How To Write A Resume: Past Or Present Tense
When writing your resume, you may wonder whether you should use past or present tense. The resume tense you use depends on the type of resume you are writing and the accomplishments or responsibilities you are including in the document.
In this article, we explain when and how to use past tense or present tense and when it is appropriate to use both past and present tense in a certain section.
The Exception To A Past Tense Resume
An exception to the rule of using present and past tense is when you mix the tenses on your resume. For instance, you can combine past and present tense if youre listing previous jobs youve held and the experience youve gained while holding your current job. You can mix tenses if youve worked on previous projects or achieved noteworthy goals at your current company. For example, in one description, you might discuss how you increased the production of staff members by 30% while working with your current company.
Is It Better To Use Past Or Present Tense
There actually is an easy answer to this one resumes should be written in past tense. Why? The simple answer is, your resume should be about your accomplishments. In other words, you should be writing about things youve already achieved, which means using past tense.
The biggest mistake most people make on their resumes is listing job duties rather than accomplishments. Using present tense in your bullet points is usually a pretty good sign that youre focusing on your responsibilities, which isnt what hiring managers care about. To keep the focus where it belongs, think about what youve already had success with and write down what youve done not what youre currently doing or what you intend to do in the future.
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Past Awards And Accomplishments
If you opt to include a section on your resume for awards and accomplishments, use the past tense. For each item in your Awards and Accomplishments section, you want to include the following:
- The name of a school you attended, business you worked for or organization of which you were a part
- The city and state where the school, business or organization was located
- The years you attended the school, worked for the business or were a part of the organization
- Bullet points or a summary paragraph detailing what you accomplished at the school, business or organization, with each bullet point or summary starting with an action verb
Why Is Resume Tense Important
Keeping a sense of consistency is key when writing a resume. One way to maintain consistency throughout is by using the correct tense. Choosing the right tense helps prevent a confusing impression, as it helps hiring managers to know quickly what you are currently doing versus what you have achieved or done in the past.
There are three tenses that you can use when writing a resume:
- Present tense: Use this tense when describing the work you’re currently doing.
- Past tense: This tense is appropriate when describing positions you have had in the past and are no longer doing.
- Future tense: This tense is rarely seen in resumes, but students could use it when applying for educational internships. It can also be used in a resume objective to show what you hope to achieve in a specific role or at a specific company.
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What About My Current Job What Tense Do I Use
However, in your present job or position, you may have a mix of past and present tense verbs. Huh? You’re thinking, that’s impossible!
In your present job, you have completed projects. If you researched and wrote the new sales training manual, it is done, hence the past tense verbs: researched and wrote. If you facilitated the merger of two organizations or companies, it is done. This leads us to the next question.
Using Both Tenses In Your Resume
If therere activities in your present occupation that are terminated or if you just want to showcase the accomplishments you have attained, then you can use the present and past tense simultaneously under a single heading. Firstly, you will have to pen your present responsibilities in the present tense. After that, you can wind up on the section with the fished actions and achievements in the past tense.
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The Present Continuous In Resume Summary Statements
Your resumes summary statement;is a section at the start of your resume with strong statements that summarize your qualifications, strengths and experience. Remember to keep your summary statement under four sentences. Too short and it looks unprofessional, too long and no one will finish reading it.
Putting the present continuous to use in a resume summary;isnt hard. In fact, if you follow two simple rules, itll take five minutes.
For example, lets look at the resume of a student looking to find his first job.
I am currently studying English at Seoul National University and will be graduating in June. After, I am planning;to work at an established textbook company for several years.
These two sentences are already most of a good summary. All resume summaries;follow the same basic pattern:
It might only be two lines, but its most of a summary and its perfect for summary statements.
To Describe Relevant Experience Outside Of Your Current Job
Talk about your volunteer experience or extracurricular activities if youre looking for an internship or an entry-level position in the workforce. Describe the achievements youve had when working with members of the community. Youll give the employer a better idea of the impact youre trying to make outside your primary role. The way you detail your experience gives the interviewer clues if you fit in with the companys culture.
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When Should I Use Present Tense On My Cv
You should use action verbs in the simple present tense on your CV when youre writing bullet points for your current role that describe:
- Anything you do on a day-to-day basis
- General responsibilities that you hold in your current position
- Projects that are still ongoing
In other words, each bullet point for your current role should start in an action verb in the present tense, such as:
- Prepare financial reports
- Deliver presentations to executive leadership
- Devise and implement strategic initiatives
- Negotiate lease agreements
- Optimise business processes and procedures
As a result, readers will be able to skim and process the information more quickly and thats exactly what youre looking to accomplish.
What Is Wrong In Using A Passive Voice On A Resume
Passive voice is more suited for a report or an objective treatment of the subject. However, while drafting a resume, using passive voice should be avoided at all costs because the whole intention of preparing a compelling resume is to emphasize your contribution, your active participation in adding value to the organization.
Active voice will lend more intent in your resume thus highlighting your achievements well.
If you are using a lot of passive statements in your resume, you will only end up describing what you have done without emphasizing how or how efficiently you have accomplished those tasks.
When there are many talented professionals applying for the same job position, it is extremely important to show how keen you are to shoulder that responsibility and how effectively you are intent on finishing the job.
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What Tense To Use When Writing A Resume
If you are presently working at a company, include that position on your resume by using action verbs in the appropriate tense.If youre employed and writing about the responsibilities and accomplishments in your present job , use the present tense.If youre writing about a past job , use past tense.In general, you should avoid mixing past and present tense under a single heading.
In other words, you should be writing about things youve already achieved, which means using past tense.In your past jobs, you need to make sure everything is past tense.Lets look at a list of more.Now that we know which type of verb well be using, we need to determine is whether to conjugate those verbs in the present or past tense.
One other, slightly pedantic note:One resume writer may choose to always use the past tense.Other relevant activities you perform after work.Past tense isnt as impactful.
Present tense on a resume is for what you do now.Resume tenses is it better to use past or present tense?The best tense for your resumes current job is present tense is the verb by itself without any eds added.The only time you should use a future tense in a resume is if youre writing goals or objective section or if youre a student who is applying for a job or internship and you want to mention a class, activity, or position you have lined up for a future date.
Your current job role must be described in the present tense and your past work experience must be addressed in the past tense.
Is It Okay To Vary Verb Tenses On My Resume
Its okay to have bullet points in both the present and past tense for your current position.
Realistically, youll likely want to provide examples of impressive projects or reports you worked on in your role but already completed. These should be described in the past tense.
Any other activities that you are still responsible for will be explained in the present tense.
You should stick exclusively to past tense for your previous roles, however.
Dont overthink it!
Past Position = Past Tense.
We often see people make the mistake of adding a new position to their resume without updating the bullet points for the previous role.
Make sure to carefully read through your bullet points before you submit your resume to avoid this error!
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What Kind Of Verbs Should I Use For My Cv
Because the purpose of your CV is to provide an outline of what you accomplished in each role, you should start each bullet point with an action verb.
As you might remember from English class back in the day, there are three types of verbs: action verbs, linking verbs and helping verbs.
Action verbs are the verbs that tell us what a subject is doing.
We encourage you to vary your action verbs as much as possible to make your writing more engaging.
You should also be leveraging them to create achievement-based bullet points that provide examples of how you add value to an organisation.
Now that we know which type of verb well be using, we need to determine is whether to conjugate those verbs in the present or past tense.
When To Use Past Tense On A Resume
Most of your resume should be in the past tense because the bulk of your resume space is taken up by pastwork experiences. Use past tense for sections of your resume you are no longer doing, Smith says. This means your previous jobs, completed accomplishments, volunteering or other activities youre no longer participating in, awards youve won, certifications youve earned, or education youve completed.
A bullet point for a past job might look like this:
- Conceived, planned, scheduled, and wrote copy for 20+ social media posts weekly for Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook
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Past Tense Vs Present Tense
Past tense refers to words that end in -ed;and usually describe past actions, while present tense refers to the original verb. A present tense resume item describes what you are currently doing, such as I communicate with others or advocates for clients. The same items can be written in the past tense to refer to past responsibilities like communicated with others or advocated for clients. Usually, past and present tense should not be mixed within the same sentence or bullet point to avoid confusing language.
When To Use Present And Past Tense In A Section Of Your Resume
Sometimes, it makes perfect sense to mix tenses. In the rare occasions where you still hold a position where you earned your greatest accomplishments, you can list your current duties along with any honors you received. This would make the most sense if you received a promotion.
This is what you should include in an entry that has both present and past tense:
- The name of the business you are working for.
- The name of the city where the business is located.
- Your position, plus the years you worked for in parentheses. Just like an entry that;is entirely in the present tense, list the month and year you started and your finish date as Present.
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Use The Present Perfect To Talk About Your Skills And Experience
To complete your resumes summary statement and your cover letter, were going to need the present perfect tense. You can use it to:
Use it in normal conversations and itll sound like youre bragging. In an interview, though, it might be exactly what gets you a job.
The;present perfect;is used to talk about any past action without saying;when it happened.;To form this tense, youll need two parts:
have/has ;+ ;past participle
Regular past participles end in -ed, so theyre easier to recognize.;Take a look at the examples below:
- I;have studied;English extensively.
- We;have been;to London for many business trips.
- She has worked;as an engineer for six years.
These sentences have one very important thing in common: They dont say when;the actions happened. As a rule, the present perfect never mentions when something occurred.
Since were not interested in;talking about other people, well be using I have for our sentences.
Should You Use Present Tense For A Resume
Present tense helps you maintain consistency when describing your work experience. Youre also discussing ongoing actions that improve your skills and the results for the company you work for. Hiring managers look at a present tense resume to see if you have the right experience and aim to achieve the same results they are seeking.
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What Tense To Use When Writing A Resume Ideas
What Tense To Use When Writing A Resume. A present tense resume is important if youre talking about the current ways that you are using your skills and experience in a job. A weaker form of writing on your cv is to use the present tense.
And if your resume is all tasks, well im willing to admit that present vs. Any activities related to industry associations you belong to.
Sounding Good In Interviews
Use the grammar rules to your advantage when talking in an interview. Practice helps, but keep these points in mind:
- Talk about your current job and future plans in the present continuous.
- Talk about length of time and brag a little using the present perfect.
- Talk about two things at once and mention all your awards and experience using the past continuous.
Finding a job isnt easy but it doesnt have to be so hard. Using these rules, youll discover patterns in resumes, cover letters and interviews that you can follow again and again.
Now go out there and get your dream job!
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Should A Resume Be Written In Past Or Present Tense
Both past and present tense can be appropriate in a resume. However, most resume items make the most sense when written in past tense because they describe previous experience and accomplishments. Present tense should only be used in a resume when describing an ongoing activity, such as the responsibilities of a current position or your resumes objective. Regardless of your decision, you should use the same word tense throughout each section of your resume and your choice should accurately reflect your experience.
Mixing Past And Present
In general, you should avoid mixing past and present tense under a single heading. The one exception is a current position for which you’re listing both responsibilities and accomplishments.
A specific accomplishment, such as “Achieved $12,000 in sales in the first quarter with Client X” should stay in past tense because you completed it. Responsibilities like “Oversees sales associates” would remain in present tense because they’re ongoing.
The most important part of using past or present tense in your resume is maintaining consistency. An employer won’t judge you harshly for sticking to a safe past tense throughout, but it’s sure to cast a poor light on your professionalism if you go back and forth with abandon. Pick a strategy, stick with it, and proofread carefully for an impressive resume.
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Your Resume Should Not Use The Word I And Other Tricks Of The Trade
I often receive feedback from clients about the resumes I have prepared for them; one of consistent comments I receive is about the word I. While resumes should not be written in third person , they should not use the word I either. Resumes are appropriately written in first person implied. This means that not only should you not use I, you should not use other personal pronouns such as me, my, we, our, etc., either.
I also received feedback about missing articleswords like a, an., the. These words are not missing; they are intentionally left out! For easier reading and brevity , resumes are written in what is called telegraphic style. In essence these words are eliminated but the sentence is still understood.
Here are some other common questions about resume writing style I hear: