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How to Write a Great Resume Headline

09/20/11

Written by Louise Fletcher

Many people struggle with how to start their resume. Should you write an objective statement describing the type of position you seek? Or should you just launch right into your career history, figuring that’s what employers most want to see?

The answer is neither. Instead, I recommend starting your resume with a strong resume headline that clearly communicates who you are and what you have to offer. The reason is simple: your resume will be viewed by people who are very busy and who are inundated with other resumes to view. Very often, they will also be filling more than one vacancy. This means that when they look at your resume, they need to immediately understand two things:

1) What type of job are you applying for?
2) Why would you be great at that job?

How to create a resume headline

For this reason, I like to create resume headlines in two parts. The first part of the headline simply states your target position (for example “Marketing Manager” or “Senior Sales Executive’ or “Junior Accountant.”) This allows the busy recruiter, manager or HR rep to mentally assign you into a potential vacancy. (“Ah, he’s not applying for the sheep shearing job then.”)

The second part of your headline needs to say why you would be the best marketing manager, senior sales executive, or junior accountant they could possible hire. And even more importantly, it needs to say it in plain English without waffle words. Don’t try to come up with clever wording or ‘branding statements.’ The recruiter doesn’t care. She simply wants facts – facts that tell her why you would be successful in her company.

So let’s take the senior sales executive. He might say:

Documented record of driving sales multimillion dollar sales increases in tough economic times, including recent 40% boost for XYZ Inc. despite decline in overall market. Built and led teams that have beaten sales goals 12 years in a row.

If this sub-header is bolded below the headline ‘SENIOR SALES EXECUTIVE,’ it’s hard to imagine too many recruiters who wouldn’t want to talk to our executive.

But what if you work in a more junior role or one that isn’t accountable for delivering sales increases?

That’s OK. Delivering 40% sales increases isn’t your job, so you have to think about what is. What is the reason employers hire people like you? What skills and achievements are important in your line of work? What personality traits are valued? What results are important?

Our marketing manager might emphasize his knowledge of both traditional and new media marketing. Our junior accountant might stress his qualifications along with his 3 years of experience with SAP or his specialty in financial analysis.

Here are 3 resume samples that start with powerful headlines:

Non-profit executive resume sample

IT Manager sample resume

CTO resume sample

The key is to make your resume headline factual, easy to read and clearly focused on the specific needs of employers in your industry or field, so that they know exactly why they should hire you. (For more on this, check out How to Write a Resume Summary that Grabs Attention).

If you’re interested in professional resume help, just shoot me an email with a copy of your resume and I’ll get back to you with feedback and a price quote. The best bit? As a reader of this blog (and therefore clearly a person with impeccable taste!) you are entitled to claim a 15% discount on our resume writing service. Just mention the blog when you email me.

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Louise

Our CEO, Louise Fletcher

Louise co-founded Blue Sky in 2002 after a career as an HR executive. Her industry experience includes music, video games, fashion and advertising. She lived and worked in the US for many years, but moved back to her native UK in 2012, where she now lives in the Yorkshire countryside. In addition to her full-time role with Blue Sky, she's a professional artist, so you can imagine why she couldn't answer the 'what do you do with your free time' question! Contact Louise by email.

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