WorkingLife

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.

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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2016, with the headline 'Writing a good bio can get you a better job '. Print Edition | Subscribe