When the job-search site Ladders did their research to see how long recruiters look at a résumé, they used eye tracking software to see where the recruiters were looking and for how long (You have 7.4 seconds to make an impression: How recruiters see your resume). What they found was that the first place recruiters look is the upper left-hand area of the document. If you look at the example on the Résumé > Résumé Sections and Format page, what do you see in the upper left-hand area? It’s the headline.
A headline is a way to connect who you are to the job posting using a short phrase. Think of it like the billboard of your résumé. Billboards can’t use a lot of text; they’ve got to convey their message in a simple, easy-to-remember way. Headlines are a simple idea, but they can be hard to get right. After all, how do you say who you are in a relevant way in just a few words?
To explore this further, let’s go back to Juan’s résumé headline in our previous example. With a quick scan, you’ll likely notice that Juan is applying to be a head chef. He meets the minimum job requirements and has good experience, but he needs a way to get noticed fast before the recruiter flips to the next résumé. What could Juan do to his headline to ensure that the recruiter takes notice of these qualifications?
You’ll notice from the example above that Juan settles on a headline phrase of “Professional Chef,” with the subheading “Over 25 Years of Experience,” as these two things best represent who he is while simultaneously connecting to what the hiring manager is looking for.
Headlines do not have to have a subheading, but they do need to be short and memorable. Here are a few examples to consider:
Juan’s example of using the headline “Professional Chef” seems pretty straight-forward, but what if you were applying for a job where the connection is less clear. Or, what if you are applying for a job when you don’t have very much experience in that industry? What kind of headline could you create? What might Juan’s résumé look like if he didn’t have extensive experience as a chef? What kind of job might he be going for if he’s just starting his career?
One potential option for Juan (were he at the start of his career) might be something like a prep cook position at a local restaurant. What information could Juan include under his headline if he had limited experience? Perhaps something that conveys his love of food and desire to make a career out of it?
One example might be “Avid Foodie & Aspiring Chef,” with the subheading “With a passion for culture, food, and people.” A headline like that is very likely to get a recruiter’s attention for an entry-level position.
Whatever your level of experience or career goals, remember that your headline is the most valuable space on your résumé and needs to make an immediate connection between you and the job you’re applying for.
Ponder and Record
- Why is the headline given the most important spot in the résumé?
- Why does it need to connect who you are to the job posting?