If you need to write your bio or resume, keep the one key 'trigger' word I write about below in mind.
I was helping a young client of mine write her resume last week, and I told her there was one particular phrase I always suggest including somewhere in the document: well-adjusted.
Why? Because in the many years I've written or reviewed bios and resumes, on top of the years I was responsible for hiring employees, I can tell you without hesitation this is the kind of 'trigger' word a potential employer wants to see. It alludes to the fact that you have the ability to get along well with others, which is a key consideration for any employer when hiring new staff.
When I asked a former employer many years ago why he chose me over all the other people he interviewed, he said it was because I listed one of my strengths as "the ability to get along well with others, even those I don't particularly like."
Another reason I know this is a good trigger word -- many years ago I worked for a company in the UK that gave one-day training seminars on a variety of business topics. We tried again and again to make a new seminar we introduced on Customer Service a winner, but attendance was dismal. It was only when we changed the title to "How to Get Along with Difficult People" that the seminar took off, and became one of our most popular courses of all time. (The graphic, above, Mr. One Man Band, is one of the office cartoon 'characters' we used in our brochure to illustrate the various types of difficult people you'll find in most, if not all, offices.)
There are other good trigger words to use as well, words that have been proven over time to add interest or 'power' to any document. Google 'power words' and see what comes up. I also have a list of power words in my free e-book, "15 Common writing Mistakes Even Good Writers Make!"
Good luck and good bios,
One of the reasons I like the bio business so much is that it gives me the opportunity to 'meet' so many interesting people, from so many different walks of life. Some are just starting out, some are near the end of their careers, most are somewhere in between.
Over the past few weeks I have either written or reviewed bios for a/an:
- IT Recruitment Specialist
- Travel Agent
- Early Education Teacher
- Retired Stock Broker
- Dental Consultant
- Electronic Engineer
- Real Estate Agent/Broker
- Bird Watching Entrepreneur
- Sisters who started a business called Elegant Brie. (Yum!)
- Tax Accountant
- Stay-at-home/going-back-to-work mom
- The founder of a company devoted to eradicating texting and distracted driving (textface.com).
I've also helped a young pageant winner write a farewell speech, and a dedicated volunteer and fundraiser write an acceptance speech for an award given to her on behalf of her community.
The common thread in all of these bios or documents is this: how do I write about myself without sounding 1) arrogant, or 2) boring?
Those are questions I hear a lot. It's tough for most of us to write a bio about ourselves to begin with, much less if the reaction we are trying to evoke is: "Wow, he/she sounds like a really interesting (or experienced, or knowledgeable, or trustworthy, or you name it) kind of person."
That's why if someone asks me to write their bio, and they're feeling nervous about the outcome, I offer to send them 2 or 3 other bios I've written for people in similar positions, or similar fields. I ask them to let me know how they felt about that person after reading their bio, and if they would be confident about their own bio if it read and 'felt' the same way.
The answer is always yes. I've never had someone come back and say the person in the bio sounded arrogant or boring, and I've written or reviewed over 1,000 bios.
If you are holding back on writing, or revising your own bio, please keep that in mind. What you may perceive as negative -- lack of formal education or previous experience are common examples -- is equally as much a positive factor in the context of your life and your story.
Everyone has a good bio in them, I know it. If you need help, please contact me, or buy my e-book and see how easy the process can be. (I offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so you literally have nothing to lose.) Some people prefer I write their bio for them, which is fine, too.
Good luck and good bios!
I came across a very good 30-minute video on LinkedIn the other day entitled "How to get hired by an influencer."
The article made several very good points about writing resumes and bios that actually increase your chances of getting hired in this very competitive job market. There was particular advice for people who may be overqualified for the jobs they are applying for, and for those over 40 whose age may (but not necessarily) work against them. I highly recommend listening if you fall into any of these categories.
Here are a few samples of what the video covered:
If you feel your age works against you, focus on these three attributes: your curiousity, your ability to face and overcome adversity, your passion for the company you are applying with.
Experience doesn't matter as much as it used to. Today's employees must be 'smart athletes', 'agile thinkers' and understand they job they are doing today is not the job they will be doing a year from now.
CEO's have had to devise clever questions to get people off their 'scripts'. This is in an attempt to get around the facade people present so they can get a sense of what the person is really like, and how self-aware the candidate is.
Question for candidates: As a job seeker, how do you present a polished appearance while giving someone a truthful sense of who you are? (My answer - write a great bio.) Bios are about who you are and what you believe in. Resumes are about what you've accomplished professionally. Both are important, but a really good bio will give an interviewer the framework they need to ask non-standard questions, and give you the chance to answer questions outside the box as well.
Cover letters - do you always need one. Maybe not, but a great cover letter is still a good idea. If you don't need it, fine, you still have it available.
Overqualified for the job you are applying for? That's not unusual anymore. Review your bio and resume. Minimize the importance of job titles in favor or your experience, passion, curiousity and desire to make a contribution to the company. Emphasize your willingness to learn and your ability to get along well with others. Employers want to know you'll get along well with your co-workers even if you don't necessarily like them.
Are handwritten notes passe? No. It's still a good idea to deliver a hand-written note within 12-24 hours of your interview.
Job seekers face many challenges in today's job market, but there are ways to stand out above the crowd, even if you're overqualified or over 40. Again, I highly recommend you listen to this video about How to get hired by an Influencer if you're looking for a new job.
And of course I'm here to help if you need to write a great bio!
I recently helped a good friend of mine write a bio, which seemed like a daunting task to her because she had been out of the job market for 11 years while she raised her three children.
I assured her this was not uncommon, and that we could still write a good bio for her by concentrating on many of the activities and responsibilities she had as a mother, wife, neighbor and friend.
Like so many of the people I help write bios, she underestimated her own talents and abilities, and of course it's difficult for many of us to 'toot our own horn'. (That's why many people ask me to write their bios for them. They can't be objective, but I can!)
Because she is a friend and I knew her, I knew where to start:
Q: You ran a jewellry business for a few years, didn't you? And you won sales awards for that, correct?
Q: You used your design skills over the years to help several friends redecorate their houses, didn't you?"
q: You have organized countless soccer and golf and volleyball events on behalf of not only your own kids and family, but others, correct?"
Q: You are currently helping a family member get a small business off the ground by helping with Quickbooks, aren't you?"
You can guess her answer.
Once we established that she did indeed have marketable skills and 'job' experience, we had the foundation for a good bio. Her skills may differ from yours, but I would bet $10 that you have a lot of valuable experience regardless of the fact that it was not gained in the 'official' job market.
Start by making a list. Don't be shy and don't worry about bragging. Ask a friend to help. Then here's a fun tip: write your bio using someone else's name! You'll be amazed at how much easier it is to write about yourself by doing it this way.
Here is a part of the bio we eventually came up with for my friend:
"During this time she also worked in a part-time or independent capacity as a Jewelry Sales Associate (for which she won numerous sales achievement awards); and Interior Design Consultant. In addition, she is proficient with QuickBooks and job cost projections."
If you are re-entering the job market and need help with writing your bio, I am happy to help, or you can try it yourself using my downloadable e-book, "How To Write A Great Bio." It costs just $17.95, and for an additional $5, I will review it for you.
Either way, best of luck on writing your own great bio!
Author, How To Write A Great Bio
One of the many reasons I like writing bios or reviewing bios is that I get to 'meet' so many interesting people, and I'm often humbled by the great work or great contributions they are making to their communities and, often, their country.
This bio is a perfect example. My thanks to Brian Knoedl for asking me to review it for him. It was a pleasure, and I wish him and TextFace great success in their quest to "take on a generation dying to communicate."
Brian Knoedl is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Arkansas-based TextFace, a business that was born in 2011 to “take on a generation dying to communicate”. TextFace uses the internet and social media platforms to spread much-needed light on the reality and consequences of distracted drivers on America’s roads and highways. The company uses, among other methods, an innovative and proprietary “caught on camera” approach to create teachable moments for both the public and law enforcement agencies, not only in the local community, but around the country as well.
Known to his colleagues simply as “The Boss”, Brian’s work history and experience make him not only “the right man for the job”, but possibly “the perfect man for the job”. Former experience includes:
- insurance executive (property and casualty), 7 years
- automotive sales, servicing and crash parts, 8 years
- television broadcast and video production, 20 years
- early cell phone networks, sales, service and usage, 2 years
The member of a ‘law enforcement family’ with extensive experience in ride-alongs used for training and awareness purposes, Brian and TextFace are now using their knowledge and expertise to teach law enforcement agencies how to enforce laws relating to distracted driving.
“We’ve found the courts are having difficulty at times enforcing the law,” he says, “while the video we shoot -- and teach officers to shoot -- is 100% prosecutable.” In addition, Brian and his colleagues provide education and training to law enforcement on vehicle selection, video production techniques, profiling, automobile safety and recovery issues, even the often-underestimated cost and effect of distracted driving on insurance companies and employers.
A father of four, all of whom drive or soon will, Brian’s passion to see families protected from all forms of distracted driving is personal as well as professional. “There is still a huge lack of awareness and understanding about the dangers and consequences of distracted driving,” he says.
“We want to change that through education and awareness-building among the public, and well as partnering with the law enforcement community to help build their knowledge and skill set, before too many more lives are needlessly lost.”
Well done, Brian, and best of luck to you and everyone at TextFace.
Of all the questions I'm asked about how to write a good bio, this one is near the top of the list: "How should I format my bio?"
There is no one right or wrong way to format a bio, but there are several easy guidelines to follow to ensure your bio looks professional, and is inviting to read.
- Stick to one page or less. Most good bios are short bios, 4-5 paragraphs, max.
- Use a font that's easy to read. Stick with classics like Times Roman or Arial. I also like fonts that have been designed specifically for viewing on a screen or monitor, like Tahoma or Verdana.
- Don't indent your paragraphs. Put a line of space between them instead. Indenting paragraphs ages you, as does putting two spaces after a period. (This is a throwback to the days when we didn't have too many formatting options at our disposal other than double spacing and indenting. And yes, I am talking about the 'dinosaur' days of the typewriter!)
- Include a photo if you have one you like. Insert it in your document on the right hand side of the page, near the top, and wrap your text around it. (Do not center a huge head shot at the top of the page.)
- Consider where your bio will be seen/read. If it's on your company website, there's no need to explain (in detail) what your company does. If, however, it's going to be seen elsewhere, make sure to include that information.
- Don't worry -- or apologize -- if you don't have a degree. Many, many very successful people don't.
- Include something personal about you, usually in your last paragraph. People like to read about other people, and this has the effect of 'humanizing' you to your readers.
- Don't over-format. Use bullet points, bold text and italic if it seems appropriate, but remember, your goal is clean and easy to read.
That's it! Follow these simple rules to format your bio and you'll be well on your way to completing a bio that stands out in a crowd.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal online says, "The New Resume: It's 140 Characters", and goes on to talk about how some job recruiters are turning to Twitter to recruit new employees.
The article continues: "Twitter is becoming the new job board. It is also becoming the new résumé. Fed up with traditional recruiting sites and floods of irrelevant résumés, some recruiters are turning to the social network to post jobs, hunt for candidates and research applicants. Job seekers, in turn, are trying to summarize their CVs in 140 characters or six-second videos."
Wow. Talk about a challenge. But not surprising in this age of instant communication and information overload.
I'm often asked to write a bio based on someone's resume. My first step is usually to strip the document down to bare bones, then use that basic information to write the bio. A 4-page resume becomes a 4-paragraph bio in a matter of minutes. (Well, sometimes it takes a lot longer, but you get the idea.)
I also recommend crafting a bio of 100 words or less, which truly concentrates the mind. I may now also suggest that writing a Twitter bio of 140 characters or less is a good idea, just in case a prospective job opening on Twitter comes along.
I decided to give it a try myself: Jill Townsend is a professional copywriter & author of How to Write a Great Bio. She helps clients write well, write fast and write for impact.
That took about 15 minutes, and it wasn't easy.
Bottom line: to be prepared for any occasion, make sure you have on hand:
- Resume (one page or less)
- Bio (4-5 paragraphs, max)
- Twitter bio (140 characters or less)
If you really want to be ahead of the curve, try making a six-second video! I'm not that brave - yet.
When people choose my 'Let Jill Write It" bio option, they often send me a copy of their CV to use as background information. While these are generally well-written, many make a common 'mistake' that actually distracts from the document's effectiveness.
They over-format. Lines, boxes, shading, indents (often more than one level), multiple fonts or multiple sizes of the same font, miniscule margins. The CV ends up looking like a busy freeway at rush hour, and the reader doesn't know where to start, or is put off right away due to the sheer volume of 'data' they're presented with.
So if you are looking to update your bio, CV or resume, follow these simple rules:
- One page only. No job needs more than 3-4 concise, well-constructed bullet points. Don't go back more than 15 years unless there is a good reason to.
- Choose one font style, and 2 font sizes.
- Use bold and italic sparingly.
- Give your document a file name that includes your name, eg Jill_Townsend_Resume.doc. Employers received hundreds if not thousands of resumes. Don't make them search for yours by naming it "New_Bio.doc" or "My_Resume.doc"
- There is no reason to use color or shading. It's distracting.
- If you have to minimize your margins in order to accommodate your content, go back and edit your content. Margins provide valuable 'white space' that makes your document easy to read.
- Is your font size easy to read? Fonts vary, but I like 10 pt. Tahoma or 12 pt. Times Roman. Verdana and Arial are also good choices. The default for most Word (.doc) documents is Calibri or Cambria, both of which are fine. Comic Sans is not!
- Don't use big words when little ones will do.
- Expect your potential employer to look at your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles as well. Do they complement your CV?
Over-formatting your bio or CV is not the end of the world, but it does weaken your message. The good news: focusing on content rather than presentation makes the process of writing or updating your bio or CV much easier, much faster and much more effective.
There are many ways to write a good bio. It can first or third person, depending on the audience. It can be one paragraph, or two, or three, four or five. (I generally don't advise going longer than five when writing a bio.)
But my favorite part is always the same... it's what I call "the good stuff at the end". The personal stuff. The one or two things you share about yourself that 'humanizes' you, and often puts everything that's come before in greater context.
For instance, you might tell me in your bio you are the VP of a company that makes travel accessories for left-handed people. (I'm making this particular one up, but I'll bet they're out there!) Or you might tell me you manage an assisted living facility, or are a top real estate agent, or are a teacher, or firefighter.
But it's what you tell me, your bio reader, at the end that brings your bio full circle, and makes your story stand out.
Here are a few recent (real life, I promise) examples of bios I have written or reviewed in recent weeks, with "the good stuff at the end". Whether or not you read anything else in their bios, you learn something important and unique about these people.
- Warren has been married over 40 years and has five sons, one daughter, 13 grandchildren, and eight brothers and sisters. He enjoys working out, burning CD’s/DVD’s for resale after church services, and hosting large family gatherings.
- Dan enjoys a plethora of hobbies ranging from weightlifting, baking from scratch, refinishing furniture, or simply being a tourist in his home city. His mantra, “Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. Just do it!”
- June and her husband, William, an M.D., have been married for 32 years and have five children. Son Bruce served five years in the Marine Corps and all the girls played college basketball. The family has lived in Burdville since the early 1980’s. June, a graduate of Iowa State University, loves cooking, working for the Church, weddings, women’s basketball and spending time with her family.
- Having grown up around general aviation I developed a passion for all things that fly. My wife and I currently own a 1949 Cessna 170 that we use on family trips to Florida, and lots of flying taking in the local sights. I also own an antique truck that I enjoy working on and driving.
- Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, Edna moved to United States in 2001 to join her family. In her spare time, she enjoys staying fit, gardening, traveling, cooking, bowling, badminton and table tennis.
- Hobbies and interests include traveling, cooking, hosting dinner parties for friends and family, and sitting on a patio with great cocktails and conversation. He is not married and has no children, but holds firm to the idea of such. “Laughter is my medicine,” Jimmy says, and his many friends describe him as “full of life, laughter and love -- the kind of person you always want to sit next to.”
- I grew up in a Christian home in Greenville with loving parents and numerous siblings. In our home, attending church and Sunday school was expected, not optional. We had no cable, no computer, and no video games. We adjusted our TV antennae by applying a piece of aluminum foil around the tip.
- Brenda has also served as a Focused Monitoring Parent for the Georgia Department of Education, Division for Special Education Services, for over two years. She volunteers as a support parent for the organization, Parent to Parent, where she speaks with mothers on early intervention for children who have been diagnosed with autism. As the parent of a 16-year old autistic son herself, she is uniquely qualified to understand these parents’ challenges, and help them find the resources they need to help their children lead productive and fulfilling lives.
- Kay and her husband Mark, have four sons, two daughters, two grandchildren and one pet, Peaches, the family’s Lhasa Opso. Kayenjoys ballroom dancing, the outdoors, reading Zane Grey and experimenting in the kitchen with cooking styles and ingredients.
Do you see what I mean? Pretty cool, huh? So if you need to write your bio, or want to update the bio you have, remember to add "the good stuff at the end".
Need to write a bio? Most of do at some point or another in our business or personal lives. I help hundreds of people each year write their bio, and want to alert you in this post about a few very common mistakes I see when I review or edit a bio.
Surprisingly, however, I am not going to talk about content here. Most of you do a great job, either using my ebook, How To Write A Great Bio, to help, or figuring it out yourself. Well done!
No, the mistakes I am talking about here are much more basic, and luckily very easy to fix.
Imagine this. I am an employer who has asked numerous job candidates for their bio. Or their resume, or a photograph of themselves or their product(s).
Here's what I get from you: mybio.doc, or myresume.doc, or headshot.jpg, or headhighres.jpg, or even worse...img9856.jpg.
Name your files appropriately before you send them off! This employer is going to get potentially 100's of files, and yours can easily get lost in the pile if no one takes the time (and why should they?) to rename the files you send. And after all that work you did to write a great bio or resume!
My bio should be titled Jill-Townsend-Bio.doc. And my photo should be named Jill-Townsend.jpg Get it?
(This is a good habit to get into no matter what you are sending, or who you are sending it to, by the way, especially since search engines index photos and files as well as web content.)
Don't sabotage an otherwise well-written bio by hiding its identity from potential readers. It's an easy fix!