If you’re a candidate for C-suite, Partner, or Board roles, you’ll be asked for a bio as part of the process. For some roles reporting to the C-suite, you may need a bio as well. Employers evaluating your candidacy want to see how your career story will look to prospective investors, clients, and employees when shared publicly. For more junior roles, a bio is usually not worth prioritizing, except when your story is especially unusual or compelling.
To create a resonant bio, write it in the third person and tell an impressive, concise story of your career accomplishments and personal qualities. Since your resume serves a different goal – to make the business case for an interview – it’s generally much longer and more comprehensive than a bio. Ideally, you’ll want to include all the elements of the bio on one nicely formatted page. If you can’t tell your story on one page, your bio is likely too detailed (and therefore less interesting), or contains irrelevant or redundant information.
Your bio should include these elements:
An impressive photo enables a prospective employer to visualize how you would represent the organization. Dress like you’re going to a business meeting, smile into the camera (that is, at the reader), and convey an image that subtly says, “I’m someone with whom you’ll want to do business.”
A short statement summarizing your relevant experience
This statement, comprising one to three short sentences, lets readers quickly understand your responsibilities within an organization. For example, “Global Chief Operating Officer at X Company. Previously the Division Executive at Y Company. Board roles have included A Corporation and B Non-Profit.”
A short statement that differentiates you
List one or two differentiators in one or two short sentences: “Global COO and Board Director with experience in M&A and Business Transformations. Achieved over $100 million in savings across career, while creating a foundation for rapid revenue growth in every leadership role.” This statement should mirror the opening of your networking or interviewing pitch.
A list of key words and phrases
Use this section of the bio to quickly convey essential information in a brief scan of your document. Create a table or text box that groups these keywords and key phrases with headings such as “Areas of Expertise,” “Industry Experience,” and “Board Service.”
The Bio itself
The best bios are between 280 and 340 words in length, and five to seven short paragraphs. You want the bio to tell a compelling story about the value you’ve added in your career. To that end, write the first sentence of each paragraph so that if they were strung together, they would create a nice summary. In the example below, each of the six sentences leads off a sequence of six paragraphs.
Armando is the Global Chief Marketing Officer at WellKnownCo. A trusted advisor to the CEO and Boards, Armando is known for developing strategies that led to market share and profitability gains. Armando’s financial markets knowledge is founded on a 30-year Wall Street career, including 20 years leading Sales, Marketing, and Private Banking divisions. A sought after thought leader, Armando has been a featured speaker at three of the largest global financial services marketing conferences, including X. As a CMO guided by DEI principals, Armando has been recognized for “inspiring” leadership and the building of world-class teams at three organizations. Armando’s board experience includes two Board Director roles at X and Y.
Use the following as 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
You may also want to bold key phrases in each paragraph, so readers can quickly scan the bio to get a sense of what you offer. Be sure to bold words and phrases very selectively. Otherwise, you diminish the impact of bolding as well as the visual appeal of your bio.
Follow these guidelines and you’ll create a bio that will get you noticed!