An executive bio is an essential business and branding tool. It tells your story—your achievements, goals, and values—as engagingly as possible. It’s an ideal tool when you need to introduce yourself to people who don’t know you.
It’s also a vital way to build and maintain your personal brand. With social media so ubiquitous, without personal branding materials, you can’t influence popular perceptions.
Consider your executive bio as an introduction, as well as an advertisement for you. Just like any ad, it’s meant to be read, from the opening words to the end.
Each bio is created for a specific audience. If you have more than one audience you can craft several versions of your bio. You may have one version to accompany your résumé, another for LinkedIn, and yet another for the cover of a book you’ve written.
Your executive bio and your résumé: what’s the difference?
The terms résumé and CV (curriculum vitae) are often used interchangeably. They’re factual summaries of your education, employment, and skills, usually a page or two in length, created when you’re applying for a job.
A résumé is targeted to an employer, and emphasizes those elements of your background which are most relevant to the position you want. As stated, a résumé is factual, without embellishments; it often contains specific keywords and skills, so that it can be found online, or via a company’s applicant tracking app.
An executive bio on the other hand, tells a story about you. Unlike a résumé, it’s written to entertain, as well as inform. Although it’s written in the third person (you refer to yourself as “Jill Smith”, rather than “I”) an executive bio is written conversationally: it sounds like your voice.
Write your executive bio in four steps
Your goal: to be entertaining, informative, and get results.
What about length? Consider a specific audience, where you’ll use it (printed? online? downloadable PDF?), as well as what you want to convey.
Aim for 800 to 1,000 words, initially. Although it’s a challenge to hold attention at this length, it’s easy to edit it down to shorter lengths for different purposes. You might use the longer length on a website, for example.
1. Who are you? Think differently
You’re used to thinking of your accomplishments in a certain way; a résumé-like way. Perhaps you brought in five new accounts in a month; increased your company’s revenues over the past three quarters, etc.
- Tone—conversational—almost chatty. Aim to sound like yourself.
- Third person, because you’re crafting a biography, rather than an autobiography. But do it your way: if first person (“I”) sounds right for your audience, use it.
2. You in brief: about you in 25 words or less
Start with a brief summary of who you are.
The fewer words the better.
David Meerman Scott uses 28 words in his header graphic. Gary Vaynerchuk uses a short list in his header graphic: a capsule summary of just 15 words.
While remembering your audience, sum yourself up in a few words.
3. Tell stories to engage your readers’ imagination
I enjoy Seth Godin’s blog, as do many others, because he tells lots of little stories which stick in your brain, because they trigger your imagination, and emotion.
Emotion enhances memory. So if you’d like your executive bio to stand out from others’, use little stories.
Think in terms of (very short) anecdotes:
- “When Jill Smith’s grandfather pointed out…”
- “When she worked for…”
- “When Jill read that…”
Shave these little stories ruthlessly: just the gist, please.
4. All done? End with a call to action (CTA)
End with a CTA: be clear on what action you’d like readers to take. For example, if you’re sending your executive bio to accompany a résumé, your CTA can be brief: “contact Jill Smith at…”
On the other hand, if it will be posted online, consider sending readers to a form they can fill in, or to a number they can call. A QR code can be useful too.
Write, revise, and get opinions
Check others’ executive bios, but use your own format and style so it’s powerful, and reflects you and what you want from it.
Once you’ve created it, you can rework your executive bio for any audience you choose. Use it as a foundation for online profiles, About pages, and social media profiles.
If you have a press/ media package, add your bio to that as well.
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