Nov 3 2016
Landing the perfect-fit C-suite position is hardly as formulaic as polishing up your resume and shooting it out into the universe in response to job ads—hoping that the perfect hiring agent takes the bait. If that were the case, a well-crafted resume (and perhaps an equally brilliant cover letter) would be the only components of your job-search arsenal needed to secure your next position.
But the reality is that the vast majority of executive-level jobs never make their way into an advertisement—meaning that your chance to be privy to such opportunities requires you to rely heavily on your network of contacts for introductions and hints regarding such undisclosed opportunities.
With this in mind, your resume must be updated and primed for the more advanced stages of conversations with key decision makers (which may happen sooner than you expect), but it may not be the most-fitting tool for getting a foot in the door with key organizational insiders. In fact, if you are meeting with someone who is not directly looking to hire you, but has agreed to have a networking meeting or informational interview with you, sending a resume may look, well, a bit presumptuous—and your contact may even feel put on the spot.
Enter the Executive Bio as the networking tool par excellence: A more prudent approach to initiating exploratory conversations with targeted contacts.
So what exactly is an Executive Bio?
An executive bio is a one-page document describing your core value, brand attributes, and career history and accomplishments—as related to your current goals—written in standard paragraph format in the third-person narrative.
Here are five tips for crafting your high-impact bio:
1. Stay consistently on brand.
It is critical that your bio maintain a consistent message that is backed up across your entire executive portfolio—resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. That is, your unique value proposition must be highlighted and must “hook” your reader early on. This may be your ability to lead successful turnarounds, drive cultural change within your organization, break into new markets, or create organizational infrastructure to accommodate high-growth scenarios. Whatever your brand may be, it needs to come through crystal clear to the reader.
It is also important to stay on brand visually. Use the same polished look and feel as your expertly crafted resume and cover letter––matching the attractive and industry-appropriate font and design elements to instill harmony across your entire career portfolio.
2. Let your passion, philosophy, and style shine through.
Be creative when writing your bio, and be sure to weave your leadership approach into your story, which will help readers understand the values and attitudes that have led to your major successes. Here are a couple of examples of how to inject passion and style into the bio:
“John has proven himself to be a highly flexible leader, delivering tangibles that have far exceeded the expectations of his employers by adapting quickly to ever-shifting corporate priorities.”
“Mary cares deeply for her team members and is committed to both business and individual successes. Her ability to lift leaders up to optimal performance is evidenced by the fact that over 25 of her direct reports have advanced to senior leadership positions.”
3. Describe your career path in a storytelling format.
Starting either with your current role, or with your early-career foundation, take the reader through a light, readable—but substantive—account of your career, highlighting the overall impact you had on the organizations you worked for. Don’t get hung up on details such as dates, reporting structure, or any of the other factual minutiae that, while important on a resume, will bore a reader hungry for a quick, compelling narrative. Make the content digestible, avoiding dense paragraphs or lengthy sentences.
4. Include significant qualifications.
Add a paragraph that describes university degrees, if relevant, language skills or any other major qualifications, such as board leadership experience or professional memberships. Only include what is most relevant—with your target audience in mind. Remember, your details, in the form of a well-crafted resume, will be read later by the appropriate hiring audience. The bio is not the place to list every training program you’ve ever participated in.
5. Include a professional photograph at the top and your contact details at the bottom.
Again, consistency is key. Use the same clear, professional headshot used on your LinkedIn profile and ensure that your contact details match those on your resume and cover letter. Include your twitter handle, LinkedIn URL, or any other relevant web content, such as an online portfolio or blog.
Once your on-brand executive bio is ready and is fully aligned with the rest of your polished career documents, you are ready to jump-start your search by truly leveraging your network. You may now initiate dialogue with the right people, knowing that you have the appropriate tool for doing so. With a thoughtfully written and visually attractive Executive Bio added to your complete job search toolbox, you are now prepared for the various stages of conversation—from informal discussions with insiders and well-positioned individuals, to advanced discussions with selection committees and hiring agents.