What is a professional background on a job application?
Updated 8 August 2023
A professional background, or professional bio, is a section on your job application that helps you to stand out from other candidates, regardless of what job you're applying for. It's a great way to showcase your background and help employers understand you on a professional level. For your background section to have an impact, it's essential to take your time writing it and include important information. In this article, we explain how to overcome the challenges associated with writing this section of your application, what a professional background is, what information to include and top tips for best practice.
What is a professional background?
A professional background is a brief summary of your professional experiences, including your work history and achievements in each role. Backgrounds sometimes include personal information that's specifically relevant to the individual application, such as your career goals or passions. This section allows you to highlight your most significant achievements and provides hiring managers with a better insight into how your experiences make you the ideal candidate for the current position.
Professional bios usually feature below your contact information on your CV or job application, meaning it's one of the first things an employer sees when reviewing your application. Some people prefer to tailor their bios and feature them on the 'About' section of their online profiles. This allows them to reach a wider audience, attract the attention of potential recruiters and maximise networking opportunities.
Related: 10 best skills to include on a CV
Why are professional backgrounds important?
Bios help you to stand out from other applicants when applying for a job. A bio ensures that employers can review your qualifications and skill set easily. This is crucial as hiring managers often review numerous applications within an allotted time frame, so an overview of your achievements ensures that they read the most useful information upfront. If your bio is at the top of your CV, it shows employers that you've taken the time to organise the information and thought about what might be important to them. It also shows that you value clarity and have communication skills.
A professional bio equips you with a better understanding of your most significant achievements and personal attributes. This helps when it comes to the interview part of a job application as you can answer questions about these aspects of your experience and personality with confidence and consistently with your CV. By constantly reviewing and refining your bio, you can refine your goals and improve your planning for your next steps for your future.
What information is helpful on a professional background?
It's important to tailor your background to each company and job for which you apply. This means that you can highlight experiences or responsibilities that are relevant to the specific position and the individual company rather than give an exhaustive overview of your entire work history that may overwhelm the hiring manager. A background can include:
your previous jobs
the names of your previous employers
employment start and end dates
skills that relate to past positions
any duties that back up your professional skills
qualifications, training or education that support your application
networking or professional organisations to which you belong
recognitions, such as awards or promotions
passions or interests related to the position or skill set that is in the job description.
How to structure your professional background
It's important that you keep your background succinct and contained within a clear organisational structure. Make sure that your background is no longer than two or three short paragraphs. Relay the information in a formal tone and from a first-person perspective. This makes the information flow better and makes the section feel genuine.
How you organise your bio varies according to what makes more sense in the context of the application. For example, if you're detailing your past work experiences, start with your most recent role before giving information about other positions. Some people choose to organise their experience according to what function they performed or the industry they worked in. You may have a paragraph that outlines your managerial skills while exclusively focusing on the jobs in which you held a senior position. Think about what the hiring manager is looking for and present the information accordingly.
Follow these steps to structure your background:
1. Write down your significant experiences
Many people choose to start off with a draft when writing their background. Begin by noting down all your previous roles with the responsibilities and accomplishments that relate to each one. These duties and achievements can highlight your qualifications and your skill set.
When it comes to your accomplishments, ensure that you can provide measurable evidence. For example, you could state that, as a sales manager, you sold 65 commissioned projects and boosted the store rating by 10 per cent. You won't include all this information in your background for every application, but it gives you a list that you can always choose from when it comes to tailoring different job applications.
2. Emphasise the most important details
Select the information from your list that is most relevant to the position you're applying for. Remember, it's about quality rather than quantity when it comes to your background. If you're struggling to identify what items to include from your list, compare your experiences and responsibilities to the job description. Note down any crossovers and highlight them as potential examples that you can use in the final piece.
3. Pull together your background by summarising key points
All your experiences may well eventually connect to one another in terms of the focus of your background. This means that you may find it helpful to experiment with the format and select one that allows you to organise information in a natural fashion. This is the most difficult part of writing your background, so enlist the help of someone you trust to read through your revised piece and give appropriate feedback.
Tips on how to develop your professional background
Some individuals post their backgrounds on social media platforms. Keeping your information up-to-date could lead to recruiters reaching out with potential career paths, even when you're not looking for a new position. Here are some tips on how to develop your background:
Understand your audience
It's important to tailor your bio to your prospective employers. Be sure to research potential employers in your industry and adapt your document accordingly. If you're posting your bio on social media, ensure that you upload a brief version that is more general than one the one you provide that is tailored to a specific job description.
Employers look for individuals who demonstrate career progress through qualifications or promotions. Structure your bio in such a way as to emphasise your progression. You may choose to create a timeline and identify certain skills in earlier roles that have set you up for future positions. It's not essential that your timeline is linear so long as you can identify a common thread that runs throughout your work history. It's also important that your bio emphasises skills and particular moments and achievements that show your overall career development.
Ask for feedback
Constructive feedback is useful when drafting your bio as it allows you to gain objective feedback from friends or colleagues. This gives you the opportunity to improve your writing and brainstorm ideas. You can even recruit the help of past employers by asking them what they think were your most significant achievements and how you contributed to the workplace.
Related: How to give constructive criticism
Keep a draft on file
Don't endeavour to write your bio from scratch every time you apply for another job. Always keep a version of your bio saved on your computer and add potential achievements or relevant experiences to the document as they occur. If you accomplish something that you think is invaluable to your application, revise your bio accordingly to highlight it whilst retaining a clear overall organisational structure.
Employers want to get a sense of who you are as a person. It's vital to do more than simply list your accomplishments to achieve this. Include any hobbies or interests that demonstrate some admirable qualities that employers may look for or may interest them. For example, mention any sports teams of which you're a member and explain how this demonstrates your team spirit, leadership qualities and competitiveness. You may also describe a sabbatical or drastic career decision to give hiring managers a better sense of how you got to where you are and where you want to get to.
Post it on multiple platforms
Although a professional bio is primarily used when applying for jobs, you can also post it on social media and personal websites. Doing so allows you to reach recruiters or attract new clients. This is especially useful if you work on a freelance or independent basis and want to increase your brand awareness.
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