What makes a great profile? How can you make it readable and engaging?
Over the years, I’ve written many hundreds of business profiles for a pretty eclectic bunch of people – including CEOs, business leaders, entrepreneurs, rock stars, supermodels and world-renowned sportsmen. And, along the way, I’ve honed my tactics and approach for producing these potted histories.
In this blog, I’ll be sharing a few top tips to help you write personal profiles that people want to read – regardless of whether you’re writing for yourself, a colleague or your CEO.
Keep it concise. The single biggest mistake people often make is to write too much. Often, they try to cram in as much career information as possible – creating a thesis detailing ever role and project they’ve ever worked on.
But, no one will read it. So, keep it simple.
Just include your career highlights, focusing on what you’re most proud of. To summarise, you could encapsulate your highlights with ‘Jane’s career achievements include project managing the London 2012 Olympics and managing the multi-billion pound hospital build at…’.
On a related note, keep your sentences fairly short – no more than 25 words. Vary the length and break up any longer sentences into multiple ones. Bullet points can be useful rather than including a long list in the body copy.
Spell out any acronyms. I’ve edited numerous profiles for senior defence officials and often the first draft I receive is littered with acronyms that no one else will understand. So, consider your audience carefully. Spell out all acronyms except for the really obvious terms (e.g. BBC or NATO). When you spell out an acronym, you only need to include the short form in brackets afterwards if it is used again later in the profile.
Use the active voice. This creates a much more proactive tone and is easier to read (e.g. ‘Julia applies her expertise in private equity matters…’ rather than ‘Julia’s expertise in private equity is applied to…’).
Keep the dates general. Always refer to years (not months and years) and avoid references that will date quickly (e.g. ‘I started working on the project earlier this year’).
Stick to your professional credentials. This is a topic of some debate. Should you include your personal interests and pursuits in a business profile? My view is that you should stick to your professional expertise. Leave the personal details about your kids and hobbies for Facebook. Personal stuff always jars with me in a business profile and it’s generally the first thing I remove!
Use relevant hyperlinks. It’s a good idea to add in links to previous employers and associated organisations for an online profile. This will help with search engine optimisation (SEO) and online ranking – particularly if you are linking to renowned organisations (such as the NHS or government agencies). But don’t go mad and litter the profile with links – this will make the content difficult to read.
Use a good photo. Often, when you are asked for a personal profile, you also need to supply a photo. Always use a professional shot or have a photo taken against a plain background in well-lit conditions. Ensure that the image is sharp (no blurriness) and includes your full head and shoulders (no cropping off the top of your head). If the photo is to be used for professional purposes, never use a holiday snap or a photo taken at a party or other social event. I've lost count of the number of post-conference party shots I've been sent to accompany profiles!
Follow these top tips and you should be well on your way to creating a top-class profile that will reflect well on your talents and skills.