When you’re looking for a new job or hoping to gain an important promotion, do you think first about your online biography? Or do you start dusting off your résumé?

Do you have a preference?  Do you think that one is more important than the other?  Are you sure you’re focusing your efforts in the right place? Use the guidance below to ensure that you’re making the right choices and that you really are paying enough attention to the best career development tool you can use to help you to succeed.

online bio vs resume

Your Online Biography: A Short History Of You

Most people groan when they enter information into an online directory, a professional listing or their LinkedIn profile, and suddenly find that they need to compose some additional text about themselves. As often as not, they take a deep breath and rush off a paragraph or two that fills the available space, and then upload the material without much thought—sometimes even without checking the accuracy and sense of what they’ve written.

This is a short-sighted approach.

Today people look you up online when they meet you.

They look you up online when you informally express interest in a new role or when you put your name forward to be included in that new project team. Whether you realise it or not, they’ll find you without too much trouble. That’s the way the web works these days.

Good online biographies serve to introduce you to people and to reassure them about your qualities and your capabilities, especially if you’ve included endorsements, testimonials and recommendations in your entry. They also add depth to someone’s understanding of you. If you’ve taken the trouble to write about yourself effectively, and crafted your personal history carefully, you won’t have too much to worry about. You will immediately create a good impression.

On the other hand, if your online biographies are incomplete, badly written, out of date or non-existent, you will throw away an opportunity to create a good impression or to reinforce a real world encounter positively.

Your Résumé Or CV: Your Life’s Summary

Your résumé is very different from your online biography, and it serves quite a different purpose from any of those online biographies you’ve created. You write your résumé to help you to deal with a specific circumstance: getting a new job.

You’ve probably read guides on how t produce a good résumé. Typically, you’ll be asked to give an overview of what you’ve achieved, a chronological account of what you’ve done—starting with your most recent role—and information about your education, qualifications and interests along with your contact details. Most guides also encourage you to be brief when writing your résumé.

The résumé is the HR department’s tool. A résumé, or CV, exists to help those making a recruitment and selection decision about who to appoint to a particular role. In essence it’s a summary of your experience and achievements set out to suit the requirements of recruiters.

Your Online Biography vs Your Résumé—Which Is Best?

Of course, both types of document matter.  You need both, as they will both help you to get that important next job.

However, when it comes to deciding which is the better choice of document to pay attention to, and which is the best tool you can use to help you to get that job, then the online biography wins.

Remember that your online biography is a document you control.

  • You can choose what you say about yourself.
  • You can tell your story in the way you want it to be told.
  • You can place the emphasis where you want to place it.
  • You can write in the first person or the third person, depending on the relationship you want to build with your readers.
  • You can update your online biography whenever you like. (Today, on sites such as LinkedIn, you can include videos, slideshows and multimedia presentations to showcase your talents and your achievements more completely.)
  • You can use your online biography to build your professional community.
  • You can reach out via your online biography to connect with like-minded people.

You can do most of these things long before you’re looking for a new job.

If your online biography is well-optimized, it just might catch the eye of a recruiter who’s creating a list of candidates to put forward to an employer who has a vacancy.  It may even encourage your current employer to think more highly of you and possibly to reward you better.

Of course you can refer to your online biography in your résumé, or invite the selection panel to view your LinkedIn profile for more information about your background and your work.  However, by doing that you’re acknowledging the importance of your online presence and your online biography—you’re making the case for paying more attention to your online persona.

To Your Future Career Success

Résumés have their place, but today you can’t rely solely on your résumé to ensure you get the job you really want. There are other media through which to communicate with your industry and the job world, and you need to use them regularly. Your online biography, your LinkedIn profile and your entries in those online directories are the means by which you build your reputation and your success, so commit to making more use of them.

Now look ahead to the time when you’re next thinking about making a job application.

Of course, you’ll remember to rewrite your résumé, but will you also remember to rewrite your online biographies to ensure your entries indicate what a great success you would be in the type of role you’re applying for?

You’ll be doing yourself a favour if you do.  That online biography is working for you, or against you, 24/7. It’s also on display to the world, not just your next employer’s HR department.  Who knows who will read it in the next twenty-four hours?

In the end it’s the fact that your online biography is so flexible, so accessible and so useful in so many different contexts that makes it your best career development tool.  Your résumé will help you when you’re ready to apply for a job. Your online biography will help you all day and every day whatever your career plans.

What are your thoughts?

Are you convinced that your online biography really is the best career development tool at your disposal? 

Let’s hear your opinion.

SEE ALSO: How to Make Your Resume Stand Out From the Crowd

Featured photo credit: close up of a cv document with keyboard via Shutterstock

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