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Home > Blog: Resumes > Spice Up Your Professional Summary with a Headline

Spice Up Your Professional Summary with a Headline


You may have heard this before but it's worth repeating: Your resume has only 10 to 15 seconds to grab a hiring manager's attention.

If you assume that's true (we do), then you need to make every one of those seconds count.

The best way to grab a hiring manager's attention is with a headline that effectively "shouts" your value, such as Award-Winning Sales Professional or Graphic Designer with Long List of Satisfied Clients.

By replacing the category title "Professional Summary" or "Summary of Qualifications" (usually found right after your name and contact information at the top of your resume), the headline leads the reader into the highlights of your qualifications and helps you pass the 10-second test. This approach is especially helpful for experienced professionals who have established work credentials.

I admit that I'm a bit biased to the headline approach because of the years I spent as a professional journalist. But there's something about large, bold type that sends the message: "You're gonna want to know more, so read on!" That approach has worked for decades at newsstands, especially tabloids that aim for the front-page shock value a large headline can offer. (One of my favorites is The New York Post's description of a murder in 1983: Headless Body in Topless Bar)

So, what's your headline? Here are three steps you can take to find it:

1. Figure out your strengths. What are the things you do well — better than others who work in similar roles? What skills do you have that the employer wants most in the job? How have you gone above and beyond in your current and previous roles? Your answers may look something like this:

I'm a sales professional with several years of experience in the consumer products industry. I know how to communicate with people, I know the importance of good customer relations, and always check in with my customers in the retail industry to make sure they were satisfied with what we delivered and that their customers were at least equally satisfied. I won several awards for consistently exceeding quarterly sales quotas and for leading all sales associates in winning repeat business. At my last job, they gave me new products to sell and my strategic approach with those new products was so effective that management asked me to conduct a seminar for new product sales for the entire sales division. The seminar was well received and earned me a commendation from the CEO.

2. Now, write your full professional summary. Once you answer those questions, convey that information in 75 words or less. Here's one based on the above example:

Award-winning sales professional with several years of experience in the consumer products industry and strong track record of exceeding quarterly sales quotas. Highly effective at creating and maintaining good customer relations and generating repeat business. Proven ability to communicate sales tactics and strategies to other professionals through strong presentation skills.

3. Finally, write your headline. Take the editor's approach. What's the central theme of your story and what jumps out at the reader? Here are some examples and how each might be appropriate:

  • Award-Winning Sales Professional — This is one that can attract just about anyone looking for a sales professional.
  • Experienced Consumer Products Sales Professional — If the job is in the same industry, this is more specific and more effective than #1.
  • Sales Pro Dedicated to Longstanding Customers — This approach could be effective if the job ad stresses the importance of keeping customers.
  • Sales Pro Keeps Customers Coming Back — This is similar to #3, but the way it's worded can be attractive to a company that has ambitious growth plans and wants to build a strong base of customers.

The most important thing to remember about using a headline is to address the employer's "pain." If your headline hints that you understand that pain and will give them what they need to alleviate it (and your summary backs it up with more detail), you'll stand out. Put it right in front of their faces so they don't have to go searching for it.

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