Professionalism covers a range of behaviours that you can evidence from experience both on and off your course. Regardless of the career sector, all employers will require you to be professional and it is important to meet their expectations.

Study the job description and person specification for skills required. Then check if there is a mission statement or a document setting out the organisation’s values which will give you further insights. These can often be found under the ‘about us’ tab of a website.

Key components of professionalism are

  • A strong work ethic and commitment to delivering work outcomes on time and to the required standard.
  • Presenting a professional image by dressing appropriately and being punctual. You also need to have a suitable background when doing a Zoom or Teams call, for example, and check that your equipment is working.
  • The ability to work independently and as a member of a team.
  • Taking responsibility for your own learning by showing a commitment to Continuous Professional Development
  • Preparing for meetings by studying the agenda, and any supporting documents, and respecting procedures that ensure a meeting runs smoothly.
  • Adopting a writing style that is fit for purpose for emails, chats on Teams, reports, newsletters, social media etc
  • Responding positively to constructive feedback and showing respect and politeness for colleagues and anyone you come into contact through your work.
  • Knowing when to use your initiative and when to refer up.
  • Adhering to company policies and rules for data protection and confidentiality at all times.
  • Displaying integrity and honesty.

Behaviours that are specific to a job role, such as following a particular procedure or code of conduct, can be learned once you have joined an employer. However, you may still need to demonstrate an understanding and commitment to these during the recruitment process.

Activities where you can can develop professionalism

Professionalism can be evidenced through your studies and extra-curricular activities such as paid work, volunteering, involvement with a student society, work experience, a placement year or experience gained as a course rep.

  • PASS LeaderVoluntary role facilitating groups of lower year students on specific study related topics and strategies. Some students may have the opportunity to take on co-ordinator roles after a year as a Leader.
  • Peer Mentoring develop professionalism by supporting others through their studies and wider university life.
  • Volunteering Gives you the chance to develop a range of skills, including professionalism, while giving something back to the community. Or why not volunteer for a position of responsibility within your academic department where you will need to communicate professionally with academics and students.
  • Work Experience Develop a range of skills and build up your experience in the workplace while still at university.

Taking on a position of responsibility can provide evidence of professionalism. For instance, if you are involved in a student society, consider standing for a committee position so you gain experience of running and taking part in meetings. Or, you could help recruit new members which may involve following a procedure and using a variety of communication channels

When applying to an employer, try to draw on more than one example when evidencing professionalism and ideally from both on and off your course.

How will professionalism be assessed during the recruitment process?

Your application

  • If you are asked to include a CV or Cover Letter, you will need to study the person specification for the job role you are applying for and ensure you include suitable evidence for the skills and experience they are seeking.
  • If you are asked to complete an application form, this may include competency or strength based questions which require you to give an example that provides evidence of having a particular skill.

If you are unsure how to structure an answer for either application or interview questions, visit the application and interviews section of our website and find out about the CAR (context, action, result) or STAR (situation, task, action, result) approach, which is recommended by employers.

Psychometric tests

Larger employers often use psychometric tests that assess an applicant’s suitability for the role they have applied for. These may include Situational Judgement Tests, gamified tests and personality assessments that assess specific skills


At an interview you may be asked questions that check your understanding of professionalism and commitment to this. You may, for instance, be asked a competency or strength based question which gives you an opportunity to evidence professional behaviour.