By Stav Ziv | The Muse
You’ve poured some sweat into that resume (hopefully no tears). It’s tailored top to bottom, chock full of action verbs, and bursting with powerful bullet points, and you finally feel like it’s polished and ready to go. Now you just need to get that document into the right hands—maybe someone who can interview you for a job you’re excited about or connect you with their friend who works at the company you’ve been eyeing. (And if you’re looking for more new opportunities to apply for, you can find thousands of job postings right here on The Muse!)
These days, you’re not as likely to be printing off your resume and sending it via snail mail, of course. Most of the time you’ll either be uploading your resume to an applicant tracking system or sending it in an email. And the last thing you want is for your message (and resume) to languish in someone’s inbox, unopened, or worse, be relegated to the spam or trash folders. Which means you need to craft a clear and compelling subject line.
That’s what this article is about: that handful of words that can lead someone to read the resume you worked so hard on—or not.
Why Is the Subject Line So Important?
You might be wondering what the big deal is—isn’t the content of your resume ultimately the most important thing here? Well yes, your resume should be in great shape, and that’s what will land you a call back. But it doesn’t matter how spectacular your resume is if no one opens the email to even read it.
The subject line is what will “determine if the email is opened and read or not,” says Muse career coach Steven Davis, founder and CEO of Renaissance Solutions, who has more than 20 years of recruiting experience. “Emails can contain viruses. They can also have information someone doesn’t care about. Busy people rarely open every email they get. The decision to either open or delete an email…is made based on the subject line and who the sender is.” Your job, Davis says, is to “motivate the person to open the email.”
Think about it from the recipient’s perspective: When your inbox is flooded with hundreds of emails a day, you need to know something isn’t spam or an ad or a generic message sent out by a brand before deciding to open and read it. “Everyone’s just really got a ton coming at them,” says Muse career coach Nekpen Osuan Wilson, the cofounder and CEO of WomenWerk. “People are busy and have a limited amount of time to do everything,” including filtering through the noise in their inboxes. You need a subject line that will cut through that noise.
Wait, When Will I Be Emailing My Resume?
There’s a long list of scenarios in which you might send your resume via email. Here are a few of the most common:
- You’re applying for a job and the instructions tell you to email your resume, cover letter, and any other materials to a specific email address.
- You’re applying to a job with a referral or recommendation.
- You’re following up with a networking contact you met or had a conversation with (perhaps you mentioned you’re job searching and they said they’d keep an eye out for you and asked you to send over your resume).
- You’re sending your resume to a recruiter to have on hand for any roles that might be a good fit for you.
- You’re going on an informational interview and trying to give your contact some background info in advance.
- You’ve asked someone to review your resume and give you feedback and they’ve already agreed to do it, so now you’re passing on the document (don’t just assume they’ll do it before making sure they have time and are willing, Wilson says).