How to Write Recruiting Email Subject Lines that Stand Out

Get more candidate engagement with better subject lines

November 18, 2021

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Last week, we covered how to craft a killer outreach email. This week, we’re focused on recruiting email subject lines. You don’t want your fantastic email to end up in a candidate’s trash folder or unread pile because of a subpar subject line. The right subject line should peak a candidate’s interest. It should give them an idea of what’s inside. And, it should stand out from the endless stream of emails that we’re all bombarded with every day. Here’s why: 35% of all email recipients open emails based on subject lines alone.

That means it’s worth your time to put some thought into your subject lines. Give your recruiting emails the best shot at catching a candidate’s attention with these tips.

Subject Lines That Stand Out with Candidates

Make an impression

Email has now been a part of our lives for decades. Most people’s brains are now trained to be able to quickly scroll through their inboxes and separate the important messages from the unimportant. You need to capture candidates’ attention quickly. Don’t be afraid to be creative, edgy, or forward — this is a great place to make an impression, in alignment with your company’s brand. However, make sure the subject line doesn’t distract from the message you’re trying to convey or confuse recipients.

Certain roles, like marketing and design positions, are more conducive to creative subject lines. But you can also experiment with sharing the fun in more “serious” roles like in finance and operations. You can always analyze and recalibrate as results roll in.

Example: Caroline, we think it’s time for a salary boost!

Keep it relevant

Your subject line should tell the reader what to expect inside the email. An easy way to do this is to include the name of your company and the open position.

Example: Site Reliability Engineer opening with Acme in San Mateo

Keep it short and sweet

Experts recommend using roughly 60 characters (or ~9 words) to yield the best results. You don’t want your subject line cut off before you get to why a candidate should open your email. The bulk of your content will be in the body of your email so there’s no need to include too much detail in the subject line.

Example: Initech - Product Design Opportunity

Personalize as much as possible

Using a candidate’s first name in an email’s subject line goes beyond just catching their eye. Personalized subject lines are opened nearly 30% more on average, and have a 41% higher click through rate. Simply including a candidate’s name makes them feel valued and indicates that they’re not just one individual on a mass list of prospects. Mentioning their skills will also show that you’ve done your research.

Example: Linda, we hear you are a skilled web developer. We could use your help.

Create a sense of urgency

Even outside of email, expressing urgency is a popular recruiting tactic. A sense of urgency encourages candidates to act quickly. They don’t want to feel like they are missing out on an opportunity that won’t last long. Plus, they’ll feel flattered if you can tie it back to how in-demand their skills and experience are!

Example: Jim, we need your sales skills at Dunder Mifflin today

How to Avoid Spam Filters

If you want your email to be opened, it needs to land in a candidate’s inbox, not their spam folder. Spam filters flag unsolicited or virus-infected emails and stop them from getting into your inbox.

Send test emails

Before trying out a new email template, send a batch of test emails. Ask your co-workers, or trusted friends and family to see if they are willing to help out. You can also use the free Mail-Tester tool. Or, create a few new accounts on Gmail, Outlook, or whichever email platform you send to frequently, and see where the emails land.

Scratch overly eager language

Sounding desperate is a sure way to wind up in a candidate’s spam folder. NEVER USE ALL CAPS or more than one exclamation point!!! You can see how intense this looks, especially if you’re trying to create a great first impression of your company. Also, avoid including words like “Urgent” or “Apply Now.” Spam filters aside, using desperate-sounding language gives off unprofessional vibes and can quickly put off candidates from your company.

Confirm that your domain has a good reputation

Always check the reputation of your domain and IP address before sending emails to candidates. A bad reputation will send your emails straight to spam. You can check on free sites like Sender Score.

Take a peek at your own spam folder

No one likes looking at their spam folder, it’s a black hole. However, checking in once and a while is a great way to see what subject lines are landing those emails there.

Outreach vs Nurture Subject Lines

If a candidate doesn’t reply to your initial outreach email, it’s essential to send a second and even third follow-up emails to increase your chances of a candidate’s response. You may also want to send nurture sequences to candidates who weren’t made an offer for one role but may be a great fit for future roles. The content of your initial and nurture emails will differ and so should your subject lines.

Switch up your subject lines

Never use the same subject lines in your follow-up emails to candidates as you did in your initial outreach. If it didn’t catch their eye the first time around, what makes you think this time will be any different?

Change the angle

Maybe this candidate didn’t fall for the urgency you created in your first subject line. This time, include more personalization by mentioning the candidate’s skills or try using some humor. It’s somewhat a process of trial and error, because different subject lines will appeal to different candidates.

Personalize further

Even if you are contacting a group of candidates, your emails should make each candidate feel that you are targeting them specifically. If you are really interested in a candidate, don’t hold back on personalizing your messaging. You could even try mentioning a LinkedIn referral or mutual connection to see if that sparks interest.

Analyzing Recruiting Subject Line Performance

Lastly, you can’t expect to see improvements without analyzing the performance of your emails. When it comes to subject lines, the key metric is open rate. As we mentioned last week, a good benchmark to strive for with open rates is 20%. However, with stellar subject lines and a consistent email strategy, your open rates could be as high as 80-90%!

Your subject line is the first thing a candidate sees and has the potential to launch them to the next stage in their career. Don’t let it be the reason your email goes unanswered. With Fetcher, you can easily view key metrics like your open rate, response rate, and interest rate of both your initial outreach emails and your follow ups. You’ll also see your data charted over time so you can track your progress and understand which templates and sequences need adjusting. Reach out to us to learn how Fetcher can help you fully optimize your email outreach experience.


Check out our other blog posts for more talent acquisition tips and insights into recruiting trends.

About Fetcher

At Fetcher, our mission is to introduce companies to the people who will help them change the world. Our full-service, recruiting automation platform automates those repetitive, top-of-funnel tasks, so you can focus more on candidate engagement & team collaboration. Simplify Sourcing. Optimize Outreach. Hire Top Talent. Learn more at fetcher.ai.

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