Sending that first message to someone is a critical part of the job seeking process. The subject line needs to give the reader an interest in learning more and a desire to read the message. Candidates should consider: What is their mission? What is the most efficient way to achieve that mission? For many years, executives have tried to create the perfect formula for a message subject line, but there is no single solution. Three things to consider in creating an effective e-mail subject line are: creativity, relevance, and enticement.


Being creative in a few words is a challenge, but this a chance for you to use words in a way that gets the point across and provides a sense of excitement. In an article written by Lou Adler, a 30-plus year recruiting expert and CEO of the Adler Group, he shares a creative and accurate subject line that he used when conducting a Vice President of Human Resources search. In the subject line he included, “An open letter from the CEO to my next VP HR”. Inside the email was the CEO’s message to his recruitment team explaining the type of person he needs to make a difference in the organization.

You can learn from this approach in doing the reverse to stand out as a leader that a CEO would need. For example, send an email to the CEO of the company you would like to work for and include a subject such as “How I can succeed as your next VP of HR”. Inside the email, include specific bullets of your accomplishments that are relative to this organization. Instead of saying “Executive Resume” in the subject line, make your mission known and think about what you would want to read when adding leadership to your team.


People constantly receive e-mails—most of the time it is a mystery how they got there! A subject line needs to create a connection with the reader and provide enough information, so he or she understands why the email was sent. The subject line must also be relevant to the message itself. When the headline is attractive enough to open, but doesn’t relate to the message, it can affect the sender’s credibility. If the networking connection is a referral, include that in the subject line by starting with something similar to, “Referred to you by…”. If the opening you are seeking is in your geographic area say something like, “Chicago business development leader seeks VP role with your company”, and use the position title or industry.


Enticing subject lines can sometimes be misleading; but with a pinch of creativity and relevance, the reader can get hooked. Many tips in Medquoda’s “The 17 Best Email Subject Lines for Increasing Open Rates” can show insights on constructing the best subject line for your message. A couple that fit well for finding a new role comprise of asking a question, targeted email subject lines, and keyword email subject lines. Asking a question opens the door to more possibilities in the email and creates a need to answer the question. When the email is targeted, the how did they find us? curiosity begins and the company or recruiter gains interest in learning how this message found them. Using keywords that might come up in a recruiter’s search or inbox often would also be a strong strategy to stay on their radar. Find keywords that are commonly used in your industry that can create a buzz around the headline and lead them to open the e-mail. When the subject line demonstrates that the executive is looking for a specific role, the message receiver understands that this person could fill a need that they have now or be a resource for future openings.

Targeted Subject Line

Professionals will continue to pick and choose which messages they open. If they see something in their inbox that peaks curiosity and is relevant to them, the probability is higher that it will be opened. Reading something like “Executive seeking employment” gives too much away and seems like a mass email send, but something like “Chicago HR leader looking to grow her career” is a great transition into sharing more about what your current experience has to offer to this company.

Executives and recruiters don’t have a whole lot of time in the day to peruse their personal email. Nonetheless, when they see a notification for something that gives them a reason to learn more, they are intrigued. Find a creative way to share enough detail on why you are contacting them, but not too much as to give it all away before opening the message. The subject line is key to your response rate, so put yourself in the shoes of the reader and make it worthwhile.


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