How To Write an Effective Resume Headline

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 21, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When applying for a position, you want your resume to catch the hiring manager's attention. Engaging their interest early can encourage them to read further which can support your success. One way to create that impactful first impression is by including a headline on your resume. In this article, we discuss the definition of a resume headline and why you should use one. We also provide tips for creating a compelling resume headline and several examples.

What is a resume headline?

A resume headline is a single brief sentence that summarizes your experience, qualifications, and skills in approximately 15 words. It offers a synopsis of what you bring to a company, and you customize it to the position you're applying for. Also called a resume title, this catchy and impactful one-liner creates a positive first impression, captivates the reader's attention, and encourages them to read on.

Why should you use a headline on your resume?

While using a headline is optional to include on your resume, when written well, it dramatically improves the chance of a hiring manager seeing your resume. Anyone can include a resume headline regardless of the position or your experience. Here are several reasons to add a headline to your resume:

To make it past the company's automated software

If you are applying online through a company hiring portal, chances are your application will pass through an ATS program or applicant tracking software. One of the main features of an ATS system is to screen out unqualified candidates before a human ever sees the application. The software filters out resumes using keywords and other criteria. It narrows down the search for recruiters by selecting only the top applications that mention keywords. By including a strong resume headline customized to the position, you have a better chance of making it through this initial stage.

To highlight your relevant experience

If you have a lengthy resume with lots of work history, adding a resume headline is ideal. Often, having several work experience pages can be overwhelming, and a recruiter may find it challenging to understand how your experience relates to the position. By providing them with an impactful summary allows them to recognize how your experience relates to the job and why they should interview you for the position.

Related: 10 Steps on How to Update a Resume

To focus on your skills

If you have less work experience than you'd like or the company requires, writing a solid resume headline can work to your advantage. Use the headline to highlight your skills and achievements that apply to the position. This is perfect if you've recently graduated from school or are entering the workforce after an extended leave.

To feature your value to the company

If you want to focus your resume on the skills and qualifications that will benefit the company, adding a resume headline is a great opportunity. When you create a well-defined headline, you tell the employer what's in it for them to hire you over someone else. You can quickly show the hiring manager your selling points to recognize your value to their organization.

To master your pitch

If you struggle in developing an elevator pitch, writing a resume headline can help. An elevator pitch, or elevator speech, is a quick 30 second summary of what you do and what you offer. A resume headline is similar and can help you to get comfortable focusing on your skills and experience in a short, descriptive, and impactful way. Because each of your resumes should be customized to the job description, you will have the chance to write several headlines throughout your job search, therefore perfecting your pitch.

How to write a compelling resume headline

Because recruiters and hiring managers review many resumes, it's essential to make yours stand out. Creating an interesting and memorable resume headline can help improve your visibility during your job search. Here are ten simple tips for writing a persuasive resume headline:

1. Put it at the top

Your headline should be one of the first things a person sees when they read your resume. You can add your title directly below your name and contact information to have to most significant impact. It is advisable to use the same font as the rest of the resume, but you can make the text one size larger or bold your headline to capture the reader's attention. While the rest of your resume should be uniform in font and letter size, your resume headline is one place you can emphasize for more significant effect.

2. Use title case

Just as with an article or book title, you want to use a title case when writing your headline. Title case means that you capitalize the beginning of each word. Try researching online tools and websites you can use to help you capitalize your headline correctly.

3. Customize the headline every time

Each time you apply for a position, you need to customize your resume headline. Customization is critical to reflect your skills and experience that apply to each unique job. You want your headline to highlight why you are the best candidate for the position over other resumes the recruiter will receive. As you would tailor the rest of your resume, do the same for your headline.

4. Keep it short and simple

An effective resume headline should be no more than one sentence, with the ideal length being less than 15 words. A complex sentence can be difficult to read quickly and may confuse the reader. You want your title to capture the hiring manager's attention during their first skim of your resume. Make every word count.

5. Be specific

Avoid using generalities and overused phrases like "high skilled" or "successful." Instead, describe specific skills and experience that will benefit the company and support your success in the position. If you can provide quantifiable results or numbers, even better.

6. Include one or two skills

Be sure to include one or two key skills that the company is seeking. This is where customization comes into play. Review the job description and pick out what you feel are the most critical skills that you have. Use this information to craft your headline. For example, if the job description states that applicants must be bilingual to be considered, use this as a critical skill in your resume headline to make you stand out from other candidates.

7. Use keywords from the job description

You can also include any keywords from the job description in your resume title to highlight your ability to perform the position's duties. Look for words that relate to your skills and experience and use them as descriptive words. This also helps to show how your abilities apply to the position.

8. Include years of relevant experience

Suppose you're a subject matter expert or have over five years of experience in a particular field relevant to the position. In that case, you can include this information in your headline to demonstrate your expertise. Suppose you have less than five years of relevant experience. In that case, you can include this information in your professional summary and save the resume headline to highlight your related skills and abilities.

9. Include professional certifications and licenses

If the company is seeking a specific certification, designation, or license that you have, consider adding this detail to your resume title. Companies looking for a particular accreditation often reject applicants who don't have the necessary requirements. Listing this vital information within your headline makes it easy for the recruiter to see your qualifications quickly.

10. Highlight an impressive achievement

If you have an impressive career achievement relevant to the position, you may consider including it in your resume headline. Remember that it's more vital for you to highlight your skills and relevant experience in the job, but if you need a bit more to add, consider this as an option.

Examples of resume headlines

Here are nine examples of resume headlines for different careers that demonstrate a candidate's skills and experience within a summarizing sentence using the tips above:

  • Innovative, Bilingual Primary School Teacher Specializing in Art and Music

  • Award-Winning Applications Engineer with Seven Years Experience in Front End Development

  • Executive Assistant With 10 Years Real Estate Administrative Experience

  • Certified Nurse Practitioner with Emergency Care Background

  • High-Energy Sales Associate With Five-Star Customer Satisfaction Rating

  • Engaging Cocktail Bartender With Six Years Experience in High-End Lounges

  • Resourceful Petroleum-Industry Project Manager With Focus on Well Completion

  • Energetic Accounting Graduate With Internship Experience in Manufacturing

  • Dedicated Graphic Designer and Indigo Award Recipient

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