Email Subject Lines That Drive High Engagement

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Tech pros with in-demand skills are being bombarded with emails from well-intentioned recruiters. The unfortunate reality is that most prospects will hit the delete button if your subject line doesn’t engage their attention in about 35 characters.

In fact, 27 percent of recipients delete uninteresting emails without reading them, 17 percent ignore them, and almost 9 percent mark them as spam, according to a survey by Leadpages.

When it comes to recruiting, the best email subject lines are interesting, personal and provide just enough vital information to motivate a candidate. According to data from RecruitLoop, truly personal messages had a 73 percent engagement rate. Get candidates at hello by using hyper-personalization to write compelling subject lines that entice them to take action.

Let’s Get Hyper-personal

Two of the biggest mistakes recruiters make when it comes to creating subject lines are:

  • Appealing to your interests, not the candidate’s
  • Using generic, impersonal language and structure

See if these examples of boilerplate, self-serving subject lines look familiar:

  • Hello from XYZ Company
  • Architect Role at ABC Company
  • We’re Hiring at XYZ
  • Awesome Opportunity for a Web Developer in Detroit

“Unless I’m actively looking for a job, why would I open those messages?” asked Clinton Buelter, lead technical recruiter at Cruise Automation and author of ColdEmailForRecruiters Blog. “To get your message opened, the topic has to interest the recipient.”

“Think about your inbox, you open emails from your boss, colleagues, friends and family,” Buelter added. “The emails you choose to open after that, probably don’t look like a sales blast or spam.”

A more effective technique is hyper-personalization, which VentureBeat defines as “the use of data to provide more personalized and targeted products, services and content.”

In a nutshell, when you hyper-personalize, you turn the information you uncover about a tech pro during the sourcing process into a customized hook. Start by getting a sense for what interests or motivates a prospect by following his or her digital footprint. Check out any profile on GitHub, as well as Twitter posts, blog and Facebook pages.

Then inspire an emotional response that will drive opens by referencing a college memory, a tweet, a career goal or a technology in your subject line. Speaking directly to a candidate boosts your credibility by demonstrating that you’ve done your homework and are willing to prioritize their needs.

“If a prospect is fresh out of school, I might mention something from their college days like a specific building at MIT,” explained Joel Passen, a veteran tech recruiter and head of sales and marketing for Newton Software. “However, if the person is an object-oriented C++ programmer with 10 years’ experience, I might mention career advancement because a tenured pro doesn’t want to play games.”

For example, Passen referenced Purdue’s famous neighborhood bar in this subject line to create an emotional connection with a recent graduate:

  • “John, Better than a Cold Beer at Harry’s”

Simply mentioning the candidate’s name will increase your open rate by as much as 26 percent and mentioning a mutual connection in your subject line will increase your chance of getting a response by as much as 27 percent, according to data from Beamery. And MailChimp research suggests that including a city name is even better.

Follow the lead of marketing pros by emphasizing benefits over features to grab the attention of tech pros not currently looking for a new job. For instance, a development job is a feature, while career advancement or working with cutting-edge tools are benefits. Subject lines in the form of a question often work because they’re short and entice the candidate to find out the answer. For instance: “Would Learning Hadoop Boost Your Career?”

“Commit to listening to candidates during interviews. This helps you when it comes to creating subject lines and emails,” Buelter noted. “People will tell you how to talk to them, if you listen.”

Develop a Winning Formula

Reusing the same subject lines and hoping for a different result is the third mistake recruiters make.

Remember, what works for one set of prospects or companies in a specific industry may not work for another. Creating a customized library of tested and refined subject lines is the best way to increase open rates. Plus, you can speed up the customization process if you take the time to develop a winning formula that your target audience prefers.

Start by brainstorming. “Write five email subject lines you would open, do this every day for a few weeks,” Buelter suggested. “That will give you a substantial list to test on candidates.”

Since you don’t know what type of device your prospects prefer, or whether they’ll view emails in portrait or landscape mode, test subject lines between 35 and 50 characters to determine the most effective length for your target audience. Experiment with optimization techniques on a mobile device; but the general rule of thumb is, the shorter the better.

“It’s sort of like creating a truncated Twitter post,” Passen said. “Keep testing and whittling down the number of words to see what drives openings for tech pros in various roles.”

Next, create control groups of about 10 to 15 prospects with similar skills and tenure levels and A/B test your subject lines to see what works. Because candidates rarely respond to the first email from a recruiter, Passen suggests that you test each subject line five times before interpreting the data. Test each word in your message and keep wordsmithing, he says, until your open rates increase.

“Use a tool like Bananatag, Sidekick or Boomerang to track opens, reopens and clicks,” Buelter advised. “Keep a folder of all of the responses you receive from candidates, so you can study them and see what worked with various groups of candidates.”

In conclusion, adding personalization makes a huge difference in the effectiveness of your candidate outreach.

Image Credit: nenetus/Shutterstock.com

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