My former colleague, and good friend, Lara Barrett, recommended that I contact you directly about this position. Lara and I worked together for three years at ABC Software company, so she can attest to my marketing know-how. I'd welcome an opportunity to discuss how my skills could benefit 3L Logistics and what you have in mind for this role.
Let me tell you a little bit about me: In my position as a marketing specialist at ABC Software, I helped to develop a content strategy for the release of ABC's next-gen software product, which covered both the Americas and EMEA regions. This work on the marketing funnel helped create 25% more opportunities for the sales team.
Prior to ABC Software, I was a communications manager at TechTom, another software maker. In this role, I developed a thought-leadership blog series that got picked up by mainstream publications and helped secure TechTom's role in the community as a reputable source of insight. Lara tells me that you're looking to pursue similar goals at 3L Logistics, and I'd love to share some of the best practices I discovered while working on this project at TechTom.
I think my mix of communications and marketing skills would be an asset to 3L Logistics. I would appreciate an opportunity to meet and discuss the role—and how I can help—further. Thank you very much for your consideration.
How to Get Your Email Message Read
Be Professional: Don’t use casual language (e.g., “what’s up?”) or a cutesy email address (e.g., email@example.com).
Include the Job Title: To save yourself from the spam folder, list the job title and your name in the subject line.
Proofread Your Subject Line: You’d be surprised how many times people proofread the body of their email, and then leave a glaring typo in the first line that the hiring manager will read.