If you’re working in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field, writing your resume is often more challenging due to the highly technical nature of your role. In this 6-part series, I’m going to break down the central components of a STEM resume: header, branded headline and supporting statement, summary, skills, experience, and education (and the final 5%). I hope that you are able to take away at least one actionable tip or strategy that you can leverage to transform your technical resume into one that will gain traction with prospective employers.
In part 1, we will share tips on how you can create an attractive resume header that positions your contact information in an appealing, easy-to-read manner and makes the best use of your space.
Let’s get started!
Why is having a strong resume header important?
The header includes the information that a prospective employer will need to contact and invite you for an interview. In a way, you could argue it is the most important section of your resume. However, in my experience, I’ve found that many job seekers overlook the impact that a strong header can have on the reader. As a result, the majority of resume headers take this standard approach:
Perhaps you’re wondering, “well, so what? What’s wrong with this heading?” The answer? Nothing.
However, let’s put ourselves in the employer’s shoes for just a moment.
Does this header look or feel inspiring to you?
Or does it have the same look that you’ve seen on the last several dozens to hundreds of resumes that you’ve been reviewing? You know. The ones that use the same default black-and-white look with Times New Roman font?
Fortunately, there are several easy strategies that you can use to add some variety to your own resume header. I’m going to share a few example headers from real Scientech Resumes’ clients. Names and personal information have been disguised to protect client confidentiality.
This example uses the resume header space much more effectively while adding a splash of color to draw your eye to the name. All of the necessary information that an employer will need to contact Eric is represented.
Since this candidate was pursuing an IT role, we added a link to his GitHub portfolio. If you choose to add a link to an online portfolio, blog, or social media profile, make sure that the content is professional and relevant to your job target.
Should you include a partial address?
In Eric Chao’s example, we indicate the city, state, and zip code of his location. Depending on your personal situation, you may or may not choose to include this information, although there are situations where I’d recommend this approach, such as:
- You’re applying for a position advertising for local candidates only. Employers have a tendency to favor local candidates because there are fewer obstacles involved in the interviewing and onboarding processes.
- You’re applying for a position out of state (or country). In this scenario, I advise you to include the city, state, and zip code closest to where the position is located so that you’re resume isn’t screened out due to location.
- You prefer to not include one. Now that most communication, and the hiring process itself, has gone digital, it’s becoming more commonplace to leave the full address off your resume.
Let’s check out some more header examples …
Joseph built an exciting career working in law and healthcare, so we added a graphic that symbolized his dedication to both fields. When used appropriately, a graphic can be a creative, yet subtle way to add flair to a resume header.
The above resume headers take a slightly more formal approach using a serif font. I included this example to illustrate 2 different ways to present contact information. The first example is similar to Eric Chao’s header in that we make the best use of the header space using just 2 lines of text. While the second example takes up a little more space, it does a good job of drawing your eye to the candidate’s name.
A couple things to note:
- The resume header can be a great place to indicate your willingness to relocate for the right opportunity.
- Both header examples make use of the shading (gray) and border (blue) techniques that create visual interest while maintaining compatibility with ATS.
Including your full address
In this last example, we blended all of the previous resume header strategies from earlier. Only this time, we included Rosa’s full address on the third line since she was applying for a position at a local hospital in the Houston area.
Normally, I advise job seekers to leave out the full address for a few reasons:
- Your full physical address is considered sensitive information. Each year, the number of identity theft cases continues to rise. Therefore, it’s not surprising that more and more people want to keep this information private.
- You expose yourself to potential economic and/or demographic profiling. For instance, an employer could make te assumption that you live too far away from the company.
- It’s nobody’s business. Including a full address on a resume is a carryover from the days when it was common practice to physically mail your resume. Nowadays, a phone number and an email address are all an employer needs to contact you.
At a minimum, your resume header should include your first and last name, contact phone, personal email address, and your LinkedIn profile URL. If you’re not on LinkedIn, create a free LinkedIn account after you finish reading this article!
Keep these 6 tips in mind as you create your own header:
- Be mindful. Limit your contact information to one phone number and one email address. For the majority of people, a cell phone and personal email are the best avenues to guarantee your privacy, escape distractions, and speak openly about your job search.
- Be discrete. Never list your work number as your contact phone when looking for a job with a different employer, unless you’re looking to advance or move laterally within your current company.
- Be attentive. When you’re job hunting, you can expect to get a call at any time. Therefore, you’ll want to connect your phone to a professional voicemail message and check voicemail regularly. Finally, don’t let your voicemail get full. There’s nothing more frustrating to a recruiter who is trying to reach you and cannot leave a voicemail due to a full inbox.
- Be appropriate. Similar to your phone number, your email address is a key part of your professional brand image. Choose 1 personal email, not shared with spouse or family, that is professional and easy to remember. I recommend using your first and last name (Ex: firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Be hyperlinked. Create a link to your contact details (email and LinkedIn profile) to make it easier for the recruiter to email you or view your LinkedIn profile.
- BONUS TIP – Avoid headers and footers! This feature is an effective way to use resume space, but the majority of applicant tracking systems have trouble extracting information from headers and footers. Consequently, your resume can get lost in the shuffle, resulting in a wasted opportunity.
While optimizing your header may seem like a small thing, it’s often the smallest details that make the largest impact in setting yourself apart from your competition. Did you find these tips and guidelines helpful? Feel free to let me know which format you liked the best in the comments below.
If you enjoyed this post, check out the next one in our 6-part series of the STEM Resume Breakdown, Part 2 of 6 – How to Craft a Branded Headline & Supporting Statement.
Is your resume is helping or hurting your job search? Scientech Resume caters to job seekers and entrepreneurs pursuing and advancing careers in science (incl. medical), technology (incl. IT), engineering, and mathematics fields.
Schedule a 30-minute, complimentary career discovery session to get some real-time feedback on your current resume and job search strategy. I’d love to help get you where you want to go, with greater results!