What makes you click an article when you’re scrolling on your phone? If you think about it, it’s usually the headline. Out of the hundreds of stories we scan in a day, we're most likely to click and read something when the headline feels urgent, relevant, or clever.
The same principles apply when it comes to your resume: A strong headline will draw recruiters into the story of you—and entice them to keep reading.
As a certified professional resume writer who has written hundreds (and I mean hundreds) of resumes, I strongly recommend using a headline. Whether you’re fresh out of college and looking for your first “real” job, or you're 20+ years into your career and eyeing the C-suite, a brilliant headline can make all the difference in landing a job interview.
Here’s everything you need to know about what resume headlines are, why they work, and how to add one to the resume you’ll use to land your next job.
What is a resume headline or resume title?
A resume headline is a concise description of your work experience, placed right at the top of your resume. It goes below your name and contact information, and above your summary or opening resume section. Your resume headline usually pairs a job title with a brief phrase or two that relates to the job you’re pursuing. It’s where you tell a decision maker—who is most likely skimming dozens of applications at a time—that you’re a great fit for the job.
Why should I use a resume headline?
Resume headlines work because they allow you to frame who you are and your core value proposition to the recruiter or hiring manager right away. This is your chance to say that you’re exactly what they’re looking for and prompt them to keep reading.
A headline also gives you a better shot at getting noticed because you can weave relevant keywords into this part of your resume. Keywords (job titles, skills, educational credentials, etc.) that align with the job description can increase the odds of your resume passing through an applicant tracking system (ATS) and landing in front of human reviewers who will ultimately make the hiring decisions.
Best resume headline templates for 2023
So, what does a resume headline look like? Here are three different templates you can use to write your own.
When writing resumes for my clients, I typically use this formula:
1-3 Commonly Used Job Titles That Describe You (In Plain English)
Keyword-Rich Supporting Statement Showcasing Something That Makes You a Standout for That Role
You might also consider a single-line headline that combines your title with an attention-grabbing phrase, something like this:
Job Title with X Years’ Experience Doing This Directly Relevant Thing
Job Title Who Achieved This Very Impressive Result
Certainly, you could go with one to three titles without the descriptive subhead or phrase. This is sometimes called a resume title, and it’s better than having no headline at all. But I’d argue it’s a missed opportunity to share something specific that ties your capabilities to the requirements of a job.
Whether you choose to use a resume title in your headline or keep it to just one line is really a matter of personal preference. What’s important is that you have one in the first place—and use it to your advantage.
6 ways to write a great resume headline
A compelling headline will be both keyword-rich and provide a short and snappy elevator pitch—something that summarizes what you’re all about in relation to the job or jobs you’re pursuing. Here’s what I recommend:
1. Position yourself for the job you want (but don’t lie)
Again, your goal is to set the stage with recruiters and hiring managers that you’re exactly what they’re looking for. Given this, the more closely you can align your resume to the job or jobs you want next—without making stuff up, of course—the better.
For instance, if you’re a marketing manager who’s built a successful e-commerce platform for your current employer and you’re applying for jobs at companies looking for a marketing leader with e-commerce experience, you’d be wise to announce that you’re a marketing leader with that specific experience in your headline.
2. Tailor your headline for each role you pursue
Building on tip number one, keep in mind that your resume headline is not a tattoo. You can, and should, modify your headline as needed if you’re applying for jobs with varying requirements.
So if you’re that same marketing manager and you’re applying for another job that emphasizes social media marketing—and you also have experience doing that—you shouldn’t hesitate to swap out the e-commerce mention for something more specific to social media.
3. Keep it concise
Brevity and strategy are key with your headline. If you’re using a job title and a phrase on the next line—like my team typically does—your whole headline should take up two lines max.
Otherwise, your headline should be a succinct one-liner combining title(s) with a powerful phrase about your fitness for this job.
4. Avoid clichés
Don’t waste valuable real estate with vague terms like “results oriented” or clichés such as "thinks outside the box.” Recruiters see these lines so often that their eyes will likely skip over ’em, and that’s the opposite of your goal here. Instead, show your impact with a data point: X Job Title Who Increased Revenue by 150%, or similar.
5. Use common job titles
If you’re looking for a job as a chief of staff and are basically working as one now, but have an oddball title that doesn’t immediately or clearly convey what you do, introduce yourself as a chief of staff in your headline. It all comes back to the keywords both the ATS and the people reading your resume are looking for. You don’t want to miss the chance to be considered for a full-stack engineering role because your current company uses the title “full-stack magician,” or be overlooked for a customer support role because your last company insisted on the title “weekend happiness concierge” (btw, those are real examples).
6. Highlight accomplishments
Again, if you’re a top performer with impressive, quantifiable results to share, this is a great opportunity for you to show off. Take a look at the examples below to see what this could look like in action.
Best resume headline examples for 2023
What does a resume headline actually look like? Let’s run through a few examples.
A general resume headline, and why it works
Say you’re a project and program manager who just earned your Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. You’ve selected a few project and program management jobs that you want to apply for and notice that this certification is consistently listed as a preferred qualification. (Hooray, you have it!) You’re also seeing a common theme among the job descriptions that got you excited: They all call for someone who has worked with SaaS (or software as a service) companies. Hooray again, you have.
Your headline, then, may look like this:
PMP-Certified Project Manager | Senior Program Manager
Delivering Complex Projects—On Time & Within Budget—for Global SaaS Providers
This keyword-rich title immediately tells the reviewer that you’re a project manager and a program manager and that you have the valuable PMP certification. The rest of the headline makes it clear that you have experience in a SaaS environment and know how to successfully deliver projects on deadline and within budget. You’ll also notice that every word in the headline and subhead earns its spot on the page. There is no fluff. There are no clichés.
Everything works together to bring the reader into your story and make them eager to continue into your summary section.
A recent graduate resume headline, and why it works
Next up, how about a mechanical engineering graduate who is looking for engineering jobs in the robotics industry? This time, we’ll go with a headline that combines title and power phrase in a single line:
Purdue University BSME Honors Graduate With Robot Programming Experience
This one capitalizes on the prestige of a Purdue University engineering degree and showcases the candidate’s experience with a specific requirement of many robotics engineering jobs: the ability to program a robot.
One- and two-line resume headline examples
Here are a few more headline examples, for a variety of industries and roles:
Nonprofit Leader | Executive Director | Director of Development
Driving Transformative Performance on Behalf of Global Humanitarian Agencies
Supply Chain Manager | Logistics Team Lead
Optimizing Operational Performance in Global Manufacturing Environments
Executive Assistant | Office Manager
Enabling Business Leaders to Thrive by Delivering World-Class Administrative Support
Technical Writer | Trainer & Instructor
Transforming Complex Technical Information Into Compelling and Actionable Content, Lessons, & Documentation
We could take those same four people and create one-line headlines for them:
Nonprofit Director Who Has Successfully Raised $5M for Children’s Charities
Supply Chain Leader With 15 Years’ Experience Managing End-to-End Global Supply Chains
Executive Assistant—an Indispensable Partner to Senior Business Leaders
Technical Writer Specializing in Transforming Complex Information Into Compelling & Actionable Content
Lastly, some bonus resume headline examples
If you want even more ideas, consider these:
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA) With 8 Years Auditing Experience
- SaaS Account Executive Who’s Closed Over $10 Million in Sales
- Content Writer and Editor Who Has Increased SEO Traffic by Over 200%
- Award Winning UX-Designer Specializing in Accessibility
- Account Manager Responsible for Upsells Totalling $500K+ in 6 Months
- Advertising Executive Responsible for the GEICO Gecko
- Social Media Marketing Specialist who Launched and Grew 100K Follower TikTok Account
- Recruiter Who’s Sourced, Interviewed, and Overseen Hiring Process for 200+ Hired Candidates
- Very Good Dog Who Doesn’t Bark at UPS Guy
- Comp Sci Grad with Past Internships at Google and Facebook
- Project Manager Specializing in Completing Over-Budget Initiatives Cheap
- HR Professional with 18 Years in Benefits Management
- Certified Special Education Teacher With 5 Years Experience in Multi-Grade Classroom
- Data Analyst With 4 Years Experience in Financial Modeling
- Data Scientist Specializing in Machine Learning
- IT Professional Who Set Up Hillary Clinton’s Server—Which Is Still Unhacked
- Engineer Who Actually Founded Tesla
Bottom line: No one—not even the ATS—can see and feel and touch your years of experience and understand why you should be hired. It’s on you to frame the “you on paper” as the very best candidate to the decision makers, whether they’re a technology or a group of humans. And it all starts with your headline.
Regina Borsellino also contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article.