Critical information in your resume's header?


I've seen a lot of resumes and cover letters in my day, and a recurring idea job candidates have is to put their contact information in the document header rather than in the body of the resume or cover letter. I'm not sure why people insist on doing this; I'm not aware of any benefit. I am aware, however, of a major drawback: Many applicant tracking systems (ATS), which are used by some employers to electronically process, track, and search resumes, cannot read document headers and footers.

What does this mean for you? Imagine this scenario....

You see a job ad for corporate counsel position at the multinational company of your dreams! It's as if you wrote the position yourself. You are the perfect candidate for this job; after all, how many other corporate finance lawyers also have a Ph.D. in botany and speak both Khmer and Basque? Excited, you finalize your resume and update your contact information, which you have placed in the resume header. You go to the company's website, click on the job description, and submit your resume through the online portal.

The next day, HR searches through the submitted resumes and yours is the top hit. You are everything they hoped for -- and more. But guess what? The company has ATS system that cannot read headers. HR can see you're the perfect candidate, but they don't know who you are or how to contact you. They have a fantastic resume, but it has no name, no phone number, no email address, no LinkedIn profile URL... you're a ghost.

Now what does HR do? They can either do some research to see if they can identify you, or they can move to the next candidate in the queue.

What do you think will happen?

Lesson: Go ahead and use the document header or footer on your resume for your contact information. But any information - including contact information - put into document headers and footers should be redundant, appearing elsewhere within the document body itself.