This is exactly how long your subject line should be if you want to get a response

Backlinko’s perusal of over 12 million outreach emails begins with a dispiriting observation, which is that most of them simply don’t get read.

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Learning how to compose, a perfectly concise and professional email is imperative for job seekers of all industries. Unfortunately, because the competition is so sharp,  distinguishing your assets has to come before employers even open your resume.

Ladders is no stranger to exploring the studied methods on the best ways to advertise authority, competence, and likeability while on the job hunt. The latest counsel comes to us via Backlinko.


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Mitigating the uphill battle

Backlinko’s perusal of over 12 million outreach emails begins with a dispiriting observation, which is that most of them simply don’t get read. When a recruiter receives an email,  several questions pop into their head: do I have the authority to answer this? How much time will this email take to address? What is the complexity level involved? Does it require context shifting? Can I handle it independently? The ultimate result sees many, deciding they ought to get to the email later-even if many never actually do.

As stated by Backlinko’s report, only 8.5% of outreach emails earn responses. However, there are things you can do, to make the uphill battle slightly less strenuous. First let’s examine the subject line, given that’s the first thing many would-be responders will notice. Broadcasting clarity is important. The last thing you want to do is trumpet your email has a chore for the recipient to untangle. Longer subject lines were found to be 24.6% more likely to gain responses compared to shorter ones. What exactly qualifies as a long subject line?  It varies depending on intent and profession, but Backlinko’s measured estimation defines the ideal subject line to be between 36 and 50 characters.

Once you’ve got the length figured out, next, you should consider the composition. Personalized subject lines were a third more likely to receive responses than sterile ones. The authors of the study surmise that personalizations help to further demarcate your email from the glut of other ones.

Moreover, sending follow up messages were noted to yield a significant boost to response rates. Sending one follow-up message increases response rates by more than 65%, though sending three or more offer the best results. The science behind the effectiveness of follow up emails is pretty self-explanatory. The only way to combat volume is by increasing your personal output — the authors of the study caution against being a pest about this. Followups require tact. Avoid repetition and dense overly technical language, the study says, “gentle follow-ups that provide additional context can improve conversions without burning bridges.”

If you have access, don’t hesitate to reach out to different people from the same firm. The study reports, “The response rate of messages sent to several contacts is 93% higher than messages sent to a single person..” it continues, “Email sequences with multiple attempts and multiple contacts boost response rates by 160%.

When composing the body, avoid leaning on templates

By and large, the stipulations that define a good subject line lend themselves to the body of the email as well. For instance, bodies that were personalized were associated with a 32.7% surge in response rates.

Ladders has covered this idea before but the authors take a stab at why a generic “Hi” is so toxic to response rates. A flat”Hi” or even “Hello” suggests that your email has been sent to several people, essentially robbing it of its urgency.  Personalizing an email can be as simple and easy as including the recipients first name.

In chorus with this finding, the research additionally found that writing emails from scratch as opposed to using templates yielded the best response rates. Working from scratch implores you to be original, and singular.

Lastly, Backlinko’s data even determined the best day to send out emails to give it the best shot at a response, even if the disparity is fractional. Apparently, Wednesday offers a slight gain over the other six days of the week when it comes to response rates. Conversely, Saturday presented the worst odds.


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CW Headley|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at cheadley@theladders.com.