With most jobs now seeing dozens, if not hundreds of applicants vying for the same position, standing out is key. While titles offer little room for creative flair, your headline is your time to shine allowing your CV to stand out from the stack and succinctly show why you’re the best person for the job.
Getting a CV headline right, however, is not easy. In fact, it’s something of a skill. Below, we’ll explain exactly how to craft the perfect headline with some examples to get you started.
It’s a common mistake for people to confuse a CV title and the headline up. They are, however, quite different.
The title is an administrative device used to sort and find CVs easily and is typically the name or professional title of the candidate. This is displayed up top and centre.
The headline, however, is where you can differentiate yourself. Think of it as a brief, succinct, and punchy subtitle that will encourage recruiters to take a closer look at your CV. It goes right below your title so it’s important to make the right impression.
Your headline should ideally include information such as your strengths, professional experience, and hard/soft skills. It should be no more than one line and should summarise your professional suitability for the role.
Not all CVs include a headline. With page space at a premium, a lot of candidates choose to omit headlines to make room for other information.
This can be a costly mistake, however. Most CVs will undergo an initial screening process before a final selection is handed to a recruiter. This means if your main selling points are not immediately obvious, your CV may slip through the cracks.
A headline, then, allows recruiters to see exactly what you bring to the table in a single sentence.
Headlines with specific keywords included can also help pass automated Applicant Tracking Software (ATS). This software looks for specific words within CVs, screening out those that do not include them. With more and more recruiters using ATS, you can give your CV a better chance of being seen by using keywords in headlines.
A headline should only be a single sentence, ideally no longer than a single line. While some top CV writers are able to spin a headline into two lines, in most cases the shorter, the better.
If you find your headline is wrapping over into two lines or more, consider using this information in your career summary section instead. This should immediately follow your headline and gives you more room to expand on your achievements and skill set.
Writing a good CV headline is something of an art. Being able to write impactfully in fewer words is not easy.
That said, there is a commonly used formula for writing a headline that you can use to get started:
Adjective + Professional Title + Experience + Selling Points
Using this formula, you can begin piecing together possible headlines, customising the words used for each role you apply for. E.g. “Influential digital marketing specialist with experience working with Fortune 500 companies.”
It’s important to only use this formula as a guide, however. Elements can be shuffled and omitted if necessary to avoid looking formulaic. Look at each word individually and ask whether it is necessary and contributes to the headline.
Use power adjectives: look for “power adjectives” to make your headline stand out while maintaining brevity.
These include words such as:
Customise your headline: your headline should change for each and every job application. Read the job listing carefully and be sure to include keywords to pass any ATS screening process.
If the listing is looking for a digital marketing specialist that specialises in social media management, be sure to work into your headline your achievements in this area.
Try not to be cheesy: recruiters are people too and they dislike overused language as much as the rest of us.
Avoid adjectives and phrases that will make their eyes roll such as “team player,” “highly skilled,” and “goal-oriented.” These are now buzzwords with recruiters preferring examples.
Don’t be vague, use numbers: use concrete numbers to demonstrate your skills in a quantifiable way.
Numbers allow recruiters to see exactly how your skills have been put to use and helped your past employers. Look to include examples such as the following:
Write 3-4 headlines: aim to write 3-4 punchy headlines for each CV. This will take more time and can be quite demanding. However, labouring over a headline can be fruitful, giving you the chance to really hone in on your best selling points and identify what a recruiter’s looking for.
Get feedback: test out your headlines on friends and family to see which has the best impact. When writing headlines, it can be difficult to stand back and see them from someone else’s point of view. Getting feedback helps avoid oversights.
Format correctly: it’s important to use title case in your headline to grab attention. This involves capitalizing most words with tools available online to make this easier.
To get you started, here are some winning CV headline examples that you can use to create your own:
Headlines are your way of making a recruiter stop and consider your application more carefully. The rest of your CV only matters if your CV passes this initial screening, so it’s important to get the headline right.
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