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Should I Write My Resume in Past or Present Tense?

Let's talk about verb tenses: past, present, and future. Only two of these should ever be used on your resume, and future isn't one of them.

Confused yet? Here's a grammar refresher:

  • Past tense verbs express actions that already happened, and they usually end in -ed (except the funky ones like ran or made)
    Example: Organized and analyzed data obtained during testing.
  • Present tense verbs refer to current or ongoing actions—either something you're doing right now, or that you do repeatedly
    Example: Develop curriculum for K-12 environmental program.

Image created on wordle.netBut how do I know what tense to use in my resume?

It's simple: If you're employed and writing about the responsibilities and accomplishments in your present job, use the present tense. If you're writing about a past job, use past tense.

See? Easy-peasy.

But wait! Here's a curve ball: What if your current job involves a responsibility that you no longer have? Like hiring seven new staff members? You accomplished that goal, but technically you can't describe it in the present tense because you're no longer performing that duty.

So now what do you do? One option is to write your everyday responsibilities in present tense and your accomplishments in past tense. In this case, make sure all of your current responsibilities are followed by your past accomplishments for that position. Here's what that might look like:

  • Create and maintain quarterly department reports
  • Manage product engineering and development process
  • Hired and trained 7 staff members
  • Developed new task management system that increased productivity 25%

When in doubt...

The simplest option is to put everything in past tense (yes, even your current responsibilities). After all, if you're an active job seeker, you're ready to put that current job in the past and make your next career move, so you might as well start with your resume.

But whatever you do, the key is to be consistent throughout the entire resume. Random mixing and matching of verb tenses is a resume don't.

Still confused? We're here to help! Ask your question (with examples if you have them) in the comments below and we'll help you figure out the best way to express it.

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