BlogDefence9TH JAN 2024
AuthorShayan Naveed
7 min read

How to Create a Test Phishing Email Strategy for Employees

This feature image is for a blog on creating a test phishing email strategy for employees
BlogDefence9TH JAN 2024
7 min read

How to Create a Test Phishing Email Strategy for Employees

AuthorShayan Naveed
This feature image is for a blog on creating a test phishing email strategy for employees

At times, one small email misstep, a click where you shouldn't, can cost your company big time. What you need is a switched-on, savvy team trained to spot phishing traps.

How? By creating a test phishing email strategy for employees. Let's cut to the chase and explore the essentials.

Why You Need to Create a Test Phishing Email Strategy

Phishing attacks, characterized by deceptive emails designed to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information, remain a top cyber security concern. According to Techopedia, each phishing attack costs corporations $4.91 million, on average. As these attacks become more sophisticated, cultivating a vigilant and well-informed employee base is more crucial than ever. 

Think of phishing tests as your cyber workout – they're the push-ups your team needs to stay strong against attacks. These tests toss your crew into lifelike phishing scenarios, prepping them to spot and dodge phishing attempts. Plus, insights from tests help organizations find gaps in cyber security training and fix them.

Consider phishing tests not just as a simulated exercise but as a proactive defense measure. These tests help your team find and combat cyber threats, making your organization stronger against security challenges.

5 Signs You Need to Create a Phishing Test Strategy at Work

  1. Increased Security Incidents:

    A rise in cyber security incidents signals the need for a phishing test for employees. This could manifest as an uptick in malware infections, unauthorized access attempts, or other suspicious activities.

  2. Low Awareness Levels:

    If employees do not have awareness about phishing risks, the company should conduct a test. For instance, if team members frequently fall for common phishing tactics, it indicates a need for targeted awareness training.

  3. Past Phishing Incidents:

    Previous phishing incidents highlight the need for ongoing employee testing. If your organization has experienced phishing attacks before, it indicates that you need more training and testing.

  4. High Turnover or New Hires:

    Employee flux indicates the necessity of regular phishing tests. New staff and frequent turnover create a changing environment. Regular testing ensures all employees, regardless of experience, are ready to handle phishing threats.

  5. Industry Threat Trends:

    Adapting to industry threat trends suggests implementing phishing tests. Stay ahead by matching your testing strategy with cyber threats, making sure your employees can handle new risks.

Check out our quiz to see if you can identify phishing red flags successfully.

Creating Effective Phishing Tests: A Strategic Guide

Determine a Communication Strategy: To Inform or Not to Inform?

Phishing tests often kick off with a dilemma: should you let your employees in on the secret or keep them in the dark? Keeping them in the dark provides a more authentic simulation of real-world scenarios, allowing for genuine reactions. However, this approach may lead to potential backlash and missed educational opportunities. On the other hand, informing employees encourages open communication and learning, but it may change how they respond.

Identify the Target Audience: Tailor your approach

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to phishing tests. Adopting a tiered approach, encompassing lower, middle, and upper tiers of employees, ensures a comprehensive evaluation. Lower tiers establish a baseline for general awareness, middle tiers offer a mix of access and responsibility, while upper tiers, including executives, become subjects of more specialized spear phishing attack or whale phishing tests.

Craft a Realistic Phishing Email: The Art of Deception

Your phishing email should be a masterpiece of deception, mirroring the tactics of real cyber threats. Crafting a realistic phishing email demands a delicate balance of language, tone, and enticement. You can do so by implementing the following: 

Mimicking the Communication Style of the Organization: Mirror the communication style prevalent within your organization. The more authentic your emails appear, the better your team becomes at identifying and thwarting malicious attempts.

Introducing Subtle Inconsistencies: Phishing emails often share identifiable traits such as:

  • Poor grammar

  • Unusual greetings

  • Questionable sender details such as shady looking email addresses

  • Attachments or links that look odd or are unrelated to the text

While these serve as a foundational guide, cyber criminals continue to refine their techniques. To effectively challenge your team, mix in less obvious signals that go beyond the typical phishing red flags.

Employing Urgency or Rewards: Elevate your training emails by combining common phishing signals with enticing strategies:

  • Request Urgent or Time-Limited Action:

    Introduce a sense of urgency to prompt immediate response.

  • Emotional Appeal:

    Infuse fear or excitement to elicit emotional reactions from recipients.

  • Offer Desirable Rewards:

    Tempt recipients with appealing incentives to encourage engagement.

  • Use Authority Figures:

    Utilize authority figures or trusted entities to exploit the recipient's sense of trust.

Here are 5 examples of phishing awareness emails that you can send employees.

An infographic on how to create a test phishing email strategy for employees

Establish a Schedule: Find the Right Frequency

Timing is everything. Striking the right balance between frequent enough to stay sharp but not so often that it loses impact is crucial. Quarterly or semi-annual tests are common, preventing desensitization and maintaining their impact. Striking the right frequency ensures that each test serves its purpose in enhancing employee awareness without losing effectiveness.

Gauge Results: Turning Data into Insights

The real gold mine is in the results. Turn data into actionable insights for a resilient cyber defense. Measuring results uses a scoring system to show how serious actions are, like clicking links or sharing sensitive info.

Assign scores to actions based on risk level to assess severity of employee responses. Here's a suggested scoring system:

  • Reported/resisted phishing attempt: +3

  • Opened email: -1

  • Clicked on link: -2

  • Clicked on attachment: -2

  • Shared company/personal information: -3

Addressing poor results requires immediate feedback and additional training for consistent underperformers. You should analyze the insights derived from these tests to identify specific weaknesses and inform tailored training programs, fortifying the organization's overall cyber resilience.


Just as every click matters, every phishing simulation shapes a culture of cyber resilience within your team. As you continue security awareness trainings, each test helps your team practice and gain confidence in navigating cyber security. Stay vigilant, stay safe! 


Here's a checklist to see if you need to create a test phishing email for your employees:

A checklist on 5 signs your employees need a phishing email test

Shayan Naveed
Shayan Naveed / Contributor
Shayan has covered various topics as a journalist with over a decade of experience. She is currently focusing on the ramifications of cybersecurity incidents and their impact on our digital lifestyle as whole. Reach out to her for tips, pitches and stories.
FAQsFrequently Asked Questions
Striking the right frequency is vital. Experts commonly recommend quarterly or semi-annual tests. This ensures that tests remain impactful without desensitizing employees to the simulations, maintaining a heightened level of awareness.
The decision hinges on your organizational goals. Keeping employees in the dark provides a more authentic simulation and genuine reactions. On the other hand, informing employees fosters open communication and provides learning opportunity. Consider your priorities and choose accordingly.
The results of phishing tests are invaluable. Create a system to rate how serious employee actions are, like clicking on links or sharing sensitive data. Address poor results with immediate feedback and additional training. Analyze insights derived from tests to identify specific weaknesses and tailor training programs.