Should Resume Be in Past Tense? + Writing Tips


Should resume be in past tense? Read the resume writer’s answer

Accurate, grammatically correct writing is essential for a resume. According to a survey, 59% of hiring managers will reject a resume that has typos or grammar mistakes. Hiring professionals believe that spotless writing translates to attention to detail and good communication skills in the workplace.

However, job-seekers often get confused ty the resume tense. If you are puzzled by choosing between the past or present tense, read our guide. A resume expert will explain when to use past and present tense verbs to make your document look consistent and logical for the future employer.

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Situations when you need to use past tense verbs

Let’s have a quick English class first. Past tense verbs are the ones that end with –ed, with few exceptions like bring – brought, rise – rose. This tense refers to events that already happened or ended. Therefore, past verb tense is used in these cases:

To give a job description of your past positions

If you describe a past job, education, project or volunteering, each bullet point should go in past tense. Experts also recommend using strong action verbs (i.e. not just Led or Managed, but Organized, Headed, Initiated, etc.) So, most of your resume will use the past tense, and this is considered a norm.

To describe accomplishments

Accomplishment means a specific action that brought a measurable result to the employer. Since accomplishments have a sense of completion, they should use past tense as well. Example: Onboarded and trained 5 technical support specialists resulting in customer satisfaction increase by 20%.

Rules for using present tense

Present tense in English is used for repeated or usual actions (i.e. Develop, Analyze, Create). This is why you should avoid describing past jobs in this tense. Here’s how to use it correctly:

To list current duties in the role you have now

You should use present tense to outline duties in the current job – the ones you do repeatedly or time after time. If you are tasked with preparing presentations for senior management each quarter, write “Deliver presentation to senior management on a quarterly basis”.

In a summary paragraph

Career Summary, an opening paragraph of your resume, should be written in present as well. This paragraph refers to your overall areas of expertise and skills that you can apply in the next job if hired. During a job search, summary serves as a presentation of your abilities, so verbs in present will sound more convincing.

Is it acceptable to mix tenses in a resume?

Resume experts don’t recommend mixing past and present in one job description. When the hiring manager sees the mixture of bullets in past and present, they get an impression that you’ve just failed to proofread. There’s one exception, though.

Let’s assume that your current job had some responsibilities or key achievements that you had a year ago, and haven’t repeated since then. In this case, it’s best to list your current duties in present at the top of the list, and put achievements in past at the bottom. Here’s an example:

  • Use consultative sales approach to identify customer needs
  • Develop sales strategies for existing accounts
  • Awarded #2 Sales Rep in the company in 2021.

That’s it! We hope that we have untangled the confusion between the past or present tense for you. If you would like to analyze your resume further, take advantage of our free resume critique. Email the resume to us, and our experts will explain how it looks like from the perspective of the hiring manager. We will also recommend what should be fixed or updated.

6 tips to perfect a written resume

Once you’ve worked things out with tenses, take a critical look at the resume content in general. Check if your resume meets this criteria:

  • Check the resume for grammar, punctuation mistakes and typos. Use one of online spell checkers or ask a friend to read it. Error-free resumes generate more responses from employers.
  • In addition to the right tense, use a consistent writing style throughout the document. Keep it formal, but not very technical. Whenever possible, avoid abbreviations and contractions, and opt for full word forms.
  • The document should be easy to read (large margins, font no less than 10 pts, bullet points instead of paragraphs, and enough white space between sections). Recruiters are more likely to skim through resumes rather than read them top to bottom.
  • Keep it to 1-2 pages. Longer resumes rarely get read by a human reader. If yours is too long, consider removing jobs older than 15 years or irrelevant positions.
  • Double check the contact information. If you misspell your email address or a phone number, a recruiter will not be able to reach you. Speaking of email, use a professional one that consists of your first and last name.
  • Do not lie or exaggerate on a resume! If the hiring manager asks, you should be able to give proof for all information stated on a resume: your degrees, past and current job duties, skills, etc.

Mistakes to avoid when putting your resume together

In addition to confusing between past tense or present, there are many other mistakes that applicants make. Based on our experience, here are the most popular ones:

  • Work experience, college education or skills doesn’t match with the job requirements. In this situation, a resume is most likely to be rejected;
  • Resume is too short. If the resume takes under 1 page, a candidate can come across as unexperienced or not particularly motivated. If you lack paid employment, fill up the space with voluntary work, part-time jobs or personal projects;
  • Missing information. Lack of company names, job titles, college names or even contact details is not uncommon. Check that you’ve included all the important details.
  • Frequent job changes without objective reasons. If you have a good reason for quitting after 3 months (say, the company went out of business or was acquired), write it.
  • Lack of keywords. Modern resumes need to be optimized for applicant tracking systems. For that you need to use keywords from the job posting. If you don’t add search terms to resume text, it can be tossed by ATS.
  • Unprofessional writing style or humor. Avoid writing personal details, stories and don’t use humor. Of course, there is a tiny chance that some recruiter will appreciate your joke, but most of them will find it unprofessional.
  • Lack of professional growth and development. Ideally, a resume should reflect promotions and an increase of responsibility. It’s also a good idea to include courses, seminars, conferences and similar events.

Get your resume fixed and improved to the modern standards

Now you are aware of how to choose verb tenses. Yet, the resume success depends on many tiny elements you shouldn’t overlook. So, if you want better results from your job search, consider working with a resume professional.

A resume expert from our website will perform a spell check, improve sentence structure and document layout. We guarantee customer satisfaction for all writing orders: if you aren’t happy with a new resume, we offer 2 weeks of free revisions. Contact us anytime for resume or career advice in the chat. All new clients also get 20% off the first order, so don’t hesitate to claim your code!

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