8 Subject Line Tips When Looking for Work


As anyone looking for work in the GTA or anywhere in Canada knows, it can be a tough challenge to figure out what to write in the subject line of your email.  After all, it doesn’t matter how great your cover letter and resume are if no one opens your email to see them.

The subject line! So much depends on so few words.


Is it worth the time to work on your subject line?  The expert recruiters at The Bagg Group say absolutely!

It’s raining emails every day, yours has to stick. Consider this:

Those figures are global.  What should job-hunters looking for work opportunities in the GTA or Canada know? 

  • According to a 2017 Carleton University survey of six companies, people spend one-third of their time at the office dealing with email, and 50% of their time when they work at home.
  • People spend 11.7 hours at work and 5.3 hours at home on emails— every week.
  • Each day, people send/receive 86 work-related emails from work and 25 from home.

The science behind the subject line

MailChimp conducted a big data study to find a winning  formula for subject lines. Their system analyzed the subject lines of 24 billion emails. You read that right – 24 billion.

And sadly, there’s no overall magic formula for getting an email opened.  Although some things can help.

Looking for work?  Best Subject Line Tips 

The Bagg Group expert recruiters looked at the MailChimp data and used our own expertise to put together this tip list for those looking for work opportunities.

We know a thing or two about subject lines. The Bagg Group has four thriving divisions which successfully place thousands of job candidates in the GTA in full-time, contract and temporary placements every year with the best employers. As you can imagine, we get a lot of emails.

!!Most important tip of all !!

If you’re responding to a job posting, closely follow directions for what to include in your subject line. Typically, you’ll be asked to write in the job title, the job ID number (if there’s one), and your name.  See our job postings here.

 8 excellent tips for subject lines

1.  People open personal messages the most.

The MailChimp study confirms that personalization does increase open rates.

Tip:  If appropriate, include the name of someone the reader will know in the subject line. For example:Jane Smith suggested I contact you or Referred by Jane Smith for marketing position

2.  Do your research.

Look online (Linkedin especially) to see if the person you are emailing has written any blogs or articles that interest you, has done something you admire, or if you  have unique activities in common. But don’t claim to share activities if you don’t.  Read our blog on resume white lies to learn why honesty truly matters.

Tip:  Another way to personalize the subject line is to write something like Inspired by your article on xxx or Fellow (school) alumn or Fellow diver would like to ask … 

3. Never pretend to be friends with the reader.

We’re not surprised that the MailChimp study found that inserting the reader’s name into the subject line does not improve open rates. 

Tip: Do not try to trick a reader who doesn’t know you by using their name and being informal rather than professional.  Writing something like Hey David, you’ll love this resume makes people feel manipulated rather than respected.

4. Two words to avoid.

According to MailChimp data, the words help and reminder have poor open rates. These words trigger suspicion rather than interest.

Tip:  If you’re writing to get guidance or input, don’t ask for “help” in the subject line.  Instead, use words like advice, guidance expertise, insight, input, opinion.  For example,  advice on job opportunities.

If you are sending an email to follow up, use follow-up in the subject line, not reminder.

5. Everyone likes to be thanked. 

The research shows people respond well to thank you.

Tip: If you are following up after an interview or contact, write Thank you for

6. Less is more.

The study found subject lines should be 50 characters or less.  Also, about half of all emails are read on smartphones, which typically cut off the subject line after 33 to 35 characters.

Tip:  Put important words at the start of your subject line –it may be all anyone sees.  Don’t waste space with hello, or do you have a minute? Get straight to the point.

7. Subjects lines that tell, not sell, what’s in the email get the most attention. 

The emails with the highest open rates have subject lines that do what they are meant to do –describe the reason for the message.

Tip: Say it like it is.  For example, Pharma marketing expert seeking contract.   

8. Keep it interesting, but keep it real.

Hyperbole backfires. People nowadays are wary and instantly delete over-the-top claims.

Tip: When you have a unique selling point –perhaps you have won awards or are a top-seller — put it in the subject line, but stick to hard facts.  For example, put in Award-winning … (fill in blank), or Top-seller, or Bilingual, but don’t try hard-sell such as Stop your Search, you’ve just found the Best.

Timing may matterThere’s no sure way of knowing when is the best time to send an unsolicited email, but studies suggest avoiding the weekend when people look less at their email.

Our expert recruiters at Bagg Professional,  Bagg Technology Resources (BTR), Bagg Managed Resources and Turn Key Staffing Solutions suggest taking time to write out a few subject lines until you get the wording right.  As always, we urge anyone looking for work to consider things from the point of the view of the employer, the recruiter, or the contact.

BONUS TIP: Send yourself test subject lines


Send yourself four or so test emails, each with a different subject line.  Imagine you’re the person receiving them.

Quickly scan all the subject lines, and ask yourself,  “Which of these emails would I be most willing to open? Which one is easiest to understand?  Which would would confuse or annoy me? 

Chances are you would pick the email with the subject lines that tells you quickly and honestly what it’s all about.

Gene Hayden, author of The Follow-Through Factor: Getting from Doubt to Done (Random House), is a career coach and writer-in-residence for The Bagg Group.




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