A short, professional bio is one of those things most people don't think about until, all of a sudden, we've been asked to "shoot one over via email" and have approximately one afternoon to come up with it.
That's when we scramble.
And when we scramble, our bio ends up reading like this:
Rodney Erickson is a content marketing professional at HubSpot, an inbound marketing and sales platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers. Previously, Rodney worked as a marketing manager for a tech software startup. He graduated with honors from Columbia University with a dual degree in Business Administration and Creative Writing."
... Woof, that was dull. Are you still with me? I swear, not even adding a tidbit about his cats would liven that bio up.
To be fair, in certain contexts, your professional bio does need to be more formal, like Mr. Erickson's up there. But in many cases, writing a bio that's readable -- even conversational -- is actually a really good thing. That means dropping that traditional format of listing your accomplishments like a robot and cramming as much professional-sounding jargon in there as you can.
Remember: The people reading your bio are suffering from information fatigue. If you don't hook 'em in the first line, you'll lose them quickly.
I know what you may be thinking ... So what? It's just a bio.
Why Does Your Professional Bio Matter?
I mean, how many people actually read those things, anyway?
The answer: A lot of people. More importantly, it's important to remember that there's no way to tell exactly who is reading it. You always want to be ready for the right people to come across it. And when they do, you want it to catch their eye -- in a good way.
You see, while your resume is only useful for when you're actively applying for specific positions, your professional bio is much more visible. It can live on your LinkedIn profile, your company's website, your guest blog posts, your speaker profiles, your Twitter bio, and many other places.
And, most importantly, it's the tool that you can leverage most when you're networking.
Bottom line? People will read your professional bio. Whether they remember it, and whether it makes them actually care about you, is a matter of how well you present yourself to your intended audience.
So, what does a top-notch professional bio look like?
Let's take a look at some great examples. We've curated some of the best real professional bio examples we've ever seen online. Check 'em out, and use them as inspiration when crafting your own.
6 of the Best Professional Bio Examples We've Ever Seen
Phil is a real estate broker for the East Boston neighborhood, and he's mastered the art of adding a warm personality to the professional bio on his website.
First, check out the header of his bio: "Promoting positive community and economic growth in our neighborhood."
The header isn't all about him, nor is it a hard sell about his business. Instead, he's chosen to start with a value proposition. Why? Because Phil knows that his value proposition is the core of his competitive advantage. In header text that stands out on the page, he clearly articulates why someone would want to hire him instead of a competitor: This guy doesn't just sell houses to make money; he promotes community and economic growth in the area.
The rest of his bio includes personal touches that make him more human. He does talk about his business history and accomplishments, but he does so while including personal details that invite readers to relate to him as a person.
For instance, he talks about where he's from (a relevant detail for a real estate broker), his love of the water, why he started his business, and how he's committed to the local community. His bio indicates he's friendly and probably a pleasure to work with, which is important for a real estate broker someone would be working with one-on-one.
If you're a marketer, you've likely heard of Ann Handley. Her list of credentials is lengthy, and if she really wanted to, she could go on and on and on about her accomplishments.
But when people list out all their accomplishments in their bios, they risk sounding a little egotistical. Sure, you might impress a handful of people with all those laurels, but many people who read your bio will end up feeling either intimidated or annoyed. Think about it: Is that how you want the majority of your readers to feel when they read your bio?
To minimize the egoism that comes with talking about yourself, think about how you can list out your accomplishments without sounding like you're bragging. Ann does this really well, choosing a tone in her bio that's more approachable.
It starts with the excerpt in the footer of her personal website. Give it a quick read, paying close attention to the opening and closing lines:
"This is Ann Handley's website, and this is a bit of copy about her ... That's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So read more here." This is the kind of simple, friendly language that invites the reader in rather than shutting them out.
Follow the link and you'll be led to a page dedicated to a fuller bio, which she's divided into two parts: a "short version" (literally a bulleted list of key facts) and a "long version," which includes traditional paragraphs. There's something in there for everyone.
U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has different versions of her bio all over the internet. As you can imagine, some are more formal than others. But when it comes to her Twitter bio, she has carefully phrased her bio information in a way that helps her connect with her audience -- specifically, through the use of humor.
Why would she choose humor, especially when she's seeking support for such a, well, serious job? Actually, Hillary's tactic is totally intentional: It's just one of the many levers she and her team are pulling to rebrand her with a fresh image, while maintaining her already impressive, well-established identity.
"In politics, authenticity can be a powerful trait, and it is one that sometimes has escaped Clinton," wrote Philip Rucker and Anne Gearan for the Washington Post. "In her 2008 presidential campaign, despite some raw displays of emotion, she often came across as overly programmed."
That's exactly why Hillary and her team chose to leverage her Twitter bio (among other marketing channels) to help her become more relatable to her fans. And for her audience, it's really worked. The New York Times, for example, called Twitter bios "a postmodern art form."
When crafting your own Twitter bio, consider your audience and the personal brand you're trying to create for yourself. Use it as an opportunity to be relatable. (And check out this list of amusing Twitter bios for inspiration.)
When it all comes down to it, your professional bio is no different than any other piece of persuasive copy -- no matter where it lives. One of the most common mistakes people make is thinking of it as its own beast, separate from other pieces of writing. If you think about it that way, you're far more likely to write something painfully uninteresting.
When you sit down to write your professional bio and you're watching that cursor blinking on the screen, think about how you would introduce a blog post. You don't just dive right into the meat of the thing, now, do you? No. You start with an introduction.
The best bios are often concise (around 200–300 words), so you don't have a lot of room to play around. But a single sentence that tees your reader up and provides context for the accomplishments that follow could make the rest of your bio that much more persuasive.
Take Lena Axelsson's bio, for instance. She's a marriage and family therapist -- a job where empathy and compassion are a big part of the job description. That's why she chooses to open her bio with a great introductory sentence: "When human beings experience trauma or severe life stressors, it is not uncommon for their lives to unravel."
Then, she goes into why she's passionate about her job, how she helps her clients, and how she caters her approach to each individual patient. The necessary educational information is left for the end, after the reader has been hooked.
Your bio doesn't have to be super serious, nor does it have to start with a joke. This bio shows how you can capture your reader's attention by being empathetic or telling a brief story.
Mark Levy is a small business owner who's taken a more traditional approach to the professional bio on his website -- but in a way that takes care to speak to his intended audience.
What we love about his bio is the way he's set it up: On his business' "About" page, he's listed two biographies, which he's labeled "Mark Levy's Biography #1" and "Mark Levy's Biography #2."
Like Ann, Mark's given his readers two different options. The first biography is a "short version," which includes a combination of bullet points listing his credentials and a few short paragraphs.
The second is the "long version," which is actually even more interesting than the first one. Why? Because it reads like a story -- a compelling one, at that. In fact, it gets really funny at parts.
The second sentence of the bio reads: "He was frightened of public school, loved playing baseball and football, ran home to watch ape films on the 4:30 Movie, listened to The Jam and The Buzzcocks, and read magic trick books."
Here's another excerpt from the middle:
Of course, the fantastic copywriting isn't a surprise, given that this guy wrote several books. But the conversational tone and entertaining copy let his quirky personality (and great writing skills) shine.
Finally, we have Corey Wainwright, who's the director of content here at HubSpot. She's written content for HubSpot's Marketing Blog for years, and her blog author bio has caught my eye since before I ever started working for HubSpot. (Back then, it started with, "Corey just took a cool vacation.")
What I love most about Corey's bio is that it's a great example of how to deliver information about yourself without taking things too seriously. And in this context, that's totally appropriate.
Despite having a number of impressive accomplishments under her belt, she simply doesn't like displaying them publicly. So, she prefers making her author bio a little more "light."
Her bio (pictured below) reads, "Corey is a Bruce Springsteen fan who does content marketing, in that order."
It works in this particular context because, at HubSpot, our blog authors often prefer to make themselves as friendly and approachable as possible -- while letting the content speak for itself.
It helps that authors' social media accounts are located right below our names and above our pictures. For folks who really do want a list of Corey's credentials, they can click the LinkedIn button to go to her LinkedIn page. (You can read this blog post to learn how to create social media buttons and add them to your website.)
What are your favorite professional bio examples? Share with us in the comments.