How To Write a Professional Background (With Tips)
Updated July 21, 2022
Including a professional background section on job applications can make a big impression on hiring managers and help you stand out from other applicants. Taking the time to write it can help prove you are the most qualified candidate for the job. While this section is valuable to include, it can be difficult to know where to start. In this article, we explain the importance of a professional background and how to create your own.
What is a professional background?
A professional background is a brief summary of your work history and performance at previous jobs. It is usually used during the job application process. This is more than just a list of prior positions you've held and should highlight your most significant and relevant achievements. When applying for a job, this overview should show the potential employer how previous roles prepared you and make you a great candidate for the position.
Related: How To Write About Yourself
Why are professional backgrounds important?
Including a professional background can help make your application stand out from others. Hiring managers often have hundreds of applications to review within a limited time frame, which means they may be skimming through them. Having a dedicated professional background section on your application will tell them your qualifications at a glance. It is also a great way of showing potential employers that you are able to organize information well and clearly explain your value.
Drafting a professional background can also help prepare you for job interviews and improve your performance. This is because you have taken the time to go over your history and created a story about why those experiences make you a qualified candidate. As a result, you will likely have an easier time explaining your career path and qualifications to the interviewer without stumbling or forgetting important details.
What information should a professional background include?
Your professional background should highlight the roles and responsibilities that are most relevant to the position you are applying for. You should emphasize the skills that you used within those roles and why they made you a great employee.
You can include specific details such as:
The names of prior employers
The dates of your employment
Previous job titles you held
Your duties and their impacts
Relevant education or training, including certifications
Accomplishments such as promotions, awards or other recognitions
How to structure your professional background
Your professional background should be brief, no more than a few short paragraphs. One option for organizing this section is by summarizing your experience in chronological order, starting with your current or most recent role. Another option is the functional format, which focuses on the type of experience and emphasizes the roles most relevant to the position you are applying for first. You should typically write your professional background in the first person, as this will give the section a more natural and genuine voice.
It can be difficult to summarize your entire work history into a few short paragraphs, so here are some steps to help you:
1. Write down your significant experiences
This is your draft phase, so try to write down as many previous roles, responsibilities and accomplishments that best highlight your skills and qualifications as you can think of. If possible, make sure to include quantifiable evidence of how your work made an impact on prior employers. For now, don't worry about the relevance of this information to the potential new job—the point of this step is to create a large list that you can trim down to key points.
2. Emphasize the most important details
Now that you have written down your most significant work history details, it's time to trim it to what makes you the best candidate for the job. The professional background is about the quality of your experiences, not the quantity, so it's better to pick a few impressive items rather than 10 insignificant ones. Compare your list to the job description and pull out the notable items that are most relevant to the skills being sought by the potential employer. These will likely become your key points and should highlight your value as an employee.
3. Use your key points to pull together your professional background
There's no exact format for a professional background, so you may need to experiment to find what feels best for you whether it's organized chronologically or by function, for example. What's most important is that you connect your experiences naturally and concisely, keeping in mind that you want to show off your skills and expertise. If you are unsure of how it comes across or need help cutting it down further, ask someone else to look it over and give you feedback.
Where should you put your professional background?
When including a professional background on your resume, it's best to put it toward the top of your document. It should be below your contact information but above the list of your prior experience. This way, your professional background will be one of the first things a hiring manager sees when looking at your resume and provides them the most important information about your work history right away.
You can also include a professional background in other places that potential employers might see, such as the "About" section of your profiles on job-related social media sites or your personal website.
Tips for developing and using your professional background
Creating your professional background is not just for job searches, so you should be mindful of continuing to develop it even when you're not looking for opportunities. Here are some tips to keep in mind while you create your professional background:
Keep a draft on file. Try to keep a draft version of it saved, so when a significant project or accomplishment arises at work you can add it to your list of possible details to include. If it is an accomplishment you know you want to showcase, take the time to revise your professional background to include that experience and potentially cut anything that no longer fits or seems relevant.
Refer to your professional background when networking. Aside from posting your professional background on your social media profile or personal website, you can use it as a tool for networking conversations. Through periodic revisions or reviews, you will retain your background narrative and easily convey your talents and qualifications when looking to impress potential employers or colleagues.
Use it for biographies. In a more specific situation, your professional background can serve as a useful starting point if you are ever asked to write a biography about yourself for work or another professional setting.
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