Your resume is the most important opportunity you have to get your foot in the door for your dream job. It is your first chance to offer the nuts and bolts of why you are the right person for the job you are applying for.
Great resume design always includes a title and section headings to give your resume that “at a glance” organized feel. These elements are generally bolded and often in a slightly larger font so that they stand out and pop. However, most people miss the opportunity to take advantage of this prime real estate.
A hiring manager may view hundreds of resumes in just a few hours during the first round of review in the hiring process. They are going to see the same boring old section headers over and over. Getting noticed at this stage of the process can be a game changer.
However, you don’t want to go so far off the norm that you make yourself look unprofessional either. This article will help you strike the right balance so that the impact of your resume title and section headings work in your favor.
Transform Your Resume Title into a Resume Headline
Many people opt for a traditional resume title, usually simply their current job title, at the top of their resume, just below the name and contact information. Pause for a moment and ask yourself what information this conveys to a hiring manager? In most cases: Not much. Odds are that your job title, or others very similar to it, are going to be appearing over and over again.
What happens when people see the same thing over and over again? They stop seeing it at all.
Take your resume title and give it some descriptive words that help you make your case that you are not just [insert job title] but rather a motivated, dedicated, interesting, talented person who is enthusiastic about this job, and you have the KPIs to prove it.
Tips for a great resume headline:
- Keep it to 2/3 of one line, or less
- Include your job title in abbreviated form if that is standard in the industry (i.e. you can use CPA instead of Certified Public Accountant)
- Include a statistic (gross annual sales, employee retention, excellent safety record, etc.) that is both true and demonstrative of a central KPI for the position
- Emphasize a key attribute that was prioritized in the job advertisement which is also true about your skills, talents, or proficiencies
- Use descriptive, but concise, language
- Avoid any redundancy
- Use title case capitalization
Examples of some standout resume headlines:
- Cheerful Customer Service Rep with 2 Years in Retail 3 Years in B2B Sales
- Detail Oriented CPA Who Saved Small Business Owners Over $273,000 Last Year
- Experienced Secondary Social Studies Teacher with a 4.8 Student Approval Rating
- Enthusiastic Fundraising Coordinator Who Raised Over $1.2M Last Year
- Results Oriented Grant Writer with $6.2M in Successful Grants and a 78% Award Rate
Make the Most of Section Headers
Section titles are another great chance to get noticed by inserting a little bit of personality into your resume. Traditional section titles can become so redundant for hiring managers that making even a small tweak can make them pause just long enough to give your actual credentials a closer look.
Of course, knowing how creative to get is something that requires some careful thought. For example, some companies make it a point to value creativity, out-of-the-box thinking, or fresh perspectives. With these types of employers, there is a little more room to let your personality and even a sense of humor shine through.
On the other hand, getting too cheeky can backfire. Take the time to do your research about company culture and the people you will be working with (good practice for resume writing in general) before you go too far out on a limb with creative or descriptive section titles.
In addition, don’t go for form over function. Make sure that whatever language you use still makes sense, captures the theme of the section it stands for, and resonates with other section titles in terms of tense, voice, and tone. And, ideally section titles will emphasize some aspect of your candidacy that you think will help you stand out from the pack.
For example, instead of “Work History” consider:
- Track Record
- Career Accomplishments
- Professional Experience and Accomplishments
- Award Winning Projects
- Sales Experience: Divers Sectors
- Past Productivity
- Performance Highlights
- Professional Timeline
- Work Feed
Note: The last item on the list above is an example of a very creative way to frame a work history that would only work in the context of a job such as Social Media Manager where such language would be well understood by a recruiter in that field. It would work best in the context of a resume where section titles are chosen to fit a theme around concepts commonly used in online marketing.
Consider Non-Traditional Section Headings
One other way to help your section titles work for you is to move beyond the traditional section headers into a breakdown that best showcases your strongest assets for the job you are applying for. This principle borrows the functional style of resume. Sometimes the traditional layout simply does not put your best foot forward or draw attention to your most impressive qualifications.
Examples of creative section headings that might help you show off your top attributes include:
- “Tools” – This section heading might work well for technical professionals who need to showcase the programs or apps they are proficient with.
- “Highlights” – A place to put your top KPIs that are going to knock the socks off of any hiring manager skimming through your resume.
- “Expertise” – A section to show off some of your higher level areas of competency which can be very important for jobs that include subdisciplines within the field.
- “Affiliations” – Some jobs require a strong local or national presence in key organizations to demonstrate that you are up to date with best practices in your field.