Writing a good bio can get you a better job

Working adults should invest in creating an updated, professional bio in addition to their resumes, which can be an important stepping stone towards getting them their dream job, experts say.

However, most people do not pay enough attention to writing bios - the much shorter version of resumes, Harvard Business Review wrote in a study, calling the lack of a professional bio a "pretty big missed opportunity".

Author Meredith Fineman wrote in the Review: "Your bio is a strategic play... which can get you hired, gain visibility and win you serious respect."

Bios are a concise version of a resume or online profile focused on bolstering credibility, and should be a crisp summary to convey a person's background and interests, public speaker Lisa B. Marshall wrote in a recent article.

She said a full bio - starting with skills, then experience and ending with hobbies and a photograph - is the perfect way to give the reader one's credentials in a quick and effective way.

The idea was shared in the Review study as well.

Ms Fineman wrote in the Review: "If (the reader) cannot figure out who you are in 30 seconds, you've lost your chance."

She added that different bios on multiple profile pages need to be the same.

The Review also listed common mistakes working professionals make in writing a bio, with inconsistency high on the list.

Syntax errors, stale and boring information or not linking to one's work are other common mistakes of bio-writing, she said.

16 resume mistakes you didn't know you were making

  • Some employers don't even care about your grades because most of them are experienced enough to know that how you perform on paper might not translate to how you perform in real life.
    Most subjects you studied in school would probably not be relevant to the execution of a job anyway. What recruiters care about is your ability to work.
  • Unless you are a fresh graduate, you should have a lot more information for your future employers to look through. While you shouldn't churn out a novel, make sure your resume shows the range of your experience and how it can apply to the position you wish to apply for.
  • Employers want to know how your experience has helped you reach achievements. Relate one to the other instead of listing them in different sections.
  • Some work experiences can be left out, especially if they are irrelevant to the job you are applying for. For instance, you can drop out the bit about working as a valet parking driver 20 years ago if you are applying for a management job in the engineering field.
  • Always target your resumes to specific jobs at specific companies. This will allow you to show your knowledge of the company, and forces you to do research on the job you are applying for.
  • More and more employers are going online to check out their job applicants. Having an online presence will increase your chances of getting noticed, especially among hirers that are looking only at online resources for information.
  • You can have an online presence for your professional career, so that hirers can check out more details of your experience or portfolio online. Always include a link to your LinkedIn profile.
  • Being completely honest in your resume will save you the embarrassment of getting found out in the future.
  • If you are submitting your resume online, saving it in word document format could be best. This allows hirers to find your resume by doing keyword searches. Words in PDF formats may not always get picked up, hence making your profile invisible to hirers.
  • A good resume may get you a job interview, but what is required to nail that job is a great interview. Make sure you are well prepared in both areas.
  • The details matter. How you present yourself to the hirer is important and you should take pride in it. Check your resume multiple times before sending it off. If possible, get someone else to help check through it too. Don't just do a computer grammar and spellcheck but go through each word manually too.
  • Whether it is online or via snail mail, having a photograph helps you connect with the hirer at a more emotional level. It shows you can present yourself well (use a proper photo), and gives the hirer an image of the person he/is is reviewing.
  • If you simply include your current and past position titles, hirers are forced to imagine what you did in your previous jobs. Always tell the hirer what your responsibilities and job scope was, instead of assuming that he/she would know what the job of 'Manager' entailed.
  • Sure, LinkedIn is getting increasingly important. However, LinkedIn is only a way to get you noticed. You still need a good resume on paper to explain more about your experiences. Perfecting your LinkedIn profile will not guarantee you a job interview, so make sure you have a good resume prepared when hirers request for one.
  • Formatting and graphics are important. While you shouldn't crowd your resume with pictures, if there is a better way of showing off your achievements through graphics, include it in your online portfolio. Also, make sure you format you resume on paper so that iti s not dull to read.
  • Give your hirers a few options of contacting you. This can be by phone, email, mail or social media. Of course, make sure you check these accounts regularly enough. If you can't keep up, just list the ones you check at least a few times a day.

Ms Fineman said it is important to revisit the bio page every six months to change and add what other experience the professional has accrued, and suggested setting a recurring calendar as a reminder.

Professionals also need to keep their typical audience in mind while creating bios, Ms Marshall wrote in quickanddirtytips.com.

"Avoid high-level 'buzz words' that carry little meaning. Use clear, specific functional terms like 'acquisitions' or 'new product development' et cetera," she wrote.

"Choose key words that are understood and desired in your field."

She also recommended creating bios of three different lengths - a full bio of maximum one page, a short bio of 75 words and a mini-bio of one or two sentences - to serve different purposes.

In the Review, Ms Fineman said the short bio can serve as a default bio, while the mini-bio can go under the byline or panel description.

She also suggested cutting out the use of passive voice or weak verbs in the bio, which may downplay a person's achievements. Referring to oneself by the first name in the write-up is also discouraged.

Lastly, the two writers suggested finishing the bio with some information outside of business.

Ms Marshall said: "Unlike a resume, it's okay to sprinkle in some personal colour.

"This helps people to see you as a more rounded individual."

An example is including a mention of charity or voluntary work undertaken by the writer.

She added: "Finally, although not technically part of the bio, you almost always need at least one professional photo of yourself.

"Make sure the whole presentation - from cover letter to bio to picture - makes a concise, clear and compelling summary."

13 of the most creative resumes ever

  • A woman who was hoping to get the attention of hirers at two big advertising firms was aware of the competition she was facing.
  • Known only as Leah, she explained on her webpage that she was looking for a job in accounts servicing.
  • She then flexed her creativity muscles and came up with an original idea which could incorporate her love for Lego bricks as well as express her ability to excel in the advertising world.
  • Although she has not revealed if she received calls back for an interview at the agencies yet, Leah's Lego resume and model have already won the hearts of many people online.
  • Job applicants looking to stand out from the crowd may now have to up their game and think of ways to impress their future employers with resumes that do more than list a range of things they are good at doing.
  • It seems that more and more job seekers are trying to catch and hold the attention of hirers with increasingly creative, well-packaged and interactive resumes.
  • New York graphic designer Robby Leonardi's Super Mario resume is the latest in a string of resumes which have gone viral over the Internet in recent years
  • Leonardi, a graphic designer at Fox News, decided to create a game-like interface for his online resume.
  • Not only does the protagonist in the game jump and swim, he also goes through several levels which depict his achievements with cutesy graphs, characters and lists.
  • As a result, the resume not only tells a potential employer how talented he is, it also proves it.
  • He includes a cute animation to introduce himself as a basketball fan.
  • The character dives into the ocean for Level 2 of the game.
  • Under the sea, the character goes through how proficient Leonardi is in each of his skill sets.
  • Animated sea creatures help to form a graph that show how good he is in each skill.
  • The character then jumps onto land to complete Level 3, where his work experience will be highlighted.
  • When he is done, the character jumps into a hot-air balloon and flies past a list of awards and achievements.
  • He then celebrates the end of his resume.
  • Earlier this year, web product manager Philippe Dubost also got the attention of netizens and hirers worldwide when he created a resume resembling an Amazon product page.
  • To help guide the reader, Dubost included his strengths and attributes in Amazon-themed sections such as shipping availability, product reviews and product description.
  • A woman who applied for a job at a LEGO website built a LEGO model version of the company mascot.
  • Although she did not get the job, Kendra Wiig left a good impression on the employer, who sent her a personal message to say thank you.
  • Nina Mufleh would be the first person to tell you that the "traditional" route of sending resumes did not work out as she'd hoped.
  • Though she had always dreamed of working for Airbnb, her many email applications and responses to job listings failed to lead to anything.
  • Undeterred, she made the decision to go on a full creative offensive to fulfil her dream.
  • Working with a designer, she created a website that presented not only herself but also her ideas on how to improve Airbnb's presence in the Middle East.
  • The clincher? The designer made it look almost exactly like an Airbnb host profile.
  • So not only was she presenting herself, her research and her innovation through the website, she also made sure that Airbnb recognised themselves in her work.
  • She then tweeted the website's URL to the heads of Airbnb, and after an hour, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky tweeted back.
  • An hour later, Chief Marketing Officer Jonathan Mildenhall immediately tweeted saying it was "the best social application" he'd ever seen and that he would set up a meeting.
  • Learning point: If you know what company you really want to work for, prove to them just how much you deserve a role in the company.
  • In Nina Mufleh's case, she did extensive research on the global tourism market.
  • First, she showed what Airbnb needed to develop their presence in the Middle East.
  • Then demonstrated that she was the one who could be a part of that initiative.


This article was first published on Jan 11, 2016.
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