Not Sure How to Write Your Professional Bio? Ask These 5 Questions

You’ve just read an impressive bio. It was succinct, smooth, and made you want to do business with the subject. Now you realize your own bio needs a rewrite. That was so simple, you think to yourself. I can write a bio like that!

So you sit down to write and…{POW!}…bump right into a wall of writer’s block.

Sound about right?  Writing a bio is hard. Writing your own can seem impossible.

Using the concept of the 5 W’s—who, what, when, where, why—here’s how to approach it:

Who?

Who are you? The whole point of a bio is to describe you, right? Of course it is! But you also need to know who you’re writing to. If you’re presenting yourself as a prospective employee to golf ball manufacturers, you probably don’t want to go on at length about your love of toasted marshmallows. HR may find it irritating or frivolous, and it may cost you the interview. On the other hand, if you’re targeting the luxury glamping industry, then a short paragraph on the perfect gourmet s’mores is perfectly in order. In fact, it might be the clincher that gets you the job.

Before you write anything, ask yourself these who questions:

  • Who will read this bio? (Golf ball manufacturers.)
  • Who do I hope to hear back from? (Staffing managers in the golf ball industry.)
  • Who cares? (Or rather, how can I make the reader of my bio care about hiring me?) (Address their pain point.)

You must own the answer to the question: “Who am I writing to?”

What?

What, exactly, is the most important bit of information you want your audience to know about you? What do you bring to the table? Think about that one type of person who can give you everything you’re looking for and, in three sentences or less, tell that person exactly what they need to know in order to give you a yes.

  • What do you do? (“I paint golf balls so they’re easy to find in the grass.”)
  • What awards or accomplishments do you want to highlight? (“I won the Golf Ball Design Award for Highest Visibility and Most Popular Style for four consecutive years.”)
  • What do you want to sound like? (Be sure to adopt the right tone, voice, and POV.)

Third person point of view is hands-down the most professional and compelling for business. First person, on the other hand, can be a crapshoot: it’s either profoundly funny and engaging or a totally lame disaster. If you’re engaging and you know it, use the first person and have fun. If you only think you’re engaging, stick with the more professional third person until you know for sure.

When?

  • When did you become whatever you are? (I’ve been painting golf balls since 1992.)
  • When did you do that spectacular thing you want everyone to know about? (I once painted a golf ball for Tiger Woods.)

You can use dates to indicate when you graduated from college if you want to be on-the-nose, or you can blur the line a bit by calling out an event that taught you the necessary skill set to do this thing you now do.

If you don’t have a degree, don’t get hung up on it. Bypass that hurdle by using language that briefly proves your ability to do the job. Remember, the goal of a bio is to play up your strengths, not harp on your losses. By the way, it’s totally ok not to have a degree—just ask Richard Branson, Sean Parker, and Paul Mitchell.

Where?

  • Where have you worked/volunteered/done spectacular things? (“I’ve designed balls for such multinational conglomerates as Golf Balls ‘R Us, Build-A-Golf Ball, and Just Balls.”)
  • Where did you learn your craft? (I was apprenticed to the Father of Golf Balls.)
  • And…where will your bio appear?

Since bios are displayed on various platforms with different audiences and word count restrictions, it’s a good idea to have more than one ready to go. Your tone should reflect the specific audience of each platform. But remember, you’re not talking to everyone, just your ideal type of person through the lens of the persona they would use in that same space: funny or irreverent on Twitter; polished on LinkedIn. And keep word count limits in mind. You can find them here.

Why?

Describe your passion, raison d’etre, or money-grubbing goal. Whatever drives you, mention it. If you’re trying to get hired, use an appropriate tone of voice. If you’re selling a product, that’s a different tone. Looking to gain a follower? Attract an investor? Find a spouse? All different tones. Knowing why you’re writing this thing will help you arrive at the how.

What Else?

What personal/funny/interesting thing describes or defines the real you outside of the 9-to-5? Go ahead, briefly mention your nightly marshmallow and brandy on toast routine. It will humanize you and possibly even start a conversation with the people you’d most like to meet.

 

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