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What Tense to Use in Resume

Perfect grammar is a must in writing a resume. You should definitely make sure that the document contains no mistakes. Yet, you might still be wondering if you’ve chosen the correct resume tense for the verbs describing your career history. Inappropriate use of tenses is not among things you’d like the HR specialist to notice in your resume. Below, we will explain the main rules of tense usage in resumes, as well as suggest solutions for uncertain situations.

Should Resume Be in Past or Present Tense

First of all, the usage of tenses in your resume bullet points should be characterized by consistency. An unreasonable mixture of tenses leads to a confused impression. Obviously, you need to know what tense to use on resume, past or present, and simply stick to it. However, in many cases, you will actually need to resort to a mixture of both. The secret of grammatical success lies in using them according to certain rules.

The common rule states that the resume past tense should be used when describing all your past positions while the resume present tense should be applied to writing about your current job.

Let’s imagine you have no current job. Should a resume be in past tense then? The answer is yes. So, do you use present tense on resume for a current job only? Not exactly. If you are currently engaged in volunteering or other extracurricular activities that are worth mentioning in your resume, you need to use present tense for them too.

Some candidates don’t know whether to choose resume past tense or present and it might be tempted to go for the present participle verbs. It seems much easier to put “managing the team of IT specialists” in your current or past duties than to decide between “manage” or “managed”. However, using this trick lessens the power of your resume. Verbs used in the present or past tense (especially past) give a sense of active involvement and achievement. The -ing form, on the contrary, leaves an impression of incompleteness.

Resume Current Job Tense

The usage of tenses in your current job description is often the trickiest. In this case, you don’t need to choose between resume past or present tense. To provide an honest and clear picture for the HR specialist, you need to use both. All your responsibilities at the current job that you are no longer engaged in should be presented as accomplishments and thus described in the past tense. All current responsibilities should be written about in the present tense.

In one bulleted list, the current responsibilities should be followed by past accomplishments. This mirrors the way you demonstrate your whole career history in the chronological order. This is how such a list might look:

ok Manage the work of the IT department

ok Supervise the team of 7 IT specialists

ok Carry out strategic development

ok Trained 5 new employees

ok Developed a performance evaluation system

As you can see, the rules of tense usage in a resume are quite simple. It is absolutely fine to use both tenses in your resume as long as you follow the described algorithm for resume tense usage. In fact, applying this approach to your resume creates an aura of carefulness and commitment, which an attentive HR specialist is bound to notice.

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