What are the best headlines for resumes? We’ll cross that bridge momentarily. But first, it’s important to establish what resume headlines are. To start, they are optional.
Millions of resumes are emailed out every day without a headline, and millions of jobs are offered to applicants who’ve never even heard of the concept, to begin with. So have no fear if you’ve been neglecting this part of a resume for ages and are worried that this omission has been crippling your applications.
Now, regarding what resume headlines are: they’re a simple one-sentence addition designed to sum you up right at the top of your resume. Do you know how Star Wars has a one-sentence sales pitch (labeled a “logline”) that goes “a farm boy fights a space dictator with magic and the power of friendship”? That’s a resume headline.
Your headline likely won’t be anywhere near as exciting—it’ll probably sound more along the lines of “Social Media Manager Who Tripled Brand Following Five Years Running” or something similar. But, boring or otherwise, it gets the point across. It sums up who you are and why you’re worthy of consideration, all within a single sentence. So, since we’ve established what a resume headline is, let’s explore what the best ones look like.
What are the best headlines for resumes? An analysis
The best headlines for resumes consist of a few key elements, starting with proper formatting. The formatting rules for headlines are simple: capitalize the words in your sentence, except for prepositions (example: by), coordinating conjunctions (example: for), and articles (example: a, the). The other key formatting guideline is to omit periods.
Outside of formatting, another big thing you should focus on in your headline is finding a way to squeeze in some sort of quantifiable metric concerning your successes. If your headline can properly convey your abilities, your resume will be off to a better start than those without this component or with headlines that amount to fluff.
What does a fluffy headline look like? Check out Resume Genius’ headline guide for an example of one that doesn’t quite cut the mustard. In the guide, there’s a section labeled “customer service & retail,” and in that section, the fourth example listed says “Friendly, Reliable Cashier and Bagger.”
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this example, it doesn’t quite justify its own existence. If you’re applying for a job at the cashier level, odds are you won’t need a headline in the first place. And the words used in this particular headline example aren’t exactly all-star descriptors that can’t be easily inserted into a standard “skills” section on your resume. Plus, “friendly” is how you describe the good terms you’re on with an ex, not how you describe your capabilities as a positive employee. And “reliable,” though good in its functional intention of conveying your work ethic’s consistency, is a pretty stale, overused word.
Instead of telling someone you’re reliable, show them that you are by mentioning you worked at a particular grocery store for seven years and steadily worked your way up the ranks via promotions (this would go in your job experience section). Showing is always more effective than telling.
To see a better example of a good resume headline, check out example number one in the same section of Resume Genius’ guide. “Bilingual Call Center Agent with 8 Years of Experience.” That’s a winner! Not only does it instantly announce a specialized skill (bilingualism), but it also quantifiably illustrates your experience in a field (eight years as a call center agent).
Similar to that last example of an effective resume headline, Indeed offers a couple of great sample headlines that one might use to answer the “what are the best headlines for resumes” question. One of Indeed’s sample headlines is “High-Energy Sales Executive Who Exceeded Annual Quota by 20% Three Years Running.” This is a good example for all the reasons discussed above: it offers a quantifiable success metric, a skill, and aptly summarizes the applicant in one snappy phrase.
What are the best headlines for resumes: do’s and don’ts
Now that we’ve broken down a few examples of resume headlines and have discussed their components, let’s boil down the core elements of the best and worst headlines. The best ones:
- Keep things short—one concise phrase only
- Properly capitalize and format
- Include a quantifiable metric
- Describe the person and their skill
And on the other side of the coin is what not to do when crafting your headline. The worst headlines commit all of the following crimes, so don’t:
- Ramble or otherwise betray the nature of being succinct
- Forget to properly capitalize and format
- Use fluffy, tired language
- Neglect to include key descriptors
Follow those do’s and don’ts and most headlines should write themselves.
Of course, there might be the odd situation where it’s hard to quantify your accomplishments in a profession. Perhaps you’re a hairstylist and can’t say “increased annual hair cutting efficiency by 30%” without sounding ridiculous, in which case you’ll have to really ponder whether you have a substance-filled adjective to fill in the void left by the lack of a metric. Or, alternatively, you might find it more logical to just skip the headline altogether.
As mentioned before, headlines are an optional feature, and if you don’t feel a headline is enhancing your resume by making it more eye-catching, then it shouldn’t be on there, to begin with. But that’s up to you to decide. Should you want a headline, be sure to follow the steps listed in this guide for optimal results.