If you’re not from India or neighboring countries, you may have never heard the word “biodata.” But it’s a commonly used document in South Asia for job applications — and even for matrimonial purposes, in which case it’s also known as a “marriage resume.”
What does ‘biodata’ mean?
Short for “biographical data,” biodata is sometimes said to be nothing more than an antiquated term for a resume or CV. But there are also key differences, as a biodata typically provides more personal information than would normally be found in a resume/CV, including age, gender, marital status, religion and other personal details.
What does a biodata include?
Plenty of confusion is possible in defining a biodata and what it should contain, precisely because of the different types of biodata and their uses.
Biodata for personal use
Below are the two most common types of biodata for personal use.
Biodata for marriage
A marriage biodata can describe a significant number of personal details, such as the person’s height, weight, race and complexion — all of which would be unthinkable to include in a resume or CV. A marriage biodata is a unique type of document in this regard, where professional credentials are replaced with mainly individual information pertinent to potential matrimonial goals.
Biodata for marriage purposes usually includes information about one’s parents and siblings, including their occupations, education and where they live, as family status can be very important in Asian cultures in determining whether a man and woman are a suitable match for marriage.
In fact, just about anything you might be curious about in seeking a life partner can be relevant in a biodata for marriage: whether you smoke or drink, your hobbies and interests, whether you’re a vegetarian, and even horoscope information. But little or none of this belongs on a biodata submitted in search of a job.
Another type of information sometimes requested is medical biodata, which might include blood type, genotype and any information on disabilities, allergies or health conditions like asthma.
Medical biodata may be required by schools or employers to assess a candidate’s overall health, or for use in case of a medical emergency. For the same reason, “Next of kin/emergency contact” may be included in the medical biodata.
But this is another type of information that would never be included on a normal resume or CV.
By the way, if you’re wondering about the differences between a resume and a CV, the words usually (but not always) mean the same thing, although the word “resume” is used in the U.S. and Canada and the word “CV” (curriculum vitae) is more common in other countries.
So while medical biodata (or simply biodata) may refer to a similar document, it’s a word you’ll typically hear only in South Asian countries, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Afghanistan.
Biodata for a job
You can easily take Western resumes as a solid basis for a work biodata, but be mindful of the subtle nuances mentioned above, as well as any regional details that may be relevant. Remember to conduct research about the position and the employer before writing the document, just as you would for a resume or CV.
This YouTube video, produced by the Centre for Languages and Communication, provides a detailed overview of the difference between resume, CV and biodata application documents.
What should a work biodata include?
Like a resume or CV, biodata for employment should include five basic components: personal info, a summary/profile (or an objective, depending on your career status), work history, educational credentials, and job-related skills. If you review resume.io’s detailed guide to how to write a resume, most of that advice is applicable to a biodata as well.
Other than personal info, all of these components of a work biodata are virtually identical to those of a resume or CV. One exception: employment and education history are usually presented in chronological order in a biodata for work, while reverse chronological order is favored for resumes and CVs.
Biodata personal info
This is the tricky part of creating your own biodata — how much personal information you’re expected to include.
Some employers offer forms to fill out that specify all the information they’re seeking, eliminating the guesswork for you about what to include. But for those that don’t, here are some guidelines:
As in an ordinary resume, biodata persona info includes: your name, occupation, address, phone number and email. All of these would normally appear in the header of a resume.
- What about date of birth? To prevent age discrimination, this is normally not included in Western resumes, but would not be unusual in a biodata, so include this if you wish.
- Gender or race? These are not included on ordinary resumes for the same reasons, to prevent any hiring discrimination, although your gender may be obvious from your name, and both gender and race may be obvious if you include a photo. (For that matter, some employers discourage the use of photos in Western resumes.)
- Nationality? This may or may not be relevant, though a person from one country applying for a job in another may face visa or work permission issues.
- Religion? This is generally not an employer’s business, though if you’re applying for a job with some religious affiliation, it may be prudent to mention yours.
- Parents’ names, occupations and education would generally be irrelevant to an employer. So would your marital status, height, weight and complexion.
- Hobbies and interests are sometimes included even on Western resumes and CVs, although it’s generally not recommended unless these have some bearing on your job-related skills. But these are considered totally acceptable in a biodata.
Known alternately as a biodata summary, profile (or resume objective if you’re facing a career change), this is a paragraph of text under the header that describes your occupation and professional specialization. It may specifically state your employment objective — exactly what type of job you’re looking for — or this may be obvious if all the experience you mention is in the same field.
This summary often omits the word “I” and isn’t necessarily written in complete sentences. (For example: “Elementary school teacher with 12 years of experience teaching grades 1-3, now seeking a challenging position in a private school instructing grades 4-6.”)
This is the one place in your biodata where you have the liberty to describe yourself and your professional qualifications in your own words. It should be thoughtfully written to present yourself in the best light possible, ideally making a hiring manager sit up and take note that you sound like a promising job candidate.
Biodata employment history
Always include your employment history in a biodata, resume or CV — unless you have none because you’re still in school. However, in such a case you should include any internships or volunteer work you’ve done in fields relevant to the job you’re seeking.
If you have a long job history, you may opt to leave out some jobs unrelated to the field in which you’re seeking work. The rule of thumb is to not go beyond the last 10 years of employment and five to eight previous jobs (depending on how long their descriptions or lists of achievements are).
When listing past jobs, include where they were and how long you worked there. List bullet points describing what you actually did there. Be specific, using facts and figures whenever possible — sales figures, the number of clients you handled, percentage revenue increases you generated, etc.
As noted, it’s somewhat more common in biodata to list jobs in chronological order (first job first), but reverse chronological order (last job first) is often also acceptable as with traditional Western resumes.
Biodata education section
List your high school, any colleges or universities you attended in your biodata education section, the years you studied there, and any degrees obtained. You can also highlight any special achievements, such as a high grade point average or academic awards you received.
If you have any special certifications in your field, you can also list those here. And again, it’s more common in biodata to list past schools in chronological order.
If you have a university degree, it’s sometimes considered unnecessary to include your high school, although there’s no harm in doing so.
Biodata skills section
As in a resume or CV, a biodata will generally contain a short list of job-related skills, such as computer applications you know how to use or languages you speak.
The skills section often includes a mix of soft skills (“people skills” like collaboration and communication) and hard skills (“expert C/UNIX programmer,” for example).
Do your best to avoid clichés that recruiters have seen a thousand times before, like “Self-starter” or “Detail-oriented”. Try to use original language highlighting skills that most other job candidates won’t have on their list.
Most of the design and formatting rules that apply to resumes and CVs apply also to the biodata format. A one-page document is usually considered ideal for busy hiring managers to scan quickly, although it’s not unusual to see a biodata that's two or three pages.
All biodata formats should start with an attractively designed header containing the candidate’s name and contact info. Additional personal info may be displayed along one side of the page.
The job candidate’s profile/summary/objective should come under the header. This is generally followed by work experience, and then by education, although if a candidate has impressive educational credentials but thin work experience, the education section can come first if you want to format your biodata as a fresher.
The skills section is often a vertical bullet list that can be displayed on one side of the page, perhaps below the personal information.
The template for a biodata doesn’t look all that much different from a resume or CV that would be submitted in any country. It just includes a little extra information that a resume elsewhere would not.
- “Biodata” is sometimes used interchangeably as an antiquated term for resume or CV, but is generally not common or familiar outside certain countries in South Asia.
- The key difference between these documents is the amount of personal information that a biodata typically contains — normally excluded from a resume or CV — and sometimes the purpose for marriage or applications requiring a medical history.
- Biodata for a job application should include the same information that a resume or CV would contain, for the most part structured the same way: personal information, summary, employment history, education and skills.
- How much personal information you include in a work biodata depends on the employer’s expectation and relevance to the position, while assuring protection from hiring discrimination
Best of luck in your job hunt! Whatever field you’re in (or whatever country), you can count on resume.io for occupation-specific advice and a top-of-the-line online resume builder to boost your career!