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"Professional Background" Meaning

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"Tell me about your professional background" could mean anything from what types of jobs you have had to the training or education you completed to get to this stage in your career.

Professional background is one of those phrases that you can use to describe who you are, where you've been and what you'd like to accomplish. '},{'content':'On the other hand, if you are in an interview and the recruiter or hiring manager specifically asks about your professional background and follows up with "Tell me about your work history," you will know that she is inquiring about employment.

Work History


Professional background is your work history

In many cases, "professional background" does refer to work history.

Many job seekers use the subheading "Professional Experience" or "Professional Background" when they are describing their previous employment, and that is perfectly acceptable. But, for online application processes, the phrase "Work History" works better because many of the applicant tracking systems do not recognize the phrase "professional background."

So, if you are handing a hard copy resume to an interviewer, refer to your professional background, but if you are completing an online application, change the section title to "Work History" on your resume before you upload it.

Position Rarely Matters

Whether you are a shipping clerk or president of a company, one of the most sought-after qualifications is professionalism.

Professionalism is not a trait reserved just for white-collar workers, so do not think that if you work on a production line that you cannot refer to your professional background. If you need to justify why you're calling your work history your professional background, it's because you exhibit the same type of pride in the work you do just as much as the CEO of the organization that employs you.

The U.S. Department of Labor pointedly states what professionalism is and what it is not on the department's page for its Office of Disability Employment Policy: professionalism means "conducting oneself with responsibility, integrity, accountability and excellence." That applies to every job, no matter the rank or pay.

Training and Education

Academic credentials are one thing, but your training and education are also part of your professional background.

You might not refer to four years at university as your professional background, but you certainly should consider leadership training, job skills training and orientation as components of your professional background. These are the experiences that have a direct impact on your employment and performance.

Naturally, there are exceptions, such as professional degrees in medicine and law, but even physicians and attorneys complete training outside the academic setting that prepare them for their careers.

How You Look on Paper

Your resume is a partial summary of your professional background, but it is not a full recitation of your professional experiences, training, education and exposure that makes up who you are.

A resume is a marketing tool – it's what you use to get in front of a recruiter or hiring manager – it's just not a summary of your professional background because there are so many other factors that contribute to your professional growth and development.

Paying it Forward

In addition to what you have done to advance your career path and improve your own knowledge, your professional background might include what you've done to help others.

Being a mentor, supervisor, teacher or simply a colleague willing to help someone else learn the ropes also is part of your professional background.

Likewise, your participation in industry associations, such as sitting on a discussion panel so others can learn more about your field, is a component of your professional background.


Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

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