Tense In Resume Writing: Which Tense Should You Use?

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Are you struggling to figure out which tense to use in your resume? The tense you choose can have a significant impact on how your experience and skills are perceived by potential employers. It’s important to understand the nuances of tense usage in resume writing to ensure that your document is clear, concise, and professional.

In this article, we’ll explore the different tenses you can use in your resume and the impact they have on your overall message. We’ll also discuss the importance of consistency and clarity in tense usage and provide tips for ensuring that your resume is grammatically correct and effectively communicates your strengths and abilities.

By the end of this article, you’ll have the knowledge you need to confidently choose the right tense for your resume and present yourself in the best possible light to potential employers.

Key Takeaways

  • Consistency in tense usage is crucial for clarity and to avoid confusion for employers and ATS.
  • Present tense creates a sense of action and relevance and showcases confidence.
  • Past tense adds professionalism and attention to detail when describing previous job experiences.
  • Future tense should be avoided, and past tense should be used for past jobs and accomplishments while present tense should be used for current jobs and responsibilities.

Understanding the Importance of Tense in Resume Writing

You’ll want to pay attention to the tense you use in your resume, as it can make a big difference in how employers perceive your qualifications and experiences.

When it comes to tense, there are two main types you’ll need to consider: present tense and past tense. Present tense is used to describe current activities and experiences, while past tense is used to describe past activities and experiences.

It’s important to be consistent in your use of tense throughout your resume. Using a mix of tenses can be confusing for employers and may make it difficult for them to understand the timeline of your experiences.

Additionally, you’ll want to consider the impact of tense on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). ATS are used by many employers to screen resumes, and they rely on keywords and consistent formatting to identify qualified candidates.

Inconsistent use of tense can confuse these systems and may cause your resume to be overlooked.

Using the Present Tense

It’s not like you’re trying to confuse the hiring manager with your inconsistent verb usage, right? Using the present tense in your resume can go a long way in making it more effective. Here are some advantages of using the present tense and some tips for using it effectively:

  1. It creates a sense of action: Using present tense verbs can make your resume sound more active and engaging. It gives the impression that you’re currently doing these things, not just describing things you did in the past.
  2. It emphasizes relevance: Using the present tense can help highlight your current skills and accomplishments. It can show that you’re up-to-date and actively engaged in your field.
  3. It simplifies language: Using present tense verbs can help you avoid overly complicated language and make your resume easier to read and understand.
  4. It showcases confidence: Using present tense verbs can give the impression that you’re confident in your abilities and accomplishments. It can make you sound more assured and assertive.
a girl is taking notes on how to create a resume while watching on her laptop.
Deciding on the tense to use when creating a resume.

To use present tense effectively, be consistent in your verb usage throughout the resume. Use present tense verbs to describe your current job responsibilities and accomplishments, and past tense verbs to describe previous experiences. Also, avoid using present tense verbs for actions that were completed in the past.

By following these tips, you can use present tense to make your resume stand out and impress the hiring manager.

Using the Past Tense

Using the past tense in describing previous job experiences can add a level of professionalism to your language and demonstrate your attention to detail. Whenever you’re discussing your past employment history, make sure to use the past tense.

This means that instead of saying “I manage a team of 10 employees,” you should say “I managed a team of 10 employees.”By using the appropriate verb tenses, you’ll show that you understand how to write in a professional and concise manner.

When describing your previous job experiences, it’s important to be as detail-oriented as possible. You want to highlight your accomplishments and show potential employers why you’re the best fit for the job.

By using the past tense, you’ll be able to paint a clear picture of the work you’ve done in the past. This will make it easier for hiring managers to understand your skills and experience and will give you a better chance of landing the job.

Remember to be concise and engaging in your writing, as employers are always looking for innovative and dynamic candidates.

Using the Future Tense

As you envision your future career, it’s important to consider how you’ll articulate your accomplishments to potential employers. Using the future tense in your resume can help you project your achievements and showcase your potential. By framing your experiences in this manner, you’ll convey a sense of purpose and ambition that can set you apart from other candidates.

When using the future tense, focus on your future career goals and how you plan to achieve them. Use action verbs that demonstrate your drive and initiative, such as “will succeed,” will achieve,” or “will excel.”

a man is typing on his laptop to make a resume.
Articulate your accomplishments well on your resume.

Make sure your language is clear and concise, and avoid using vague or ambiguous terms. By projecting your achievements in this way, you’ll show employers that you’re a proactive and forward-thinking candidate who is committed to achieving success in your field.

Consistency and Clarity in Tense Usage

You want to show employers that you’re a confident and articulate communicator by using consistent and clear tense usage throughout your career documents. Tense shifting can be confusing to readers and may come across as unprofessional.

Make sure to choose a tense and stick to it throughout your resume and cover letter. Here are some tips to help you maintain tense agreement and consistency:

  1. Use the present tense for current jobs and responsibilities.
  2. Use past tense for past jobs and accomplishments.
  3. Avoid using future tense as it can be uncertain and speculative.
  4. Check your document for any inconsistencies in tense usage and make edits accordingly.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your resume is easy to read and understand and showcases your professional skills and experience in the best light possible.

Remember, attention to detail is key to making a great first impression on potential employers.

Using the proper tense in resume writing.


So, you’ve learned about the importance of tense in resume writing. You’re now one step closer to crafting the perfect resume that will make recruiters swoon.

But let’s be real here, the idea of sweating over tenses may seem like a total snooze-fest. Who has time for that when there are so many other exciting things in life, like watching paint dry?

But before you throw in the towel and resort to sending in a resume riddled with grammatical errors, remember this: tense consistency and clarity can make or break your chances of getting that dream job.

So, take the time to review your resume and make sure you’re using the appropriate tense throughout. Trust me, it’ll be worth it when you’re sipping margaritas on a beach in Bali, courtesy of your new job.

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Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories. She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.