You’re writing your resume—not your novel. This means your info has to be neatly presented, easy to read, and digestible in a number of formats (paper, digital, large screen, small screen). One of the best things you can do to get your resume in fighting shape is to make sure your headline game is strong.
Headlines and section headers can accomplish two things: they guide the reader’s eye to the content you want them to see, and they offer bite-size information about you to supplement the bullet points in your resume.
Why Use a Headline?
Headlines are different than the objective or the summary. The latter two are like elevator pitches: usually a few brief sentences about you, where you are, what you’re seeking. The headline (also known as a resume title) is just what you’d expect it to be—a one-liner that uses only a few words to sum up your brand. It doesn’t need to be a complete sentence, or include your life story. The shorter and punchier, the better.
What Kind of Headline Should I Use?
If you’ve been around the block and have a lot of great experience, the headline is your chance to state your greatest hits. Lean on key words that you know resonate in your field. Let’s look at some good headlines for experienced applicants in a few different industries.
Healthcare: Experienced, Bilingual Nurse Specializing in Emergency Care
Administrative: Executive Assistant with 8+ Years of Experience and Superior Attention to Detail
Retail: Top-Performing Store Manager and Loss Prevention Expert
Marketing: Innovative and Award-Winning Marketer and Successful Campaign Manager
Food Service: Rated #1 Sushi Chef in Downtown Cincinnati
Sales: Sales Leader Who Exceeds Sales Goals by 20%
If you don’t have a ton of experience (yet), use the headline to sum up some of your best attributes as a candidate. It’s important to be descriptive when you can—don’t use a vague noun like “professional” when you could use something more specific to the role itself (“marketer,” “assistant,” “manager,” etc.).
Healthcare: Caring, Energetic Nursing Candidate Focused on Patient Outcomes
Administrative: Honors Student with Impeccable Organizational Skills
Retail: Responsible and Enthusiastic People Person
Marketing: Creative and Design-Oriented Brand Evangelizer
Food Service: Speedy and Efficient Server Providing A+ Customer Experience
Sales: Motivated Sales Professional with Strong Leadership Abilities
Whether you have one year of work experience or 50, the most important part here is that you’re highlighting the best part of your narrative.
Resume Headline Rules
And whatever type of headline you use, there are three important rules to remember.
Proofread the heck out of it.
Your headline is not only short, but it’s featured very prominently—you really don’t want a mistake to be the first thing a reader sees.
Try to stand out from the crowd.
Use the most unique or important fact about you or your experience.
Keep it short.
Think of it like a newspaper headline. If you’re having trouble wrangling yourself into a brief one-liner, visualize what you’d like your headline to be in newspaper form.