Whether you’re promoting your expertise to a prospect or establishing your credibility with industry organizations or your community, a well-written professional biography (bio) can enhance your reputation. It can also raise awareness about your company in ways that help increase your business’s appeal with prospective employees.
In other words, the right bio can not only strengthen your standing but also that of your company’s brand. Plus, it demonstrates professionalism, which in turn helps promote respect within your field or community.
Yet, while there are plenty of places to learn how to write a resume, cover letter or curriculum vitae, it can be hard to know what to put into a bio – and what to leave out.
That’s why we’ve created this guide, which is designed to help you better:
- Understand where and when a professional bio may be needed
- Grasp what you need to know to get started writing one
- Learn how to craft a compelling, professional bio
- Begin integrating your bio into appropriate places to enhance your personal, professional and employer brands
Ready? Let’s get started.
General tips for a professional bio
One of the biggest mistakes people make when writing about themselves professionally is that they use too many words. Granted, some fields require longer-form bios. Typically, however, brevity makes one more memorable. And being memorable is the cornerstone of any overall effective communication strategy.
That brings up an important question: Where might one use a bio?
Some examples of when and where having a bio can be useful:
- On your company web page(s) or your personal LinkedIn page
- On a PowerPoint deck when presenting to a prospective client
- As part of promotional materials for a webinar or podcast in which you’re sharing your expertise
- In promotional or collateral material for a work project (e.g., media kit)
- When serving on a nonprofit board or guest speaking at a community event or school
- When nominated for an award or other professional recognition
Frankly and far too often, people are caught off-guard (and unprepared) when a professional bio is requested. This can lead to regrettable typographical, grammatical or factual errors.
And that’s why preparing at least one version of your bio (more on that in a moment) to keep on hand is smart.
The first step to writing your bio is to pull together the right materials. You’ll want to think about what you want or need to include.
To that end, it’s a good idea to review information included in:
- Your most recent resume and cover letter
- Your LinkedIn profile
- Other professional bios from your field, both at your current job level and where you’d like to be in a few years, for benchmarking purposes
Also, it’s wise to take a look at your company’s brand or editorial guidelines. If available, they should be accessible through your marketing or PR department. Crafting your bio to reflect your company’s guidelines may seem like an unnecessary step, but consistency in tone, voice, punctuation and other details can help convey professionalism. If you effectively align your personal and professional brands, that might further enhance your company’s appeal.
Specifically, in relation to your company’s editorial guidelines, pay close attention to the following types of rules:
- How job titles are treated with regard to capitalization
- Typically, either the first letter of every word will be uppercase, or all of the words in the title will be lowercase (e.g., Senior Vice President or senior vice president)
- Whether or not an ampersand (“&”) is an acceptable substitute for “and”
- If your company is trademarked, should you use the registration mark on every mention of the name – or only on first mention
- Any words or phrases that staff are encouraged to avoid for legal or brand reasons
You’ll also want to confirm if your company uses a well-known style guide (a.k.a. a manual of style). This is important because, as you’re developing your bio, you may run into questions not covered by the editorial guides. Some smaller companies rely entirely upon one style guide (e.g., AP, Chicago, CSE or Bluebook). Larger organizations may have complex, custom style guides. More commonly, businesses use one well-known guide and then have a few exceptions to the rules, which are often considered part of the company’s in-house style sheet.
Drafting your professional bio
Additional points to consider when drafting a bio:
- When referencing a college, university, company or organization, make sure to spell and capitalize it in accordance with their official brand.
- For example, The University of Texas at Austin and The Ohio State University are the school’s full legal names – with a capitalized “The.”
- In some instances, it may make sense to include degree or certification abbreviations (Ph.D., M.B.A.) after one’s name.
- A good rule of thumb: Consider who will read your bio and whether the abbreviations will hold meaning for them.
- Wanting to inject a little humor into your bio? Success in so doing depends on your personal brand, your company’s brand and the context in which your bio may appear. It also depends upon your field’s norms. In general, however, it’s better to play it safe with humor – and refrain from using it unless you’re confident that it won’t backfire on you. (The same is true of mentioning politics, frankly.)
Are you a purple squirrel? An elusive workplace unicorn? Note that you need not belabor your exceptionalism through a lengthy bio. In fact, coming on too strong may be off-putting to prospects, clients or colleagues. Try to strike a delicate balance between sharing your notable accomplishments with the essentials the reader needs to know, in the context of which the bio might eventually appear.
Generally, whether you’re an up-and-comer with a number of accomplishments or a seasoned professional with a stellar track record, it’s wise to maintain both types of the following bios. This will allow you, if needed, to provide a suitable document, whatever the reason.
For a short bio, keep the writing tight, short and sweet. In a brief paragraph (three to five sentences), focus on sharing:
- Your and your company’s name
- Your title
- Your degree(s), colleges
- Special certifications or awards
- Optional: a brief, relatable personal detail (e.g., hobbies, family, where you grew up)
For a long-form bio, you’ve got a bit more freedom. Consider sharing the same information as the short bio, as well as:
- Summary of professional experience
- Tenure with your company
- Years in the field
- Publications, innovations
- Press mentions
- What you enjoy about your work, your clients
It might be helpful to begin your long-form bio with a bulleted list, which is easier for others to read during a remote presentation. Working with the bullets, you can make a long-form bio that has three to five paragraphs with complete sentences.
Once you’ve put together a draft and edited it a little, run it through spelling and grammar check one more time. At this point, it’s useful to have someone else proofread it. Seek out feedback from colleagues, friends and mentors. If you have access to PR or marketing professionals who are willing to review your bio, that’s good, too.
Summing it all up
As discussed earlier, a professional bio can be of use in a variety of settings. Once you’ve prepared yours, stash a copy in a couple of places (your phone, computer and a printed copy in your desk). This will keep it accessible at all times.
Once you’ve crafted your bio, consider inviting your staff to make their own and file them together. In fact, stockpiling staff bios is an opportunity for you to mentor their development and communication skills – and one more way to demonstrate professionalism in the workplace.
You also might want to share this blog post with them or make professional bio development a team-building activity. In fact, that is a good way to get to know your staff while helping them think through how their respective personal brands interact with your company’s reputation. It certainly signals that you value your employees, which might further your reputation as an employer of choice.
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