6 Must-Haves for Writing a Compelling, Professional Bio

If you don’t have a professional bio, or if it’s been acquiring electronic dust in a long lost folder, it’s probably time you created or updated it. One of these days you’ll be asked for your bio, and scrambling is no fun. (This I know from experience.)

Even if you aren’t speaking at conferences, authoring content or submitting proposals for project work, people are checking you out online. So you might as well have a nice looking bio that reflects who you are professionally.

I think many of us avoid bios altogether because writing and updating them can be tedious and  laborious. I’d rather fold laundry or sweep the garage.

By avoiding a few “bio-hazards” or common mistakes, and keeping some basic pointers top of mind, you won’t be rushing the next time someone asks the dreaded, “Can you send me your bio?” 

6 Must-Haves for Writing or Updating Your Bio

  1. Tell a short, compelling story. A bio is your promotional summary. It is written in the 3rd person and often includes impressive job titles, recognizable organizations or clients, a photo, certifications, press/media highlights, and/or awards. In contrast, resumes and CVs are a detailed history. You don’t need dates, specific job responsibilities and detailed facts in your bio … save those for your resume/CV.
  2. Create a few versions. One bio won’t cut it. You’ll likely need a longer version (3-4 paragraphs) for websites or job/project considerations. A medium-sized version (1 paragraph) is useful for speaking engagements, when you’re featured in the media or at the end of published content as an author summary. You’ll also want a mini bio (1 sentence) for online and social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
  3. Know your audience. What you choose to include will also change depending on who’s asking for your bio or who it will be shared with. Highlight the accomplishments and roles that are most relevant to the audience. For example, some of my bios lean heavy toward the corporate roles and clients I’ve served, and others emphasize my work with start-ups and small businesses.
  4. Stay away from buzzwords. Any person in any field should read your bio and know what you do. Strip your bio of jargon, consultantese, and non-words. “Framework”, “deliverables”, “proactive”, “synergize”, “impactful” and “win/win” should be deleted immediately.
  5. Keep it current. Bios are not static. Review and update your long version every 6-12 months to be sure it includes any new accomplishments. If your long version is up-to-date, it’s easy to revise the shorter versions.
  6. Get personal. Yes, bios are a professional summary but there’s nothing wrong with infusing a little personality. Include a picture (a professional headshot is preferable). Mention your hobbies. Provide your contact information so the audience/readers know how to get in touch with you. Give people a sense of who you are as a human.

In the end, your goal is to represent yourself as a strong and consistent brand.

Good luck!

Marta Steele is a Partner and Community Manager at PeopleResults. Connect with her on Twitter @MartaSteele or through email at msteele@www.people-results.com.