At some point, many people will require a professional (or executive) biography. This is more or less exactly what it sounds like – an overview of your professional career that hits all of the major points. An executive biography is very similar, but just tailored for more executive-level personnel with maybe higher-level language and more of a focus on executive leadership. But how do you build such a biography? What information should you include or not include? Here are some quick tips on developing a straightforward professional or executive biography.
Keep Things Concise: Be Specific Without Going in the Weeds
Professional and executive bios should be only one-page long 99.99% of the time. In fact, they normally shouldn’t even fill up a whole page, as they’re written in almost entirely straightforward text, and a full page of text in size 9-10 font could be close to 800 words – entirely too much for most people to want to read. Therefore, you need to be concise in a professional biography, not spending more than a paragraph on any one role or position, and not talking about every single achievement you have accomplished or skill you grasp.
On the other hand, you do want to be specific. Be sure to call out career wins, whether it be in some kind of award, a particular accomplishment, or a quality that you want to emphasize you possess. If the biography is too general, such as “Possessing great leadership across career at multiple positions and companies” or “Consistently achieved superior sales numbers”, you really won’t be telling your readers much of anything at all. Thus, you need to strike a fine balance between including some more specific wins and abilities while not bogging the biography down by being too granular.
Decide How Personal You Want to Be
A “regular” biography is obviously personal – you don’t write hundreds of pages about yourself (or someone else) without getting personal. A professional biography, obviously, is different, as real estate on the page is limited, and it’s for a professional purpose. However, you can decide how personal you want the professional biography to be. Many people don’t include anything personal at all – just work experience, achievements, skills, and education and other qualifications. Others might have a line about where they live, or maybe relevant hobbies that humanize them. Such personal information is ok, especially if it’s at the very bottom of the document. You have to decide whether to include that information depending on the purpose of the bio (for publishing on a company website, sending to conferences as a descriptor, providing as a supplementary job application material, etc.). We don’t recommend including more than a line or two, but that amount of information on a more personal level can be a positive depending on the situation.
Include All Relevant Information
This may seem contradictory to the first point, but it isn’t. Even if you only very briefly hit on some items, you should almost always make sure to include anything that could be relevant. This would include all higher education degrees, critical certifications or licensure, and even key affiliations or memberships. This information usually goes at the bottom of the biography, as it’s less important than professional experience and achievements most of the time, but it should be there. Additionally, you don’t have to go back to the 1980s on your biography or include irrelevant content, but unlike on a resume, you’re probably not going to be dating yourself as much on a biography, so including significant experiences that are much older is more allowable. If you had a role in the early 1990s that was a career highlight or important to your professional development, you can absolutely mention that in the bio.
Maintain Straightforward Formatting
Much like with a resume or cover letter, professional biographies should not have any fancy graphics, wild designs, or lots of color. It’s more acceptable to have such things on a biography than on a resume, as biographies don’t have to pass through applicant tracking systems (ATS), but still, a biography should generally be a single column, top-down, black-and-white document with few frills. One big difference is that a headshot on a summary can be okay, whereas it’s taboo on resumes in the US. On the whole, however, a simple format in alignment with your resume (same font type and size ideally) is best.