How to write an effective resume headline
Get employers' attention with these writing tips for your resume.
It used to be standard for resumes to include objective sections, but most objectives fell flat right out of the gate. By talking about the job seeker’s goals and interests, objectives left employers wondering, “What’s in it for me?” Enter the resume headline (also known as a resume title). This section still includes your career goal, but also conveys the value you bring to the table.
Why you need a resume headline
A headline—not to be confused with a resume header—is typically formatted as a banner under your resume’s contact information, and is like a handshake. You’re reaching out to the reader, introducing yourself, and clearly and succinctly explaining what you can do for them. Similar to a news headline, a resume headline draws the reader in and makes them want to read more.
“Since hiring managers only spend seven to 10 seconds glancing at a resume at first, it’s important to grab their attention in those precious few seconds,” says Nelly Grinfeld, nationally certified resume writer, nationally certified online profile expert, and owner of Top of the Stack Resume in Cincinnati. “A strong headline positions you as a strong candidate, communicates your abilities, and helps the reader determine if they should call you for an interview.”
Experts suggest learning what job titles the employers in your field use before writing your headline. “First, conduct a search for jobs that interest you,” says Ginger Korljan, nationally certified resume writer, certified career management coach, and principal of Take Charge Coaching in Phoenix. “Whatever title you choose, the remainder of your resume should demonstrate why you are qualified for that position.”
Korljan recommends paying attention to titles in your industry. “For example, a vice president of a bank may mean something totally different than a vice president of a major pharmaceutical company.”
Pamela Hann, a certified personnel consultant and workforce-response coordinator for the Kansas Department of Commerce, suggests that job seekers identify their unique selling points. “What specifically makes you unique compared to the next person in the same role? How do you do this job better than your peers?”
An effective title includes a bit of your career summary and your strongest qualifications. “That could be years of experience, an industry credential, or a job-related skill,” says Hann.
Grinfeld provided best practices for building your resume headline:
- Keep it concise. As a rule of thumb, the headline and supporting sub-headlines should be one to three lines long.
- Consider using color, bold/capitalized letters, bullet points, or other design elements to make the headline stand out. These should enhance the content, not distract the reader.
- Add a sub-headline under the main headline if there’s room. This is a great way to get more relevant keywords into this crucial resume section and add an additional line of personal branding.
- Tailor the headline to the job you want. For example, if you’re applying for a sales manager position but only have experience as a sales representative, include keywords in the headline that show off your people management, team leadership, and supervisory skills.
- Create targeted headlines if you have more than one job in mind. For example, if you’re only applying to nonprofit manager positions, one strong headline is all you need. However, if you’re also targeting a fundraising coordinator position, modify the headline to highlight your relevant fundraising credentials.
Resume headline examples
Seeking inspiration for your own headline? Review the following sample headlines offered by Grinfeld. Notice how she listed important job-related skills below value proposition statements. On actual resumes, the headlines would be formatted using the above mentioned design tips.
Strategic Marketing Specialist
Leverage Data and Market Research to Develop New Revenue Streams and Drive Growth
Account Planning • Client Engagement • Business Intelligence • Team Leadership
Sales Manager: Direct Teams to Execute Turnarounds and Surpass Sales Goals
Multi-Unit Operations • Financial Oversight • Contract Negotiations • Revenue Growth
Senior Executive | Culture Innovator with a Track Record of Responsive Leadership
Project and Change Management • Business Unit Support • Process Improvement
Does your title translate?
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