How to Write a Compelling Executive Biography

Highlights

  • An executive bio is a narrative summary of your professional life
  • It’s written much the same way as other narratives using key elements about the person
  • A shorter version of your executive bio can enhance your resume
  • Using these seven tips can make your executive biography more engaging and effective

As a professional, whether you’re a key figure at a large corporation, an entrepreneur with your own business or even a freelancer, there are many times when people and entities will want a deeper dive into who you are and your career experience.

It may be to showcase your current position at your company or to share with a recruiter for a new employment opportunity. It could be to present you and your experience to potential clients for your up-and-coming business or for securing freelance work. There are also marketing opportunities to showcase yourself in articles or other media. Or you might be appearing or speaking at a convention or conference and they want your background to present to attendees.

Also known as an executive profile or simply a professional bio, this can be an important and potentially vital part of your career. Resumes tell people what you do in dry bullet points, but a well-written executive bio will convey your real value and personal brand. It can even help to improve your digital footprint and online reputation.

While you can hire someone to do it for you, it's best to write your executive biography yourself. This will infuse it with your “voice” and make it stand out as a genuine, authentic representation of you, rather than a fill-in-the-blank answer sheet. 

What is an executive biography?

An executive bio is similar to a resume in one major way:  it’s a document designed to sell you.

However, an executive bio differs from a resume because it’s written in standard paragraph format and in a third-person narrative, as opposed to a typical resume’s skimmable bullet list of qualifications. Your ultimate goal is to create a compelling story about your career that makes people want to learn more about you.

You can also use a shorter version of your bio on your resume or include it in full with submissions or in response to requests from recruiters. This is a common practice, however, it should be submitted as a separate document and not an extended part of your resume.

While both documents require information relevant to their specific goals, the executive bio calls for engaging content that might not come easy for everyone. Here are some tips and guidelines for writing a more successful executive biography. 

 

How do you write an executive bio?

The best method of writing a compelling executive biography is the same as writing practically any other narrative. Start by collecting all the information that needs to be included (see below).

Outline the information in a logical order, starting with what you believe the reader wants and needs to know first. This outline will allow you to create the proper order using importance and relevance. Then connect the individual bits into sentences and paragraphs and edit, edit, edit. 

Just like any article or narrative, you want to capture a reader's attention right away. Use powerful language and be concise. Make sure you leave out anything that’s not relevant or necessary. You can definitely include philanthropic or charitable work, but avoid hobbies unless they are something that is connected to your professional life or adds real depth to your profile. While adding that you are involved in sustainable community gardening might be insightful, stating that you collect miniature spoons probably isn't.

Read your bio over and over again until every sentence feels optimized toward your goals. Put it down for a while, come back later, and read it again. 

What elements are in the most interesting bios?

  • Facts, evidence and examples that support your skills and values
  • Engaging job description
  • Current position/involvements
  • Relevant prior experience
  • Awards and acknowledgments
  • Community and industry involvement
  • Philanthropic and charitable work and volunteering
  • Education
  • Publications
  • Professional contact information 

If your bio is being posted online, you might want to include relevant links embedded in the document. If you have received awards or your work has been published you can provide links to those as well.

How do you make your bio interesting?

Think about the goals of your executive biography. Are you likely to accomplish those goals if nothing is interesting or engaging about it? 

Your executive bio can enhance your corporate website, marketing, conference materials or job seeking. A great bio can even help your brand attract better talent. Whatever your goals, you have a better chance of achieving them if your bio jumps off the page. 

Elements of an Effective Bio

As you write, remember this is not a diary or a resume. An executive biography is marketing material. Target your audience and your market based on the purpose of the bio, then present yourself in the context of their needs.

In addition to being put in the hands of recruiters for potential employment, it will most likely appear on websites and other places which can add to your career and personal brand. Take this into consideration as you craft your bio.

You may be a featured guest or presenter at a convention where numerous attendees have the opportunity to speak or attend workshops. With so many choices, attendees will want to know about you in advance to see if your background is something that interests them. Your executive bio needs to let them know you are worth their time.

Always write your bio in the third person. We have gotten very used to the casual nature of social media and networking sites such as LinkedIn, where you are talking about yourself and want to make a personal connection, most often in the first person. An executive bio is a straightforward narrative that may be used in multiple locations. You don't want it to appear unprofessional, so third person is a must.

Keep the entire bio under one full page. People will only look at your executive bio for a short time, and an overly long document can make them want to read it less. 

Convey your value. 

This one sounds obvious at first glance, but do you know what your value is? It’s not just your skill set. Chances are many people have a similiar basic skill set as you, so focusing just on that could make it appear as if you won’t add any more value to a business, project or partnership than anyone else. That would be selling yourself short. 

Your real value comes from your UVP: your unique value proposition. What unique, primary benefit would an employer or client get from working with you? It’s important to tell the reader what you do, what you know and what makes you special in your field, but also tell them why that should matter to them. 

This is a place where you can add a few more details and even some quantitative data. Maybe you brought in a record amount of sales to a company or reached certain goals. This is where you could add those numbers, but be careful not to get too bogged down in the details. 

Don’t be chronological. 

Your life journey is important and very exciting. Each event led to another opportunity, shaped your career path and, to you, probably makes complete sense. However, that's not the point of the executive biography.

Decision makers are not patient these days. Whoever is reading your executive biography doesn’t want to wade through your college years and internship experience to get to the core info they want to know. 

Start with where you are currently in your career. Then highlight relevant experience, knowledge, accomplishments, honors, etc. At the end of the bio, you can add a brief note about your vision for the future.

That being said, you could use it as an opener, but keep it simple. You could open your bio with something like: "Ever since she got her first job at a local bank, Diane knew she wanted to work in finance." This is relatable and humanizes you without straying from the purpose of an executive biography, but only if it is your personal style and should still be done in a professional way.

Make it snappy. 

Along with having little patience, people are short on attention span and time. Statistically speaking, you have mere seconds with your reader. That means you need to be concise, direct and compelling. Hook your reader from the start and make each sentence more informative and valuable than the last. This is not the place for fluff and word stuffing. Every sentence should serve a purpose and push the narrative forward.

No copycats!

Online templates and fill-in-the-blank bios are going to give you a stiff, artificial feel. A stuffy bio can affect your personal brand and your executive reputation. It’s always better to write your bio yourself, even if it takes several drafts.

You want your executive biography to read like a networking introduction and represent you authentically and sincerely. Include a professional headshot to help maintain the human element, which is essential for you to make a connection with your readers. 

However, you may want to look around at other executive bios to get ideas of how to approach them. You may want to search for people with similar positions or career paths. Just make sure you don't cut and paste or lift from their work. Always be yourself.

Need a little push? You can find free bio template downloads here

Read it aloud.

When you get a solid draft down, read it aloud and see if it feels natural, like it’s written in your own voice. Listen to the flow. A good rule is that if you have to catch your breath, a sentence might be too long. Check for typos and grammatical errors and make sure there aren't any run-on sentences or never-ending paragraphs.

Ask a colleague or someone who knows you to read it and give you feedback. Your bio should not sound like a resume or a bullet-point list of accomplishments but rather a conversational introduction in the third person – as if you were introducing an accomplished friend to the boss of an organization you think should hire them.

Address Any Online Issues.

Take a look at the Google results for your name. Is there anything there that you’d like to address? Is anything missing that you wish was there? Your bio is your opportunity to finish that story, as long as the info is appropriate for a professional setting. Think like a recruiter to assess your online profiles and information and use your executive bio to sculpt it.

Writing an Executive Biography FAQs

Is a professional biography the same as a resume?

No. An executive bio is a compelling narrative or story of your professional career, told in a succinct and engaging style. It presents the most relevant information first. Conversely, a resume is a simple overview of your skills that lists your qualifications at a glance to potential employers and is designed to be as skimmable as possible. 

What is a bio for a resume?

Resumes often include a professional bio. This bio will be slightly different than the executive bio you use for marketing, job seeking, and other applications. Most noticeably, it will be shorter. Resumes perform better when they are concise, and your bio should not detract from that. You can include your full bio with your resume, especially if requested, but make sure it is a separate document from your resume.

How long is a professional bio?

Your readers are going to spend seconds with your bio, not minutes. Something as simple as turning a page can be a major turn-off when the reader is hoping for a quick scan to get the info they want, so keep it under one page. This also helps with online placement, where people are quickly glancing at content and text.


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