How do you write a professional bio? That’s a great question that doesn’t have a simple answer. Don’t worry though, writing a bio for your career or your business isn’t hard. There are just a few considerations that should go into constructing your professional biography.
Professional Bio Format
One of the most common questions on this topic is how to format a professional bio. Again, there is no perfect answer that applies to all situations. Bios will differ based on audience and purpose. As an example of the difference in audience, a bio for military or government work will differ greatly from a bio for an actor or screenwriter. In the first example, prospective employers will be looking for sharp concise documentation of relevant experience, whereas the Hollywood bio will be much more informal.
Format also varies depending on what you intend to use them for. A bio written for a prospective employer will be written slightly different than one for your personal website. In one, you are speaking to someone you want to hire you, and in the other you are speaking to a potential consumer. Each are looking for different things, so your bio needs to reflect this.
While there are variations in format as discussed above, there are certain ground rules that generally apply. These may not apply to 100 percent of situations, but think of them as best practices.
Formatting Your Bio
- Format for readability. Use standard font and alignment. Block formatting is your friend.
- Don’t double-space except between paragraphs. In fact, these days there is rarely a reason to double space anything.
- Use the third person. “Victor received an MBA from Stanford University.” Not “I received my MBA…”
- The first line should answer the ‘who’ and ‘what.’ Begin with your name and what you do. Example: “Andrea is a digital marketing professional with 12 years of experience in SEO and web design.”
- List your highlights but don’t get too wordy. Avoid unnecessary information.
- Consider ending with a personal fact that shows your human side rather than just a list of accomplishments. Example: “When he’s not hard at work on the sales floor, David enjoys hiking, camping, and playing fetch with his dog Phylis.” Or “In her free time, Diana loves to read and spend time with her husband Matthew and their two daughters Jessica and Nicole.”
The above is, of course, a general guideline, but it’s a great place to start. Now let’s take a look at style.
Professional Bio Styles
Style is another aspect of writing a biography that varies quite a bit. A lot of this comes down to personal preference, but it’s good to look at your options. Some bios have large headings and color schemes, some are more minimalistic in nature. Some are written like an official business letter while others are more like a personal letter (perhaps even written in first person. Gasp.) It all depends on your audience and your goals.
Style can be broken down into two main categories. Appearance and tone. I could make several good arguments why visual style is far as important than tone. However, imagine you are in charge of hiring for a corporation and you have a large number of applicants for a single position. You have a stack of corporate bios on your desk. You get fatigued looking at page after page of text, but then one in the pile has a splash of color and a unique heading. You are probably going to remember that one more than bio number 17 that looked just like the 16 before it.
So, you’ve got your formatting and visuals all planned out, so now what are you going to say and how are you going to say it. This is where tone is important. Think of tone as how you talk based on who you are talking to. You probably wouldn’t speak to your boss the same way you would to a small child (at least I wouldn’t recommend it.) Writing a bio works the same way. Again, I will use Hollywood as an example. This is an industry that is known to be very casual in their communications. When sending query letters to studios or agents, overly technical “resume speak” can hurt you more than a warm friendly tone like you are emailing a friend. On the other hand, if your trying to get a job with the FBI and you send a cover letter that opens with “Hey Greg.” You are probably not going to be teaming up with Moulder and Scully anytime soon.
Finding the right style for a professional bio is essentially about knowing your audience and how to best present yourself to them. Here’s a few things to consider.
- Is the audience a potential employer or potential customer? Perhaps both?
- What reading level is your target audience? (Overly simple or complex writing can hurt you.)
- Use professional language even if it’s a casual tone.
- Avoid slang.
- Sell yourself but don’t sound like a salesman.
Hopefully, this guide will help you in better understanding how to format a professional bio.
Not up to tackling your bio yourself? Want a professional writer’s touch? I’m available to help.