Don’t Make These Mistakes in Your Professional Bio

Over the last few years, groups of recruiters and headhunters on LinkedIn have been following a tradition of compiling some of the biggest mistakes, gaffes, and downright flukes made on professional biographies posted on the network. While many of these unfortunate bloopers are pretty funny, they make you wonder if they have done some damage.

It is not unreasonable to think that a recruiter or potential employer reviewing bungled bios may have stopped reading and decided to pursue other candidates; this probably happens more often than we realize, but it should not happen at all because it can be easily avoided.

There is no single formula for writing a strong professional bio, but there are a few useful things to keep in mind. The following pieces of advice come from recruiters, marketing specialists, and copywriters for whom the most important aspect of a bio is that it is largely free of glaring errors:

Too Much Information

Current trends favor casual and almost conversational styles of prose when writing bios, but this is sometimes taken to extremes by professionals who get too comfortable with their target audiences. Professional bios are not personal bios; they should not include explanations of how funny nicknames were earned at childhood. If you think that mentioning family or a hobby will add value to the bio, save them for the final paragraph with just a line or two.

First-Person Writing

The only acceptable spot of LinkedIn for writing in the first person is the “About” section, and only if you are following the “no TMI” recommendation above. Professional bios must always be written in the third person. After mentioning your full name once, subsequent mentions should be reduced to your last name. Think along the lines of composing a short news story when you are writing the bio.

Bio Padding

You have probably heard about resume padding, the highly questionable practice of exaggerating your credentials and experience for the mistaken belief that doing so would improve your chances of getting a job. The equivalent of resume padding in a bio consists of writing filler, injecting anecdotes, and using overly technical or flowery language. Something else to keep in mind is the length of the bio; even if you are an extremely accomplished professional with a lengthy career, you do not want to write bios that are as long as a Wikipedia page.

Personal Statements and Quotes

Branding statements are absolutely necessary in modern professional bios, and they should be about 20 words long, but they should not project an overly personal voice. Casual business writing should not deviate into personal writing, which means you should leave out inspirational quotes by Camille Paglia even if you are a professor in feminist studies.

Superlatives and Hyperbole

Even if a product you designed is commonly described as being the greatest of its kind, you should not mention it as such. It is better to keep things business-like and report sales figures and other information that does not require the use of superlatives.