Should My Resume Tense Be Past Or Present?

by Heidi Cope
Get The Job - 12 months ago

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If you are reading this article, you are likely at the beginning of the job search process and are about to write your first resume.

Resumes are the most important piece of the job search process — it is the first thing hiring managers or recruiters will see to learn about your skills related to the job you are applying for. Because of this, you will want to write the best resume possible to showcase your experiences, skills, and education.

To make the best impression possible, it is a good idea to do some research on how to best write and format your resume. One question that many people have when writing their resumes is what tense should a resume be written?

When thinking about resume tense, you should also think more big picture about how to best write your resume stylistically. Writing style refers to how you are presenting the information with words. For example, should it be written like an article in a newspaper or like a social media post?

This article will address these questions and give you examples so that you can write a stellar resume that can help you land your dream job.

When writing your resume, keep these tips in mind:

  • The resume should generally be written in the present and past tense, depending on when you worked the job.
  • The future tense should be avoided, but there are some situations where it can be used.
  • Be consistent in how you use the tenses.

Now that you have the low-down on how to approach writing your resume stylistically, let’s get into the nuts and bolts on what each of those bullet points means when writing your resume.


Source:Polly Bohl

What Tense To Use In Resume

Writing a resume can be highly technical and there is often a “right” way to do it. Hiring managers will expect that you know the basics of writing a resume and not writing it correctly can make your application look less professional.

One simple way to make your application look polished is writing your resume in the correct tense. When writing documents, you can either use past, present or future tense. But resumes are dynamic pieces of writing, often reflecting your future, current, and past work experiences.

Resume Past Or Present Tense

A resume often isn’t written in just one tense, but rather two or three. When you are referring to work you are currently doing, you should write those descriptions in the present tense. For all positions that you’ve had in the past and are no longer doing, write them in the past tense.

This rule is the same for writing about your extracurriculars and volunteer opportunities. The simple question you should be asking yourself to help decide on which tense to use is, “Am I currently doing these tasks at the place listed?” If the answer is no, then describe that experience in the past tense. If the answer is yes, then you can use the present tense.

Using different tenses in writing helps hiring managers to know quickly what you are currently doing versus what you have done without having to look at dates. If you find that you don’t like having two different tenses on your resume, you can opt to only write the resume in the past tense. That is completely OK.

For example, if you have had multiple positions within the same company, it can sometimes look strange to have both past and present tense for a job that has essentially the same job title but different roles. In this case, it would probably be best to keep the resume to past tense only. With that in mind, avoid using both past and present under the same heading or title. Use past tense for everything.

Consistency is key when writing resumes. If a job experience happened in the past, it should all be in the past tense. If it is happening now, keep it all to present tense. If a job experience has a mixture of past and present experiences, write it all in the past tense.

Can You Use Future Tense When Writing a Resume?

But what about future tense? Is there a role for future tense when writing a resume? The future tense is rarely seen in resumes, but it could have possible uses for students. For example, you are in college and you have a competitive fall internship set up. You are applying to summer position and you want to highlight that you will be doing something else in the fall that will help your application. You can write a brief description of it in future tense on your resume.

But beware, sometimes adding job experiences that you will expect to have can hurt you in the job search. If you are applying to a position that might be looking for interns or part-time employees to later transition to full-time, saying you have something else lined up might not work in your favor. However, if you are applying for educational internships, this might be a good option.

Using The Correct Resume Tenses Is Important

Writing resumes can sometimes feel overwhelming. But don’t worry — Zippia is here to help.

When writing a resume, you want to make sure that it is a flawless representation of your current job history and expertise. You want it to be professional, easy to read and stand out to hiring managers. One of the best ways you can make that happen is by making sure the little details are given just as much importance and time as the big details.

Writing your resume in the correct tense or tenses is one little detail that can make a good impression on hiring managers if done right. So remember, don’t be afraid to use different tenses within your resume. But make sure you are doing it consistently and accurately. If your dates listed next to the job title are in the past, write in the past. If it says you are currently working at the position, then you may use the present tense.

It may seem overly picky, but trust that these small details matter. Use this article to help guide your writing and you will be one step closer to landing your dream job.

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