Individuals applying to C-level positions must have excellent resumes that speak to their personal brands and their unique qualifications. An equally important marketing document remains the executive biography, which serves as a complement to the resume. While a resume is more of a formal document, the biography allows people to flesh out their experience and represent themselves in more depth.
The branded biography should tell a story about the person, revealing what he or she stands for and the unique perspective that he or she brings to a company. C-level candidates should think of the executive biography as a way of showing their “softer” leadership skills and personalizing the information presented in the resume by reinforcing the dynamic, engaging story behind it.
The following tips can help individuals ensure that they have executive bios truly worthy of a C-level position:
- Write in an engaging, authentic voice.
While a candidate’s voice can shine through in some degree on a resume, the bio is the space for writing in a truly authentic voice that engages the audience. This voice should reinforce the candidate’s brand by expanding on short vignettes from his or her professional history. When people read the bio, they should feel compelled to keep reading to learn more about the candidate. If the document lacks excitement, candidates should try to inject more personal style and voice into the text.
- Pulls readers in with the very first paragraph.
The first sentence (and arguably the entire opening paragraph) is the most important part of the executive bio. This introduction pulls the reader into the story and captures their attention. If the beginning of the bio does not engage the reader, he or she will not likely read it to the end—or worse—he or she may come to associate boredom with the candidate.
To capture readers’ attention, C-level candidates may want to lead with a particularly compelling story, a somewhat controversial statement that they defend or explain through their experience, or a concise description of their personal brand.
- Allude to life outside of the office.
The executive bio provides much more opportunity than the resume to talk about experiences outside of one’s professional life. By relating stories from community involvement and volunteering activities, candidates can present themselves as more three-dimensional and thus appeal to decision-makers on a deeper level. Some people even choose to include personal information about their spouse or their children or tidbits about their passions and hobbies at the end of the executive bio. Information about ones’ passions can create an instant connection with people who share similar interests. If candidates include this information, they should relate these items to their brand or their professional achievements rather than listing them at random.
- Make the document visually appealing.
While most people format executive biographies in paragraph form, dense blocks of text can be off-putting. Candidates should be sure to break up longer paragraphs so that each consists only of just a few sentences. Further, paragraphs should be spaced out on the page in a way that encourages reading. For brand consistency, many people format the bio in a way that directly resembles the resume. Candidates can improve their bio’s readability by including subheadings, which are also great way to include more keywords.
- Write different versions of the bio.
Executive bios can be used on about pages on personal websites or social media networks. They can also accompany an application as part of the candidate’s marketing materials. Like all such content, though, these bios should be tailored to the position the candidate is applying for or the ultimate destination of the bio. By creating a few different versions of the bio to begin with, candidates can have several different options to choose from and save themselves time later in the application process. Of course, if none of the available versions sufficiently match the position, individuals should still spend time revising rather than choosing the one that most closely matches.
- Highlight leadership wherever possible.
The element that sets C-level executives apart from other managers is excellent leadership, and the narrative format of an executive bio can describe this quality more fully than a resume can. The bio should contain several stories that demonstrate excellent leadership, including any time the candidate experienced a “first” in his or her career. For example, people should list the times when they were the first to implement a certain technology or the first to achieve certain sales records. These instances create the portrait of a leader.
- Include industry-related awards or honors.
While resumes list relevant awards and honors , the executive bio provides space for examining these accolades in more detail. Individuals should explain what they did to earn the recognition and what it meant for them professionally. For example, did the recognition inspire them to take more risks and become more innovative? Did an unexpected award encourage them to take a different career path? Touching on the impact of an award demonstrates critical thinking and self-awareness.