Are you job hunting or looking to build more personal marketing content for various purposes? Do you have an executive biography?
Many of the executives I speak with want to know more about biographies:
- What they are
- How to use one
- How they differ from resumes and LinkedIn profiles
- Whether they really need one
I’m sure you’ve read a typical bio that walks you through the person’s career progression and provides hard facts. Aside from touching briefly on their families and perhaps hobbies, they so often lack vibrancy. They give you little feel for what kind of person you’re reading about and what drives them.
A strong brand biography evokes emotion and helps to generate chemistry around you and your candidacy, if you’re job hunting. If you’re using it for other purposes, a branded executive biography will differentiate the value of your expertise.
A bio should indicate what you’re capable of doing for an employer or others.
Your biography can help you land a Board of Directors, Partner or C-suite role. If hired, companies will also use your bio publicly on their website and elsewhere, so it needs to send the right message to clients and investors evaluating the company and you.
A brand biography is a storytelling tool that breathes life into an otherwise flat rehash of your resume. For job search and career management, a bio affords the opportunity to reinforce your brand with storytelling in a way that a resume doesn’t allow.
What you can do with a bio that you can’t do as well with a resume:
- Showcase your leadership and management acumen through softer skills and “good fit” attributes, and link them to your value proposition.
- Personalize your C-A-Rs stories and use them to reinforce your brand attributes and key strengths.
- Generate chemistry around your personal brand. Tell people how you use your key personal attributes, passions, strengths, and motivated skills to make things happen for employers.
- Help employers connect with you and envision you on the job, having a positive impact.
Your bio, resume and LinkedIn profile are the foundation for a successful job search. The three work in tandem to promote the unique value you offer and provide people assessing you the social proof they need.
When I’m creating online profiles for clients, I use pieces of both their resumes and bios, mixing it up a bit to distinguish profiles from each other, and provide a little additional info in each.
When using your biography to write your LinkedIn profile About section, I advise switching to first person narration, but using “I” and “me” sparingly. Readers will connect better to the content so it will have greater impact.
How to use your executive biography
A bio comes into play in many ways, for job search and beyond. Here are 5 of them:
Pull paragraphs, or brand bites, from your bio to use in email messages when you send your resume to people.
1. The “About” page on your blog or website, or your company’s website, is actually your bio. Remember that because most recruiters and hiring decision makers are searching online to source and assess top talent, they may see your bio (or About page) before they see your resume. It has to stand on its own as a career brand marketing document.
2. Your bio, instead of resume, may be the better first document to present to people when introducing yourself. A resume is an obvious job search tool. A bio is a more general career management tool. Because a bio allows you to better tell your brand story, it conveys personality and good-fit qualities better than a resume. It may work better for informational interviews and when you’re making new contacts, other than recruiters and employers’ hiring decision makers.
3. Bios are essential introductions for speaking engagements. When making a presentation or giving a speech, give your bio to the introducer ahead of time.
4. Encapsulate your full bio into a tidy one or two paragraph mini-bio to include when you guest blog, write articles or white papers, or publish anything online or offline.
5. Follow up networking events by sending your bio to people you’ve connected with. It’s less formal than your resume.
Your biography needs targeting and personal branding
Most executives will already have a resume, when they sit down to write their biography.
Hopefully, your resume is targeted towards specific employers, so that it will resonate with them.
And, hopefully your resume supports and provides evidence of your personal brand.
Same goes for your bio. So if you haven’t done the targeting and personal branding work necessary for job search, you’ll need to do that first.
My set of personal branding and job search worksheets will help you. These are the proprietary worksheets I developed that have helped my clients land jobs they covet and deserve.
Differences and similarities between your biography, resume and LinkedIn profile
These are 3 distinct personal marketing pieces, but there are some similarities.
Similarities between your biography, and your resume and LinkedIn profile
- Like with your LinkedIn profile, it’s okay to include some personal information (hobbies, volunteer work, community involvement, etc.).
- Include your professional headshot at the top, like you did with your LinkedIn profile.
- Be mindful of page length, like you are with your resume. A bio is usually no more than one page, and may be only a few paragraphs.
- All 3 rely on storytelling to help people connect to your unique value-add.
- Like with your resume, avoid over-used, anemic cliches in your bio, like “responsible for”, “results-oriented” or “seasoned professional”.
- And just like with your resume, include links to selective relevant articles you’ve written, articles written about you, and/or other pertinent information about you online.
- Along with your contact information (use only one phone number and one email address), include links to social media accounts, only if you’re active there.
Differences between your biography, and your resume and LinkedIn profile
- You probably won’t include all your past roles in your bio, and you typically won’t include dates.
- Bios are not always part of the job search process. Sometimes only when you’re seeking a C-suite, Partner or Board of Directors role.
- You won’t necessarily use reverse chronology in your bio, like you will with your resume and LinkedIn profile.
- While resumes are implicitly in first person voice, although “I” and “me” are often not used (or used sparingly), bios are typically written in third person narration. This makes them sound like someone else is writing (and perhaps bragging) about you.
What an executive biography should include
The following items may not all apply to you, your career and your job search, and there is no single best way to order, structure and write a biography. Use the following checklists to guide you.
The basic rundown for a biography
BrandYourself’s Pete Kistler offers this list of potential things to include, if they apply to you:
- Your current role
- Hometown/Current place of residence
- Work experience
- Education history
- Special skills & attributes
- Professional accomplishments
- Personal accomplishments
- High-level personal goals & aspirations
- High-level professional accomplishments
- Hobbies & pastimes
- Personal passions
- Awards or Accolades
- Press Mentions
- Miscellaneous (What makes you unique!)
Some more things to include in your executive biography
A Forbes article suggests a checklist to ensure your bio contains all the information the reader seeks:
- Where you fit within an organization, including your level and title and/or your most recent or current role
- The substance of your previous experience
- Your key differentiators
- Very high-level, relevant accomplishments
- A sense of the magnitude of the responsibilities with which you’ve been entrusted
- Relevant board experience, if any
- A sense of how others view you, possibly using quotes, e.g., “inspiring,” “groundbreaking,” “transformative”
- Other experience that rounds you out as a person, for example, leadership roles in volunteer organizations, possibly education, certain differentiating interests
A few questions to help you write your executive biography
Here are basic guidelines to write your executive biography:
- What are 3 or 4 defining moments for you as your career progressed? Think of events or things that shaped your career path, had the most impact on making you who you are today, and led you to add value to your companies.
- Which of your personal attributes have been most beneficial to you in your career? Explain why.
- How have adversity and challenges made you stronger and a more valuable employee?
- What are the two or three most important lessons you learned along the way that others could benefit from?
- Who have you mentored and how did your guidance impact that person, your team, your department, and your company? How do you describe your leadership style?
Move your executive biography from bland to brand-solid
Pack a punch right at the top.
Compel readers to want to continue to the end. Capture attention by leading with your brand positioning statement, or a quote from an industry celebrity or subject matter expert.
Here’s a bio opener that synopsises what this candidate has to offer right out of the gate:
Robert Taylor is a distinctive airline maintenance executive with expertise in every aspect of aircraft maintenance operations, extensive knowledge of the macro/micro economics of the industry, an understanding of aviation technical standards across the globe, and an impressive record of fixing the impossible problems.
Or compose a quote of your own that encapsulates your brand value. It could be something that others tell you you’re always saying — or a direct quote about you from someone you’ve worked with.
Here’s an example of one I placed at the beginning of a top-level technology executive’s bio:
“My mantra for business survival in the technology sphere is ‘Unlearn … Transform … Reinvent’. I push innovation hard, but in an applied, operationally sustainable way. My measure of success is ‘Can I walk away and have it last?’”
You can see that the candidate’s own voice at the start will make readers want to continue reading, and helps generate chemistry for him.
Or, you can be more personal by beginning your bio with a story about what led you to your career choice.
Format the document for visual appeal and ease in reading.
Break up long, dense paragraphs into 2 or 3 smaller ones to add more white space, drawing readers’ eyes down the page and compelling them to read the entire document or web page, if it’s an online profile.
One innovative technique is to include high-impact sub-headings throughout, which is also an opportunity to build in more relevant keywords. I used this strategy in my own brand bio, which I used for my website About page.
Get My Full Worksheet for Executive Biography Development
The suggestions above represent just a portion of the important work you need to do to develop a robust, vibrant biography to help you land a job you covet and deserve. The full worksheet covers it all.
My full biography worksheet is the actual proprietary document I use with my clients to create a biography that complements their resumes, LinkedIn profiles, cover letters and other job search materials.
In all, you’ll get 10 pages of DIY tips and advice to help you tell your story and create your biography.
Along with the worksheet itself, here’s some of the other information included:
- What a biography does better than a resume
- More ways to propel your bio from bland to brand-solid
- 10 ways to use your biography
- When to use your bio INSTEAD of your resume
Get my full biography worksheet (with all the extras noted above) . . . OR the complete package of my 4 proprietary executive job search worksheets.
Along with the Biography Worksheet, the complete worksheet package includes my 3 other proprietary worksheets and so much more:
- Personal Branding Worksheet
- Job Search Targeting & Research Worksheet
- Career History Worksheet
- Each worksheet above contains numerous resources and DIY tips and strategies to help you land the job you want.