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business person writing executive bioYour senior executive bio shapes first impressions of you and your company. It’s a critically important marketing tool that sells you and your competence at your job.

A strong executive biography written in the correct style and format will positively reflect who you are and what you have accomplished in your career.

Here are  9 important points to consider when writing your executive bio.

1. Determine your target audience and what you are “selling” them

Your executive bio is selling a product, and that product is you. So be sure to highlight the features that will be of interest to your target audience (yes, this means that you will have more than one version of your bio).

If your target audience is prospective investors, you might be selling them on your entrepreneurial vision coupled with fiscal responsibility.

On the other hand, if your target audience is industry experts at a conference, you will want to write a short summary of your professional qualifications and recent accomplishments.

If your target audience is your daughter’s high school career planning class, you might emphasize the educational requirements of your type of work.

2. Begin with a clear statement of your current position

You’d be surprised how often I read to the end of a professional bio only to scratch my head and ask “what job do they actually do?” So begin with a clear statement of your current position.

__________ (your name) is the/a/an __________ (your job title, e.g. Chief Operating Officer; Regional Sales Executive) at _________ (your company or organization), with responsibility for __________ (your overall responsibility).

Another way to word it:

__________ (your name) is the __________ (your job title) at _________ (your company or organization), a _______________ (description of the company, e.g. a full-service public relations firm serving X industry).

3. Be strategic with what you include

What you decide to include and exclude speaks volumes about what you think is important. For example, if you include information about job advancement but fail to mention community and industry involvement, it implies that you don’t get involved in anything outside the office. This is not necessarily a bad thing if that is what you want to convey; just be aware of the impression you are leaving.

Here is one way to write the community and industry involvement section of your bio:

He/she is a member of the __________________ (names of organizations you belong to e.g. United Way; International Executive Service Corps; [local] Chamber of Commerce) and has served as the ___________________ (position name, e.g. president, chairperson) of the ________________ (name of committee or board). He/she has also done voluntary work for ________________ (name of organization) and has initiated community programs such as ___________________ (name of initiative).

4. Choose your writing style carefully

The writing style you use gives an impression of your own style. Remember, most people reading your executive bio have not met you yet. All they know of you is what they glean from the written page.

Think of it this way: formal language implies a formal person. Poor grammar suggests an uneducated person. Jargon and big words gives the impression of someone who is more interested in impressing others than in communicating clearly.

Fortunately, writing style is one of the easiest bio writing challenges to overcome. Ask the best writer you know to edit your bio, or consider using a professionally written executive bio template to ensure your bio uses the correct style and format.

5. When in doubt, leave it out

The most common mistake people make when writing a professional bio is to make it too long. To begin, write out everything that you think is important. Then go through your bio with a red pen and edit ruthlessly. Cut out anything that does not add value. For every piece of information, ask yourself  “is this really necessary?”

6. Use numbers

Provide data to validate your successes. Do you have any hard numbers on percentage of growth? Market share? Dollar volume? Put this data in context by contrasting it against previous results or larger industry trends. For example:

Under ______’s (your name) leadership, __________ (company or division name) grew from/achieved/improved (choose one of the foregoing) ___________ (quantifiable business result you achieved).

7. Include links to supporting material

In your online biography, you have the opportunity to link to supporting material such as client lists, white papers, magazine articles or interviews. Put that material on dedicated pages on your website, and link to it. You can also link to your executive resume or cv if you think readers will be looking for a complete work history.

8. Include personal information strategically

Although personal information is optional in a professional bio, I recommend including it in a strategic manner.

  • Are you married with children? This suggests stability and trustworthiness, so leverage it.
  • Do you run marathons? That conveys determination, commitment and energy.
  • Play the cello? You have an artistic side, and an appreciation for aesthetics.
  • Scuba dive with sharks? You’re an idiot (just joking).

Including a bit of personal information humanizes you, creates connection, and subtly reinforces your best qualities.  Don’t forget to mix in impressive life experiences, such as military service or a Peace Corps stint.

If you decide to include personal information in your professional bio, keep it brief and place it at the end of your bio.  Here’s an easy fill-in-the-blanks template for writing the personal information section of an executive biography:

___________________ (your name) lives in ________________ (where you live) with his/her ____________ (wife; husband; partner) ___________ (OPTIONAL: name of significant other) and their ___________ (number) _____________ (children; cats; dogs). When not working,  __________ (your name) enjoys  ______________ (your hobbies).  ________________ (your name) can be reached at _________________ (your email address or web site).

9. Skip anything that doesn’t give the best impression

Unlike a resume, a professional bio doesn’t have to address your entire career history. If there’s something you want to leave out, go ahead! Remember, it’s a marketing document so just include the things that put you in the best light.

A common question I get is “I don’t have a degree. How do I handle that in my bio?” The answer is, just leave it out. You don’t have to address education if you don’t want to.

However, if you’ve completed some post-secondary courses but didn’t get a degree, you can use the time-honored strategy of “studied at”. To do that, simply write “_________ (your name) studied at X college” instead of “_______ (your name) received a degree from X college”.

Here’s a sample bio that you can use as a template for writing your short biography. This biography example is for a Chief Marketing Officer, but it could be modified to write a bio for any type of management or marketing position.

John Smith is Chief Marketing Officer at Handry Technologies, with responsibility for marketing programs, brand management, and corporate sponsorships. Prior to joining Handry Technologies, he worked in strategic business development and marketing at several companies, and served in staff positions in state government. Notable is his four years as Vice President of Business Development for Klinen Katz, where he directed major sponsorship and other partnering initiatives.

John’s greatest strengths are his creativity, drive and leadership. He thrives on challenges, particularly those that expand the company’s reach. His most recent project involved a strategic partnership with Jasmine International to bring Handry’s core services to the fast-growing Asia-Pacific market. This resulted in annual revenue of $16 million.

In 1998 John was recognized with the Business Person of the Year Award by the National Graphic Arts Network (NGAN) for outstanding achievement in visual communication. Other honors include being nominated for the prestigious Sunbar Award from the International Graphic Arts Education Association (IGAEA) and being named one of the Dallas Business Journal Top 40 Under 40 in 2003. John is also a frequent and highly rated speaker on industry related topics.

John is past chairman of the board of directors of the National Marketing Association and a member of the advisory board of the New Media Forum. He has also done volunteer work for the United Way, including heading up the 2004 campaign in his community.

John holds a bachelors degree from Stanford University and an MBA from Washington in St. Louis. He lives in Dallas with his wife, their three children and two cranky cats. In his free time, John likes to race sports cars and is a high-performance driving instructor.