If you're emailing a potential employer, the key to getting them to pay attention to your message right away isn't the opening line or the closing line. It's the subject line.
Think about it: The words you put in your subject line are the first words someone sees and your first chance to make a lasting impression. While your subject line doesn't need to be complex, it also shouldn't be seen as a throwaway part of your message. It's easy to type "Checking in" or "Hi again," but neither makes your email a must-open for a hiring manager.
We talked to Brendan Greenley, a data scientist at email-productivity company Boomerang to find out what makes a winning subject line.
Specific > General
"An ideal subject succinctly portrays the intent of the email, while also being uniquely tailored to the recipient," Greenley says. "Subjects like 'Interested in your job openings' or 'Seeking opportunities as an engineer' are not great ones, even if they accurately reflect your email’s purpose."
Instead, personalize your subject to the company you're emailing and the job you're interested in, if there is one. If the email is a follow-up from an in-person conversation or another email thread, make sure you note that in the subject.
Not Too Long, Not Too Short
In a Boomerang study on which emails had the highest response rates, the company found that those with zero-to-one-word subjects were the least likely to get answered. Three to four words was the sweet spot, but you can safely go a bit longer.
"If your subject is between three and seven words, you’re probably in a good position," Greenley says. "If your subject is longer than seven words, you risk your subject getting cut off and reading as an incomplete thought!"
Err On The Side Of Formality
If you're not sure whether you can be conversational in your subject line, Greenley suggests taking a cue from the company's website or the job listing. If it's a quirkier startup, conversational is probably best. For government or corporate jobs, be more formal. However, always opt for the latter if you're really unsure.
And avoid using all lowercase letters. "I admit that I often use all lowercase letters when instant messaging, but job-seeking emails are not the time or place for all-lowercase, informal typing," Greenley says. "A past Boomerang study showed that improper subject capitalization correlated with a 15% decrease in relative response rate."
Leave Your Name Out Of It
Since your name is most likely in the sender field, there's no need to include it in the subject line, where it can look repetitive, Greenley says.
Make The Company Feel Special
Even if the job you're emailing about is the one you really want, you're probably sending out multiple inquiry emails. That's smart — so long as you don't accidentally make it apparent in your email. Forgetting to take out the "Fwd:" in your subject line or writing the wrong company name will land your message in the trash.
"Many people reuse parts of job-application emails, but at least try to hide the fact that you’re recycling a previous email," Greenley says.
Follow these steps and you're on your way to getting a response in your inbox and a foot in the door. From there, it's all about the interview.