It’s all about the top 1/3

Recruiters, Hiring Managers, and HR professionals have very short attention spans and don’t spend a lot of time reading the résumé.

This is why it’s more important than ever to have a résumé that grabs their attention in only a few seconds. Like, I’m talking 6 seconds or less.

Since the human reader typically scans a document from the top down, the top of the page is the most important part, specifically the top 1/3.

If you can instantly communicate what you have to offer in the first third of the résumé, the reader will be more likely to continue reading, provided the rest of the document is written effectively (which is a whole other topic).

Alternatively, if  you don’t generate interest on the top 1/3, the reader won’t be as “invested” in reading the entire document and might decide to move on to the next better résumé.

How do you grab the hiring manager’s attention in a few seconds?

You create a knock-out headline.  I’ve talked about this for Linkedin profiles.

For the purposes of this article, I’m NOT referring to the target job title (i.e. the specific title of the job you are sending your résumé for)  which I’m assuming you are including in your résumé.

What I’m referring to is one line that’s located in the top 1/3 of the résumé, located above the professional profile. It’s a phrase or a series of words that convey what your value is.

If you have shown a target job title, the headline would be something in addition to that although you could combine the target job title with the headline so you’re using up only one line and not two.

The whole point with the résumé headline is to motivate the reader to continue reading, similar to a newspaper or magazine headline.

What makes a résumé headline effective?

A strong résumé  headline instantly communicates what you have to offer that compels the reader to continue reading.

The headline should tell the employer immediately that what you have is EXACTLY what they are looking for in a candidate for a specific position.

The headline should highlight the strongest qualifications you possess. The information presented should also be supported in body of the résumé. You can’t create a headline and then not elaborate on it in the rest of the résumé.

If the content of your résumé doesn’t substantiate the headline in some way, then you need to change it or create content that supports what you claim in the headline.

The 4 main elements of a strong headline

Get to the point

The whole strategy with résumé writing is that you use the least amount of words possible throughout the résumé. The same goes with the headline.

Limit the words you use to those that are most impactful and that are ideally industry-specific keywords.

Focus on what you have to offer

You need to focus on what YOU can do for the employer and not the other way around.

The employer hires for their reasons, not yours. They want to know how you can help them save money, improve processes, generate new customers, and those kinds of things.

Include critical keywords

While the headline is designed more for the human reader than the computer ATS systems, I believe that they are more effective if you include relevant industry keywords. This should help with the scoring and ranking of the document and also help it to come up in a database search.

Showcase your uniqueness

Determine what makes you stand out from other candidates who are seeking same job. This could be work experience and/or achievements, and/or education, and the like.

Things to consider when creating a headline


What specific problem did you solve that would be relevant to your target job and appeal to hiring manager?  They like to see people who offer solutions.

Key contributions 

What do/did you continually excel at?  Where did you consistently achieve desire results?  By quantifying your positive impact on your employers, clients, and/or other stakeholders, it will reassure the hiring manager that you can do that job.

Areas of expertise 

What are your top hard/soft skills that address your target job’s requirements? 

Professional development

What degrees, designation, certifications, and training have you successfully completed that would be of interest to a potential employer?

Specialty areas

What is your area of specialization?  Can you distinguish yourself as an expert in a particular geographic and/or industry?

Different kind of headlines

There’s no one way to write a headline. I’ve identified three main types of headlines which each have a different focus.

What you create depends on the overall strategy of your job search. For instance, you might have two headlines (a main one and a sub-headline). You should modify your headline for each position you send your résumé for because they will likely have different requirements.

The “What You Do” headline

This focuses more on your job function and the different areas that you have expertise is.

Managing Public Relations, Social Media, Media Relations for Acme brands in US and Canada

This format enhances the job titles with job functions to create a keyword rich headline.

To further personalize it, you could name refer to a key project, employer/client name, specific industry, brands, geographic area, etc.

The “Big Benefit”  headline

If you’re the kind of person who’s solved a lot of problems, this is a good format for you to use.

I personally prefer to communicate how the company can benefit from the candidate’s expertise and experience. I think it’s an effective way to express someone’s value.

The question you should ask yourself is what are the buying motivators of the potential employer? Do they want to make money, save money, save time, expand business, retain customers?

The “answer” could be expressed as a job title that gets results.

Sales Professional generating more than $5MM in annual revenue over the last 10 years

This headline is effective because it quantifies the value of the jobseekers by using dollars ($5MM) and amount (10 years) and also includes a job function (Sales Professional).

The “Testimonial” headline

This works best if you’ve received prestigious award or some kind of recognition in your field that employers would actually care about. It ‘s most effective if it’s a recent honour that stand on its own in terms of delivering your value.

Awarded the industry’s “Business Turnaround Specialist of the Year” by Business Magazine (2017)

There’s more help below…

Create a résumé that converts into interviews

The scary fact is, only about 2% to 3% of résumés actually result in interviews. To boost your chances, you need a résumé that has a higher rate of converting into interviews. Click on the button below and get started on creating a higher-converting résumé.

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Hi! I’m Diana.

I draw from over 15 years recruitment, career/job search coaching, and sales/marketing experience to help all kinds of jobseekers stand out, get noticed, and get hired for their dream job.

Need help? That’s what I’m here for!

Are you in the midst of a job search and not getting the results you want? Or, are you employed and not actively looking but want to “get ready” in case your situation changes and you need to launch a job search?

Don’t get caught in the endless cycle of applying to jobs, hearing little to nothing, and becoming more frustrated.

I offer both “Done-For-You” and “DIY” options to help you overcome the obstacles and get you on the right track to accelerate your job landing success. You choose the level of service you feel you need that fits your budget.

Maybe all you need is a quick résumé critique. If your search is complicated, a more comprehensive package might be the solution. Or, it could be something in between. You’ve got options!

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