When You Should Use Present Tense In Resume

In writing your resume, you may have wondered what the correct tense to use is. Is it the present or past? This article will break down when to use present tense in resume and when it’s not appropriate to use. Knowing what tense to use will improve your resume looks, which may influence your chance of landing your dream job.

Aside from a compelling resume, applicants should also take self-development courses to increase their chances of getting hired.

Why is the Correct Tense important in Resumes?

Consistency is vital in making your resume appear impressive and well-crafted. Imagine a resume with changing tenses for every section—the recruiters won’t be pleased seeing this. Worse, they might move on to the next candidate if your resume fails to get their attention. After all, recruiters only scan resumes in seconds. So, you need to maximize this short exposure by ensuring your resume looks polished.

In maintaining consistency in your resume, tenses play a huge role. It helps recruiters quickly identify the things you’ve done in the past and those you still do currently. This separation of accomplishments and current abilities allows them to assess how your credentials fit the job posting.

The Three Tenses and How You May Use Them in Your Resume

While the use of present tense in resume is our main topic here, the other two tenses also make a big difference in wiring your resume. Here’s a quick breakdown of the tenses and their proper usage in your resume sections:

  • Present tense

The use of present tense in resume is ideal when describing the current responsibilities you have.

  • Past tense

The use of the past in your resume is ideal when listing down your previous experiences, accomplishments, and past projects.

  • Future tense

The future tense doesn’t have much exposure in a resume. But in rarer cases that it appears, it’s usually used in the career objective section where the candidates express the desire to land the job and share how they can contribute to the company. The future tense is also ideal for the use of students who are applying for internships.

When to Use Present Tense in Resume

Diving deep into the perfect sections where to use the present tense, here are those areas that you should use:

1. Career summary

A career summary is a section of your resume that sits right atop your skills. It’s usually the section that succeeds your contact information details. And if you choose to have a career summary, writing in the present tense will work wonders for you. Doing so makes your message more impactful in describing your current engagements and outlook in your field.

A career summary usually consists of one to three brief sentences describing your professional summaries. If you want a more in-depth guide in crafting effective summaries, here’s an article with the best resume summary examples.

But as an overview, here’s how you write your career summary using the present tense. First, highlight your current profession, skills, and experience in the first line. Then, on the next line, leverage your skills and desire to get the job you are applying for.

2. Current work

Most of the time, those seeking jobs seek better opportunities, which implies that they may still have current work. If you are one of those people, you should use the present tense in describing your current job.

In writing details about your current work, here are some helpful reminders to help you. First is to list your position and add the list of years in parenthesis. Add the month started, end date, or “present” if you are still working for them. Then, list your responsibilities and add some action words to increase the impact of your descriptions.

When to Use Past Tense in Resume

Here are the sections that’ll need you to use past tense in your resume:

1. Previous experiences

As you don’t work there anymore, all previous experiences should be written in the past tense.

2. Accomplishments, achievements, and recognition

These credentials are always written in a past tense form as these have previously been awarded to you. If you are including an “Awards and Accomplishments” sections on your resume, here are some helpful points to remember:

  • Include the company name or organization you were a part of.
  • Also, add the location below the organization name.
  • Add the timeline of your attendance at the organization. Put in parenthesis next to the organization name.
  • Insert a series of bullet points breaking down your accomplishments to provide an overview. You may use a short paragraph if you don’t like to use bullet points.

3. Education

Your educational background is always written in the past tense unless you are a student looking for an internship. Here are the details you will include in writing educational background in your resume:

  • Insert school name and the year graduated in parenthesis.
  • Add the school location below the name of the school.
  • Name the degree you earned.
  • You may also add your GPA.

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Tips in Using the Correct Tense in Your Resume

Here are some helpful reminders in choosing the right tense to use for a polished resume:

1. Don’t combine present and past tenses in one section.

You want to avoid using both present and past tenses under one heading as much as you can. Using these two at the same time will confuse whoever will read your resume. Remember, you want to achieve consistency in your resume, so stick to one tense in one section.

You may only combine these two tenses when you are listing down the responsibilities and accomplishments in a current job. You need to ensure that you use the present tense for ongoing responsibilities and use past tense for completed achievements. 

2. Keep in mind that most companies use ATS.

ATS refers to the Applicant Tracking System that most companies now use for faster and more efficient hiring processes. ATS scan resumes with resume keywords that are relevant to the job posting. Thus, your resume should always be optimized for this tracking system with the insertion of such keywords. And choosing the proper tense may impact how ATS will evaluate your resume.

When you choose a tense, take into consideration what keywords the recruiters may add to their ATS. For example, if the job description specifically mentioned “manage” and you wrote “managed,” the ATS may overlook it. Thus, you need to assess the job description, look for relevant keywords, and find out the correct tense to use. 

You can also ready this article detailing if your resume is ATS-friendly.

3. Don’t use present participles on your verbs.

When using verbs, avoid using the present participle form—adding “-ing” to verbs. Practice using the past participle form when describing past responsibilities. Using the present participle has a weaker impact than when you use past participle. Using the latter has more impact and creates a sense of accomplishment.

Those are the things you need to remember in choosing the correct tense for your resume. If you want more powerful tips in nailing your resume, here’s a must-see online course for you: Unlocking Resumes: Your Keys to Getting Hired!

Skill Success Expert Insights

Skill Success Expert Insight "When I updated my resume, focusing on using the right tenses, I noticed a clear improvement in responses from employers. A simple but effective tip I learned was to match my resume's language with the job description, ensuring that my current roles were in present tense and past roles in past tense. This small change made my resume clearer and more professional. Additionally, investing time in courses about resume writing helped refine my approach, making my applications stronger and more targeted." 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is using the correct tense important in a resume?

Using the correct tense ensures consistency and clarity, making your resume appear more professional. It helps recruiters quickly understand your past responsibilities and current roles, enhancing your chances of landing your desired job.

What tense should I use to describe my current job in my resume?

For your current job responsibilities, use the present tense to convey ongoing duties and tasks. This highlights your present capabilities and roles within your current position.

How should I write about past experiences on my resume?

Past experiences, including previous jobs, accomplishments, and education (if not currently a student), should be described in the past tense. This clearly differentiates completed actions and achievements from current responsibilities.

Is it ever appropriate to use the future tense in a resume?

The future tense is rarely used but can be appropriate in the career objective section, where you might express your aspirations and how you wish to contribute to the company. It’s also suitable for students applying for internships discussing future goals.

Can I use both present and past tense in the same section of my resume?

While generally, it’s best to maintain tense consistency within each section, you can mix tenses when listing responsibilities and achievements in a current job. Use present tense for ongoing duties and past tense for completed projects and accomplishments.

Remember these words from Nikki Paterson of Accomplish Education.

Jumping between present and past tense is a big no-no in story telling because it pulls your reader outside of your story and disjoints the story, impeding its ability to be persuasive and convincing. Use present tense to talk about your current role and then stick to past tense for all previous roles.

Nikki Paterson, Owner and Founder, Accomplish Education Tweet

Key Takeaways

Crafting a compelling resume is a critical step towards securing your dream job. Utilizing the correct tense throughout your resume not only demonstrates your attention to detail but also enhances the readability and professionalism of your application. By distinguishing between past achievements and current responsibilities, you effectively communicate your experiences and skills to potential employers. Remember, a well-structured resume can significantly increase your chances of making a memorable first impression. I encourage you to apply these tips diligently, ensuring your resume stands out in a competitive job market.

In an ever-evolving job market, continuous learning and skill enhancement are key to staying competitive. The Skill Success All Access Pass offers a treasure trove of resources, with over 3,000 on-demand video courses available to help you level up at your own pace. Whether you’re looking to improve your resume writing skills, master a new software, or develop soft skills critical for career advancement, this all-access pass provides the tools you need for personal and professional growth. 

Ready to write a compelling resume that lands interviews? Click here to get started.

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