what subject line should I use when I’m emailing a job application?

A reader writes:

When I’m applying to a job that wants me to email my resume and cover letter, what should I put in the subject line of the email? I’m sure I’m over-thinking this, but I’m also sure there are ways to get it wrong.

Well, first of all, no one is going to reject you for what you put in the subject line of the email, assuming you keep it reasonably professional.

But there are better choices and worse choices.

These are all perfectly fine:

  • communications director job
  • application for communications director position
  • Jane Snarkletooth application for communications director
  • communications director — Jane Snarkletooth
  • … and similar variations

Those are plain, straightforward, and they succinctly convey the only thing you need to convey — which is “here is a job application for the X role.”

What I’d recommend against is trying to get creative with it. Subject lines like these aren’t going to get you rejected, but they’re pretty eye-rolly (and I see an astonishing number of these):

  • I’m your new communications director!
  • Top candidate for communications director
  • Dynamic* professional for communications director job
  • Your search is over!

The subject line isn’t where you’re going to convince anyone to hire you. I assume people who use subject lines like this think they’ll increase the chances their application will be looked at, but they don’t. Your application is almost certainly going to be looked at regardless, and if for some reason the employer doesn’t look at every application, these subject lines won’t change that.

But what they do do is set the employer up to see you as a little cheesy or naive. Why throw that lens over your application?

* Also, can we just kill the word “dynamic” in application materials altogether? It’s meaningless in that context.

{ 140 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. CaliCali

    I could think of plenty of subject lines that would get me rejected, but they’re more along the lines of “So. Job??? Now??? Pay me???” and “Your Most Qualified, Sexiest Candidate”

    Reply
        1. Ramona Flowers

          Or, if you read last Friday’s open thread, Sexy Linguine Night.

          I don’t even hire but I’ll give you a job if you send me that. Bonus points if it comes with an erroneous turtle picture.

          Reply
    1. Ln

      Anything Charlie’s mom says in her speech at the fundraiser on Always Sunny. “Me money. Money now. Me needing money a lot now.”

      Reply
  2. Falling Diphthong

    • Bridesmaid
    • THIS is gumption!
    • Sharknado 4

    OP, this is an area of the application where you don’t want to stand out. It’s a tiny way to demonstrate that you can communicate clearly and succinctly. (Though for that reason, do triple-check your spelling.)

    Reply
  3. Scoop

    Sometimes I come across a job listing with instructions for email subject lines, and they’ve always been the same: your name and the job title. Should make searching/filtering easy in their end.

    So, something like “Application: Jane Doe – Teapot Manager” should work.

    Reply
    1. Tara

      Yea, That’s what I’ve always done. I would have thought that putting your name ws super important just because otherwise the Hiring Manager’s inbox looks like this:

      Teapot Manager Application
      Application for Teapot Manager
      Teapot Manager Application

      except on and on, and it’ll be impossible to sort it in any meaningful way.

      Reply
    2. Sarah

      That’s pretty much the format I used. I used to put the company name in too: “Application: Jane Doe – Teapot Manager, Teapots LLC.” When I was job-searching I applied to several jobs with very similar-sounding titles, so it helped me keep them straight. (Although it occurs to me now that it might have seemed redundant to the person receiving the email?)

      Reply
      1. Jadelyn

        Honestly, if I saw that, my only thought would be “well, at least I know this application is specifically for our position” – I’ve gotten cover letters before that talked about how excited they were to apply for a position we don’t have, at a totally different company. If you’ve got our company name in the subject line, then I know you’re paying attention to what you’re sending to who.

        Reply
    3. TootsNYC

      If there aren’t specific directions, try to do something like this anyway–so that someone scanning or sorting through their email inbox can tell what’s going on right away.

      Too many people don’t craft their subject lines for scanning later, and it’s a mistake.

      Reply
      1. Jadelyn

        And that should go for all emails, tbh – pretend it’s six months later and you have urgent, critical need of information that’s contained in this email and nowhere else. Would you be able to find it again with a keyword search?

        Reply
    4. CoveredInBees

      Yes! For goodness sakes, if there are directions ALWAYS follow them. Don’t try to get cute there.

      Reply
  4. Artemesia

    Just like every attachment should have your last name in it, I think there is a lot to be said for putting your name in the subject line of a job application email.

    Reply
    1. Jadelyn

      Yes – basically, please make it easy for the recruiter or hiring manager to run a search in their inbox and find you, based on the following things: your name (first and last, or either one); the position title you’re applying for; the location at which the position is based, if it’s a company with multiple offices in different locations.

      Reply
      1. Teapot PR consultant

        Yes, as a hiring manager I came here to say this.

        And PLEASE do not make the subject line of your email:

        21st Century Teapots: communications director application.

        It’s not helpful to end up with an inbox of these.

        Reply
    2. atexit8

      I am not understanding why?

      In all email clients I use whether Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc, the columns in the Inbox are always Sender aka Name, Subject, Date
      Putting your name in the subject is redundant.

      Reply
      1. Jadelyn

        That assumes that the applicant’s display name is actually the same name that’s on their resume. I’ve gotten resumes from “[name] Family”, no name, and once, memorably, from “That Bitch”.

        It may be mildly redundant, but if you’re skimming an inbox, it’s simpler to have all the information on the same line.

        Reply
        1. atexit8

          If that is the case, they have bigger problems.

          A job applicant should have an email address that is strictly for job hunting which should be professional and use first and last name. That is what I do.

          Reply
      2. Elsajeni

        But you lose that if the email gets forwarded to someone else, or sometimes if the recipient has their inbox configured to thread “conversations” (mine assumes any emails with the same subject are part of the same conversation, so would collapse all “Teapot Coordinator Application” emails into one giant thread if I let it).

        Reply
      1. Emi.

        “My job application is on a foreign server that’s been taken over by ransomware; can I wire you $5000 to retrieve it?”

        Reply
    1. Kathleen Adams

      Vile as “Your search is over!” is – and it is so cheesy that I want to mix it into my macaroni – it pales in comparison to the “Dynamic” one. Blech blech blech blech!

      Reply
    2. Emotionally Neutral

      Some spammers have taken to using vague subjects (“Job Application,” “Resume,” etc.) in phishing emails to trick recipients into clicking on attachments that have viruses in them. Using a subject line that doesn’t sound generic or spammy will help the recipients realize that your application is a legitimate communication.

      Reply
    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I feel like I get “your search is over!” spam emails (mostly from people trying to convince me to become an Uber driver or to “buy” a mail-order bride). If someone sent it to me seriously, I would most likely delete it before even realizing it was not-spam.

      Reply
    4. Artemesia

      I once was on the search for the VP of Finance for a major organization and received a lot of amusing resumes. my favorite was on thick patterned velum like paper with a scroll border, a picture of the candidate and the slug: X Orgs New VP for Finance — Fergus Klutz

      The guy was quite unattractive. Not important for the job search of course, but I always wondered why you would use such an unattractive picture when using a photo gimmick. I actually wondered if it was someone’s doctoral dissertation research and that other searches were getting the same resume but with pictures of black women, Indian men, white women etc to see if there was racial or gender bias in who got a call back.

      Reply
      1. Sarianna

        As I understand it, while photos aren’t the norm in the U.S., they are in some countries, so perhaps Mr. Klutz learned business norms elsewhere?

        Reply
  5. Marisol

    I’d use caps in the subject line; I would avoid casual language like, “job” in favor of something more formal like “position;” and I would be as specific as possible to help prevent getting lost in the email shuffle. So instead of saying something like, “Application for Employment” I’d say, “VP of Communications – Jane Snarkletooth Application.”

    Reply
          1. Marisol

            Hello , friend, you really seem to get our Communication style! Warmest congratulations, YOU ARE HIRED!

            Reply
    1. Eric

      I was coming here to say the same thing. At least have the first word be capitalized. Would I reject you over something like this, no; but would I notice, probably.

      Reply
        1. AMT

          Me, too, because it’s the correct way to do it! Sentences like “I’m applying for the lead tech support position…” or “She is a managing editor at PublishCo…” or “Bob, the vice president of marketing…” are standard in most style guides, as much as people love to capitalize titles. You’re really only supposed to capitalize them when they come before someone’s name (e.g. “Vice President Smith Smithson”).

          Reply
          1. AMT

            (I realize that some people instinctively use a different style in email headlines and capitalize every word, but I find that it looks weird. Sentence case for me.)

            Reply
            1. Marisol

              I think of an email subject line as a heading, which is why I use the caps for “important” words like job titles. Otherwise, I wouldn’t capitalize a noun unless it was a proper name and I agree it looks very weird (kinda vulgar actually) within the body of a text.

              Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Yeah, I feel like lawyers notice this and find it weird. Or at least, the lawyers I know who have done hiring. It has to do with the whole level of effort/polish in your email communications (e.g., it would be more ok from an intern or student, but not from a law grad). They don’t have to be super formal, but all lower-case would be a little too informal for me/my field.

      I suspect there are similar quirks in other fields, in which case, it may make sense to err on the side of “less likely to annoy a stickler hiring manager.” But I understand that I’m likely in the minority on this and that many many employers will not care about an all-lowercase subject line. Although regardless of subject line casing, I think in most cases (regardless of industry) people should use normal grammar/casing in the body of the email!

      Reply
      1. Marisol

        I work for an asset management firm, so we’re pretty formal–a quick glance at my inbox shows almost all the email subject headings use title case, and the only ones that don’t are the super-casual, quick-and-dirty communications between peers.

        Reply
      2. Naruto

        As another lawyer, I would dislike the all lowercase, also. Either make it a header (preferred) or sentence case with the first word capitalized would probably be okay, though.

        Reply
  6. AMT

    Re: “dynamic,” the first job interview question for these people should be, “What does ‘dynamic’ mean?”

    Reply
      1. Willis

        It totally has to do with Batman. If you’re a dynamic candidate, I fully expect starbursts saying “BAM” or “KAPOW” to pop up around you. Anything less would be a disappointment.

        Reply
    1. Michael Carmichael

      Co-workers now looking at me funny as I laughed way too loud at this. Oops. It’s work-related, really!

      Reply
      1. AMT

        “As a static, low-energy unitasker, I will provide a level of mediocrity hitherto unkown to mankind.”

        Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I was very tempted to submit a post about my dynamic dynamism and working in a dynamic field with dynamic responsibilities. And then I would talk about my bendability/yoga skills. But then I held off and posted about it passive aggressively with this note ;)

      Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Yikes. I have thrown my dynamic out before, too. I’m sending dynamic, ever size-changing sympathy hugs. ;)

          Reply
    3. AnotherAlison

      Aww…Some poor Machine Dynamics expert’s mechanical engineering application is getting keyword auto-filtered out by an HR person who has a vendetta for the word “dynamic” now.

      Reply
  7. MuseumChick

    Big mistake I made early in my career was not fully reading the instructions for job application. I’ve found that about 40% of the time there will be a line near the end of the instructions that says something like, “Use subject line Application for Teapot Coordinator”. So be sure to read carefully in case there are specific instructions. Otherwise, go by Alison’s advice.

    Reply
    1. Jadelyn

      This, so much. Please, for the love of all that is good and beautiful in the world, check the posting for instructions on how to apply! My org has 25 branches in 3 states and certain positions occur at all branches. So I could have a customer service rep position open in San Diego, San Jose, Chicago, and Oroville all at the same time.

      So, our job postings specifically say “Put “CSR” and the location of the position for which you’re applying in the subject line of your email”.

      Yet we still get plenty of applications generically labeled “CSR application” and I don’t have time to go through and figure out where you’re trying to apply to, especially if we’ve got positions near each other and you live in between the two so it could be either one. So I just bin those unless I’m really desperate for candidates.

      Reply
    2. Toph

      Yep. That’s the biggest thing that matters about subject line: if they told you to use a specific one and you don’t, it doesn’t matter if what you used were generally professional, not following that instruction can very quickly get you rejected.

      Reply
    1. Mpls

      It’s relevant when being used as an antonym to static. We don’t need to strike from the language, we just need to use it correctly. Maybe requires a license to use it.

      Reply
    2. Kathleen Adams

      The thing is, it makes anyone who uses it in reference to himself sound like such an *ass*. Right? I’m not saying anyone who uses it this way actually is an ass – no doubt at least some have simply received some terrible advice – but they sure sound like nobody I want to work with.

      Reply
    3. LadyKelvin

      My field of research is literally “population dynamics”. While it is useless is the colloquial way most people use it, I would go as far as striking it from the language as there are many of us who use it in the way it was intended. I view it in the same light as the vast majority of people who use theory incorrectly.

      Reply
    4. Liane

      [mock naive tone] Isn’t “Dynamic” something used in Physics? Oh wait! That’s plural–“Dynamics”!

      Reply
      1. Electron Wisperer

        Dynamic RAM (As opposed to Static RAM), a distinction that is useful in computer architecture, dynamic range in signal processing, dynamic loads in structural engineering, it is a perfectly good word, just not when applied to oneself.

        Reply
    5. Nye

      I use it a lot in biology, to describe dynamic environments (eg estuaries) and population dynamics (eg more of species X in warm years than cold). But I would be fine if we banned it as a self-descriptor!

      Reply
  8. Lora

    If you have a job ID number, that helps. Some of us are terrible at managing our email files and have to search for things, and have multiple job openings.

    Job ID 12345 Director of ceramics – Jane Snarkletooth application
    type of thing would be good.

    Reply
  9. Laney M.

    I always made a point of putting my name in the subject line. You never know if the emails will be forwarded, and you want to make it as easy as possible for people to know who you are. (I also always put my name in the attachments, like Lastname_Resume and Lastname_Cover Letter.)

    Reply
    1. Jadelyn

      Bless you. I can’t tell you how many “My Resume”s I’ve downloaded and had to rename myself so that I could figure out who was who in that position’s candidate folder. Please, make your resume/CL file include your name in the filename!

      Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I do this, too! It’s super helpful on the hiring side, as well, because it keeps me from having to download “Resume.pdf,” and “Resume(1).pdf” and “Resume(2).pdf” and then rename the files so that I can track which candidate they belong to.

      Reply
    3. Sarah

      Seconding this so hard. There was one year I was reviewing internship applications that required a short essay as part of the application, and a good third of them not only didn’t name the file with their name but something like “My Essay,” they also didn’t put their name anywhere IN the file either. It seems like a little thing but it gets annoying quick when you’re looking at fifty different applications.

      Reply
      1. Optimistic Prime

        I do that because I keep drafts of older resumes and it helps me remember which ones are most recent. Mine are usually ‘OPrime_7.18.2017’ or something like that, and occasionally they have the company name in them if I tailored the resume specifically for that position.

        Reply
  10. Nathaniel

    I agree with Alison. “Application for Tea Pot Engineer”; “Engineering Position Application”; etc.

    Reply
  11. Fabulous

    I hadn’t thought about using my name in an email subject… I’ve always just said something attune to “Application for Communication Specialist Position” or whatever. I’ve always included my last name in the title of my attachments (though I’m questioning if I’ve done that for writing samples!) but I figure if they’re searching my email, it’ll come up under my name anyway since my name IS my email address.

    Reply
  12. Liz2

    I always go with “First Name Last Name- Job Title Applying For” unless there’s a specific format requested in the job description.

    All docs are “First Name Last Name Resume July 2017” as well.

    Reply
  13. hbc

    If you really want to fine-tune and obsess (not an insult, I’m there with you), just think about what would make it searchable, or recognizable in a list of subject lines in an inbox*. Don’t abbreviate “Director” to “Dir.”, for example, in case someone is searching for the whole word. Include their job reference or the posting site ID. In reality, 99.9% of the time you’ll be fine regardless.

    *”Your search is over” fails this test so hard even before you get to its off-putting presumption. Which search is over? For the Communications Director, the night security guard, or a supplier of quality office supplies at low, low prices?

    Reply
    1. nnn

      Or for true love? Or for a new house? Or for the perfect jeans to replace your favourites that got discontinued?

      Reply
  14. Slow Gin Lizz

    No exclamation points in the subject line!!!

    Actually, I advise against exclamation points in all business correspondence and all prose writing, but maybe that’s just me. Anyway, exclamation points definitely up your email’s likelihood of going into a spam folder.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I am an over-bang-user, and I have to consistently go back and edit out my exclamation points :( I am too exclamatory for my field.

      Reply
      1. Jadelyn

        They have their place, though. If you get an email from me that ends with “Please let me know if you need anything else!” then we’re cool, I was genuinely happy to help you out and I’m open to additional requests. But if you get an email from me that ends with “Please let me know if you need anything else.” then I’m basically saying it between gritted teeth just to be polite, and you better not need further help cause I’m pretty much done with you at this point.

        My VP, on the other hand, often uses a string of exclamation points!!!!! I think he’s doing it to be more approachable and friendly or something!!!!!! It’s just a quirk we’ve all come to ignore.

        Reply
    2. JulieBulie

      I agree. I am an enthusiastic user of exclamation points (you can tell by how I’m always using them), but in formal business correspondence, it makes people sound giddy. Even if I am giddy, I’d like to keep that a secret until after I’m hired.

      Reply
  15. DecorativeCacti

    You can always fill the subject line with your entire cover letter and leave the body blank. That’ll catch their attention.

    Reply
  16. Hiring Mgr

    The purpose of the subject line is to write something flashy to catch their attention. Think about a topic that’s hot on everyone’s mind these days and go from there. Hamilton: “Don’t throw away your shot!, I want to be your right hand man!”, etc..

    Reply
    1. JulieBulie

      At a place where I used to work, our entire network was crashed by a virus because someone got an email with subject “kitten pictures” and then opened the attachment.

      Because kitten pictures are irresistible. You should probably attach a few of kitten pix along with the resume and cover letter. Make sure they are high resolution. Nobody likes blurry kitties!

      Reply
      1. Frozen Ginger

        If I ever get to the point in my career where I feel confident enough in my resume, I’m going to be so silly with my applications.

        “Please see my attached cover letter and resume. Also, a really awesome photo of a giraffe.”

        Reply
  17. Miss Betty

    Maybe we could get applicants to stop using “dynamic” if we could get whoever places the ads to quit using it and similar stupid words in their job ads? You’re hiring an admin, not a rock star. Etc., etc., etc.!

    Reply
    1. Tiny Orchid

      If I never see a job ad for a ninja to disrupt the XXX industry ever again, it will be too soon.

      Reply
      1. EA in Partly Cloudy Florida

        Unless you’re actually hiring a ninja –“Wanted: Ninja to help stop evil crime lord from taking over Manhattan. Required qualifications: Must be skilled in Ninjutsu, preferably with experience using a bo, katana, nunchucks, or sai. Ideal candidate will love pizza. Equal opportunity employer, all humans, mutants, turtles, and teenagers welcome. Candidates need not be named for Renaissance artists, but it doesn’t hurt” :)

        Reply
        1. Jessica

          “Hey, welcome to the monthly team meeting. I see we have Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello, and the new guy, Steve.”

          Reply
          1. Steve

            Dear AAM:

            I just started a great new job as a ninja, but I feel like I don’t fit in. Is there a tactful way that I can find out if I’m a “diversity hire”?

            Reply
    2. nnn

      We need to figure out some way for ads seeking a “rock star” to get inundated with applications from musicians seeking day jobs.

      Although that might just encourage them.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        I can see this but if I had to name five qualities I would want in a new hire that would be one of them. You can teach lots of things but not being energetic.

        Reply
      2. Jadelyn

        My org won’t let managers put “energetic” as a requirement in job descriptions, because it could be read as subtly trying to discourage older applicants.

        Reply
    3. JulieBulie

      I would think twice before hiring a rock star. Rock stars are notorious sleeping late, demanding bowlfuls of m&ms with the brown ones removed, and having other bad habits.

      Reply
        1. JulieBulie

          Sure, but it was also a PIA for someone! And as the hiring manager, it’s your ass that’s in pain.

          Reply
  18. Vicky

    Before I read AAM I actually used some of the cringe-y stuff Allison mentioned. not super over the top but like “your perfect candidate” and I actually got interviews! but I would imagine that had more to do with my resume :)

    Reply
  19. This is me

    How about “I don’t need a catchy subject line to get this position, I read AAM”

    IN all seriousness, the position title and job id should be sufficient. Like previous posters, my resume is in pdf so no formating issues with lastnamefirstnameresume as document name.

    Reply
  20. CanadianDot

    If there’s a competition number, that’s probably good to have in the subject line as well, as it makes it easier to organize for the person on the other end.

    Reply
    1. Trillian

      Is this a Canadian thing, to think of the numbers? It was my first thought as well. Or does nobody else number their positions?

      Reply
  21. Volunteer Coordinator in NOVA

    I was once reading a cover letter and it said dynamite instead of dynamic but dynamite also kind of worked in the sentence so I wasn’t sure if they wanted to blow up the team (with their awesomeness?!) or add to it but either way, I didn’t end up interviewing them so I couldn’t find out.

    Reply
  22. Miss Elaine E.

    Thank you for the comment about “dynamic.” As a professional resume writer, it’s one of my most hated words. Exactly because it means nothing on a resume.

    As while back I was using a Wii-based fitness game (I don’t remember which one),and one of the “instructor’s” pre-recorded words of encouragement was “Dynamic!” I kept mentally snarking back, “Is that good or bad?”

    Reply
    1. Hrovitnir

      Because people like talking to one another. Why did you comment if you have a problem with the number of comments?

      Reply
  23. MyTwoCents

    I always put NAME Position – RESUME (Company) I include job #ID and/or location if this information is given. If there are specific instructions I follow those instructions.

    Why are so many saying “application”?
    The application is generally on the website. You’re sending a resume, not the entire application

    Reply

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