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3.0 from 43 votes

Headline Statements

Date: December 30 2007

Buying a car, shopping for groceries, taking a class, landing a new job or searching for a new employee – it’s all affected by marketing. Whichever side of the fence you are on – the “buyer” or the “seller” – we form opinions and make decisions based on the marketing messages we receive.

The world of Employment Advertising is no exception. Attractive logos, extensive benefits packages, flexible schedules; all can be used to make an impact on job candidates and affect how many people read and reply to your postings. When considering how to initially attract readers to your employment ads, the key opportunity may lie in your headline statement. Headline statements give advertisers the chance to attract the attention and readership of job seekers, and motivate them to respond.

According to marketing legend David Ogilvy, five times as many people read a headline as do the entire ad. Therefore, without a strong headline statement, your ad may be skipped entirely. Another sources says that while 8 out of 10 people will read a headline statement, only 2 in 10 read the entire ad (from By designing a strong, compelling lead-in, you’ll increase the number of candidates that do go on to read your ad, and apply to your job, while your competitors’ ads get skipped over.

Creating a Headline Statement

What makes a good headline?

Like the clients quoted below, you’ll know you have a good headline statement when candidates you interview tell you so. Your message will get candidates thinking, wanting to know more, and ultimately, responding to your ad. Headline statements are about positioning and most center on the strengths of the position, opportunity, situation, and/or company. When possible, the statement will differentiate one job or company from another.

So, how can you create a great headline statement?

A good headline depends on the employer first identifying what the strengths of the opportunity are, choosing the strongest of the strengths, and then communicating that in a well-crafted phrase. To start the process, ask and answer the following questions:

• What are the key positives prospective candidates must know about your company and/or job opening?

• What makes you (or the position) different and/or notable?

• What do your current employees like about working at your organization?

• What tone in a headline statement best fits your image/culture? (Cleverness, Humor, Formal, etc)

• What are your competitors are saying in their ads?

• After compiling the above, what single key advantage do you have which should be front and center?

Key Areas

There are a number of key areas around which headline statements can be built. These include, but are not limited to:

• Awards won/recognition given
• Stability/longevity of the company
• Needs/wants of the candidate
• Dollars and cents (particularly for Sales positions)
• Location/atmosphere
• Mission of the organization
• Product(s)
• Play on Words
• Quote from employee or Officer

For instance, here are examples of headlines positioning the advertiser as an “Award-wining” employer:

Want to join a company that was awarded more Media and Methods portfolio awards than any other company last year?

Join a company recognized by Fortune Magazine as one of the most admired food companies!

Just as Saturn pioneered the no haggle pricing that customers enjoy, they position this as a benefit to their sales people with the headline:

Auto Sales - "No haggle" sales philosophy!

Stability and longevity of your organization can be very comforting to job seekers. If it works in your favor, consider using it:

Since the opening of its first franchise in 1940, International Dairy Queen, Inc has established itself as one of the world’s best loved brands of food and dairy treats


You will want to consider the tone of your headline as it relates to your image and/or culture. The tone can be:

• Serious

• Fun, playful

• Inquisitive (ask questions)

• Creative/outside the box

You might think a legal publishing firm would project a staid, stuffy image. To combat that, one advertiser has used the fun, play-on-words headline – Do Your Career Justice. Now they don’t sound so stuffy after all – right?

Which large bank do you think uses the headline – Success Comes in Stages (hint: stagecoach)? Another case of a play-on-words, which in this case, tie into a company symbol and shows a sense of humor that others in banking do not.

Getting non-conventional

Some advertisers use a traditional approach and embellish it such as - Auto Sales - Capitalize on the hot new Saturn products! Others scrap the conventional angle all together. A District Manager (DM) at one of the country’s largest Financial and Insurance Services companies, says, “I try to consider the basic facts about the opportunity, and then highlight a selected part which the reader might find especially intriguing.”

For example, while his competitors rarely use headline statements, the DM mentioned above uses the headline - “Take Charge of Your Career Selling Products Everyone Needs!” While his competitors ads lead to pre-conditioned or limited ideas about Insurance sales, re-framing it with a headline statement presents a positive and informative picture. This brings results.

The DM says, “I often ask responders what caught their attention in my recruitment ad. More often than not they reply, ‘The headline, that got me thinking…’ When I hear that, I know I have a good headline.”

Another recruiter in the Financial Services field presents his job as a “Small Business Opportunity.” His title reframes the posting and turns it from a “job” into a different kind of opportunity, one that attracts entrepreneurial people.

What do your employees say about you?

In business-to-business dealings we often use testimonials. Why? Because often what your peers say carries more weight than what a Sales Representative says to you. The testimonial not only speaks to your product or service, but also to the belief the person giving the quote has in you. It’s no different with prospective employees – they want to know what their prospective peers say about the organization. Using employee quotes can have a powerful affect on candidates.

“I can truly say that I love coming to work!”
Nate, 6 years with Firm

This quote was the headline of a recent job posting by Eide Bailly, a Top 25 CPA firm. So, did it work?

“I used to think (using the quote) was a little hokey… until our most-recent ad. I received more comments regarding the employee quote we used. One person even wanted to meet Nate - the gentleman who was quoted. The comments I received ranged from "the reason I applied was because of the quote from your employee" to "that quote made me want to find out more about your company". With that in mind, I would say that using quotes can really add an element of personalization and differentiation to your ad, as long as your company is depicted accurately by the quote.”
Lauri Dahlberg, PHR
HR Manager

I think it’s fair to say, using a quote from an employee can be a terrific way to pique interest and get more candidates in your pool. By using this or some of the other techniques pointed to above, you will increase your chances of attracting talent that otherwise might have overlooked your opportunity. Consider, according to Lou Adler, you have 10 seconds to capture readers’ attention. A strong headline statement that helps you stand out and strongly positions the strengths of your opportunity will help you capture that readership and deliver candidates.


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