Banish Boring Subject Lines With These Key Email Tips

Email subject lines that will maximize the open rates on your job search and networking emails.

3 years ago   •   7 min read

By Rohan Mahtani
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Have you ever gotten an email and immediately dreaded opening it? Maybe the email header was overly vague and you don’t like surprises, maybe it came across too pushy, or maybe it bombarded you with custom emojis to the point where you could barely even read it. The point being: Don’t let that unopened email be yours!

The right subject line can make or break an email. A good subject line can be the deciding factor in whether someone replies to your email, how long it takes them to respond, and even whether they open it in the first place. To maximize the open rates on your emails — and make everyone’s lives a little easier — here are some of our top subject lines to use in your job search.

What makes a good subject line?

First and foremost, a good email header needs to catch people’s attention. That means avoiding very generic or nondescript titles, like “Hello,” or “Job application.” Ideally, your subject line should give the recipient enough of an idea of what’s inside to know that they want to open it without making the email itself unnecessary. The tricky part is straddling the line between piquing the person’s interest (good) and turning them off (bad) — in other words, stay away from gimmicks like emojis, random fonts or colors, and being overly pushy or informal.

To help you strike that perfect balance, here's are our top tips for crafting the perfect email subject line.

How to write an attention-grabbing email subject line

  1. Be informative. People should know what your email is about before they open it.
  2. Be concise. Don't try to fit everything into the subject line — keep it under 10 words.
  3. Keep it professional. Recruiters pay attention to how job candidates communicate and use that to inform their hiring decisions.
  4. Include essential information, like your name and the job title or ID.
  5. Use key words and phrases, like "job application" if you're applying for a job or "thank you" if you're writing a thank you note.
  6. Establish a shared connection. Dropping the name of a mutual connection can drastically improve your chances of a response.
  7. Don't give too much away. If you want to pique the recipient's interest, it's okay to leave a little to the imagination.

Be informative

Most people will avoid opening a new email if they don't know what's in it. Being upfront about why you're contacting someone — whether you're inquiring about a job, asking for an informational interview, or just hoping to catch up — makes it more likely that they'll read and respond to your message. Informative subject lines also let people read and respond to your email more quickly, showing that you respect them and their time.

Be concise

Email subject lines don’t always have to be complicated! A clear, concise subject line tells the recipient exactly what your email is about and makes it easy to respond. There's no single ideal email subject line length for every situation, but the best advice is to keep it to around 7 words or between 40-70 characters, which is the display limit for most mobile and web-based email clients.

Keep it professional

Your subject line should be appropriate for the kind of email you're sending, which means that something like a job inquiry or cold email is going to be a lot more formal than reaching out to a friend or ex-colleague. You can also add a more personal touch by including your recipient’s name in the subject line, which adds warmth without sacrificing professionalism.

Include essential information

Putting your name in the header reminds the recipient who you are and means they don’t have to scroll down to the bottom of the email for important context. Seeing your name every time they glance at their inbox also means they’ll be more likely to remember you in the future.

If the job you applied for had a reference ID, including that information makes it even easier for the recruiter to know exactly what job you’re talking about. This foes double if you’ve applied to a large company or one with multiple open positions.

Use keywords

Including key words and phrases is a good "shortcut" for creating a concise but informative subject line. In particular, starting an email off with something like “thanks” or "catching up" lets the recipient know exactly what kind of email to expect (the good kind!) and makes them more likely to want to open it.

If you're applying for a job and think you’re a good fit for the type of work the company is doing, you can also use your email header to sell yourself a little. Putting information about your background and experience upfront makes it more likely that a recruiter will respond to you if they have a specific opening that fits.

Establish a shared connection

If you were referred to a position that you’re still waiting to hear back from, emphasizing that in your subject line can make it more likely that you’ll get a response. The same thing applies to reaching out to someone in your alumni network or to a second degree connection — letting the recipient know about the shared connection upfront can make them more likely to respond to you.

If you don't have any mutual contacts, establishing a common interest — even if it’s just the industry the two of you share or the university you both attended — can make a big difference, especially if you’re cold emailing.

Don't give too much away

I know what you’re thinking — aren’t vague email headers a bad thing? Sometimes — but other times being a little imprecise can actually work in your favor. Always give enough information for the recipient to know broadly what your email is about, but it's okay if they need to actually read your message to find out the specific details.

Ready? Here are some email subject line templates you can use in just about any situation.

Examples of strong email subject lines

Following up on a job application

If you’ve sent in a job application and haven’t heard anything back, it can sometimes be okay to send a follow up email to check up on it. You don’t need to do this for every application, but if you’re well into the process (especially if you’ve already had an interview) and it’s past the stated time frame, a gentle nudge could prevent your application from slipping through the cracks.

  • Following up on my application for [Position] at [Company Name]
  • [Position] — [Your Name]
  • [Job posting #ID] — [Position]
  • Referred by [Reference] for [Position]

For more tips and email templates, check out our guide on how to follow up after a job application.

Networking and informational interviews

If you don’t have a lot of experience in the industry you’re applying to — like if you’re a recent grad or career changer — informational interviews are a great way to gain some insight into the field and make connections at the same time. Always remember that you’re asking for a favor, so be flexible and respect potential constraints on their time.

  • Hi from a fellow alumni
  • [University] grad seeking career advice
  • Career changer interested in [industry]
  • Would love to connect

For full email templates, see our guide on how to ask for an informational interview via email.

Sending a thank you note

The thank you note hasn’t disappeared — it’s just gone digital. Sending a thank you note after meeting someone — whether it’s during an interview, at a networking event, or after meeting someone for advice — isn’t essential, but it’s still highly recommended. Not only does it encourage people to think more fondly of you and take a step toward building a lasting relationship, it’s also just plain good manners!

  • Thanks for your time earlier!
  • [Your Name] — Thank you and follow up
  • Thanks for earlier, [Name]
  • Interview with [Company Name]

For more detailed thank you notes tailored to your situation, read more about how to write a thank you email to a recruiter, the thank you email you need to send after an informational interview, and sending a thank you after a career fair.

Asking for an introduction

Asking a mutual connection for an introduction doesn’t have to be fraught. The trick is to ask directly, explain a little bit about why you want the introduction, and make things easier by including your resume or a pre-formatted message for them to pass along.

  • Could you make an introduction?
  • Could you intro me?
  • Possible intro

Looking for more tips on how to ask someone for an introduction? We’ve got you covered!

Sending an inquiry letter or asking for job openings

You haven’t applied for a job yet — but only because you don’t know if any are available! If you’re not having much success waiting around for jobs to be listed publicly, why not be proactive and reach out to companies you’re interested in?

  • Openings at [Company Name]
  • Curious about openings at [Company]
  • Quick question about current openings
  • [Job title] with X years’ experience

Here are some more tips on how to ask for job openings, including job inquiry letter templates and how to attach your resume.

Reconnecting with an old contact

Lost touch with an old friend or colleague? It happens to the best of us! Fortunately, falling out of contact with someone doesn’t mean that relationship is gone forever. Rekindle old relationships with a warm but gentle subject line.

  • Hope you’re doing well!
  • Checking in
  • How are things going?
  • Catch up on [enter topic]
  • It’s been a while!

Read more about how (and why) to reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while.

Following up after receiving no response

This situation can be a little delicate — on one hand, you don’t want your inquiry to be forgotten, but on the other hand, you don’t want to keep pestering someone who doesn’t have time to respond. It’s okay to send one follow up if you haven’t received a response to a previous inquiry, but don’t push for a response if one isn’t forthcoming.

  • Re: [Original email]
  • Touching base about [Position]
  • Following up on [topic]

For some email templates you can use, check out our guide on how to write a follow up email after not getting a response.

Email subject lines to avoid

If you're tempted to start your email with any of the following — don't. Here are some things to avoid when sending your next email:

  • Vague subject lines like "Job application" or "Following up."
  • Overly informal greetings like "Hey" or "What's up?"
  • Gimmicky or misleading subject lines like "Click here" or "You've won!"
  • Not addressing the recipient by name
  • Emojis or emoticons
  • Mixed or downloaded fonts
  • Images or other strange formatting
  • Hard to read colors — black or the email default is fine
  • Using all capital letters or too many punctuation marks
  • Leaving the subject line blank

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