Do you really need to take up a line with a headline for a resume when space in your application document comes at a premium and every word counts? Should you cut out a precious work responsibility to make room for this seemingly repetitive phrase? The quick answer is yes. Resume headlines give you a chance to stand out in a few pithy words. If you understand how to write a great resume headline, that one line of type will be worth the cost of the real estate.
Now that you know you should write a headline for your resume, you need to know how and why. Within this article, you will find the answers to the following:
- Exactly what is a headline for a resume?
- What’s the difference between a headline and a resume title?
- Why does a resume need a headline?
- How do I write a resume headline that works?
Read on for advice, explanations and resume headline examples.
What is a headline for a resume?
A headline is a phrase or that gets to the heart of your message. A resume headline serves the same function: It advertises to the hiring manager or recruiter your experience and skills. You can think of it as the title of your elevator pitch or, if you prefer, the slogan that leads off the marketing campaign for your next great job.
The remainder of your resume will consist of section titles and text (mostly in bullet form except for your summary section) that get deeper into your career, so a headline gives you the best chance to raise an eyebrow quickly. Any opportunity to differentiate yourself at a glance is one you should not pass up.
The headline for your resume is also a grabber – the aha! That makes recruiters smile and read on because they may have found who they are looking for.
How does that differ from a resume title? A title is just that: your current job title. Here are examples that illustrate the difference:
Resume title example: Marketing manager
Resume headline example: Creative marketer with expertise in SEO-driven campaigns
A good headline for a resume sums up not your career, but the job you want to do by signaling that you already do it, and do it very well. Despite this, keep in mind that your focus is the present – what you do now or have done. This is not a career objective statement, which tells hiring managers what it is you would like to do in the future.
Where does the headline on a resume go?
The headline sits directly below your name or above your summary statement, depending on the design of your resume. That placement ensures a direct link between your name and this key statement about yourself. Since you want recruiters to link your name with your achievements, you should not move your resume headline too far from your name. Hiring managers see tons of resumes, so you want them thinking, “Oh, John Q. Smythe. That’s the person who said he was a SQL expert!” not “Hmmm, John Q. Smythe, what’s his experience again?”
How do I write a resume headline that works?
First, just as with the rest of a resume (or cover letter), personalization rules. Using keywords associated with the job in your headline gives you a better chance of being among the 25% or so of candidates who make it past the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) screening. And when you do make it into the hands of a person, it shows that you took the time to understand what they are looking for and how you can ease the burden the company faces while the position is left unfilled. It also offers hiring managers a quick way to find out what you think is the greatest asset you will bring to the job.
Since each company is different and each job will have different priorities listed as job requirements, you’re not writing one headline, but several. Each one should emphasize the priorities your targeted employer wants. Just as you do when you craft your cover letter or resume, you want to highlight the greatest achievement you have that meshes with the job you seek. It’s fabulous that you developed a new system for controlling inventory, but that’s not what you want to highlight if you’re applying for a job in IT. Instead, focus on the software you used to create that system.
Ideally, the headline of a resume is less than one line long. Although there’s no standard format for this feature, most headlines will end up with similar structures because of the limited number of words and space. They start with a job title or description, followed by a career highlight, expertise or impressive achievement. Resume headlines may also include years of experience or a phrase such as “highly experiences” that alludes to your length of tenure. Here are three examples for a corporate accountant that focus on different skills:
Resume headline example: Corporate accountant with an eagle-eye for cost savings
Resume headline example: Corporate accountant with 5+ years specializing in tax compliance
Resume headline example: Corporate accountant with expertise in financial statement analysis
Examples of resume headlines for different careers
Below you will find examples for different careers. Use these for some ideas, then check out our tips and takeaways at the end of the article. If you want more specific ideas, check out Resume.io’s more than 300 resume examples and guides for more inspiration.
Accounting and finance
- Mid-career financial analyst and expert auto industry market forecaster
- Financial advisor with 10+ years of helping clientele grow their nest eggs
- Auditing clerk with expertise in QuickBooks and record compliance
- Loan officer specializing in attracting small business accounts
Business and Management
- Project manager who kept 10 projects on schedule and under budget this year
- Business development manager with high-level of customer retention and expansion
- Business analyst with expertise in fashion and beauty trends and markets
- Newly minted MBA with concentration in entrepreneurship
Hospitality and Catering
- Deliciously creative chef with 5+ years cooking at Michelin star restaurant
- Restaurant manager focused on limiting waste and retaining staff
- Concierge and lifelong city resident; winner of US Hotel Employee of the Year, 2018
- Unflappable line cook known for perfectly seasoned burgers every time
Maintenance and Repair
- Carpenter/craftsman who designs and builds custom furniture
- Master electrician with 6 years experience in household rewiring
- Plumbing contractor with 5 years of new construction expertise
- Industrial repairman with 10+ years of experience in heavy machinery
- Dedicated marketing associate with 2 years focusing on digital campaigns
- Content writer with specialty in B2B client services and 5+ year track record
- Marketing consultant with 15+ years of high-profile client satisfaction
- Creative director overseeing complete redesign of $5M+ food product line
- Attentive registered nurse with 7 years experience in cardiac units
- Licensed pharmacist with 8-year error-free record in lab work
- Soothing dental assistant known for easing patient anxiety multi-specialty practice
- Physical therapist specializing in traumatic spinal injury
- IT salesperson generating $1.4 million in revenue yearly
- Friendly sales associate with 2 years selling power tools at hardware store
- Sales manager whose team exceeded consulting sales goals by 10% three years running
- Account executive with 4+ years of 95%+ client satisfaction numbers
Tips to generate an outstanding resume headline
Take stock of all your skills and attributes. This advice will help you throughout the process of creating your application documents. Make a list of every responsibility, type of knowledge or desirable characteristic you can think of and organize it in a way that makes the most sense to you. You may make a list of hard skills, one of soft skills and another of accomplishments to which you can attach supporting data. List all the software and specialized equipment you have used as well.
Once you have a complete list, highlight the skills you want to use in your next job and the achievements that demonstrate your expertise in those skills. That list will form the basis of your resume headlines.
Don’t sell yourself short here. Feel free to use strong, positive descriptions. You’re not just a salesperson, you’re a dedicated salesperson.
- Yes, taking up space with a headline on your resume is well worth it, even if you have to trim a line somewhere else.
- Your resume headline expresses your career at present, not your goals..
- Link your name firmly with your headline to help recruiters remember you.
- Include your years of experience when the information strengthens your case.
- A resume headline that works well grabs the attention of the hiring manager, touts your greatest skills or achievement and shows how you will solve the company’s problem.