Which Tense to Use in Resume: Past or Present?

Which Tense to Use in Resume: Past or Present?

It might seem simple, but it is a question that begs to be answered as you sit down to carefully craft your resume. Should you write your resume in the past or present tense? Although the answer might seem logical, one can never be too sure or help double and triple-checking. After all, your resume is the all-important professional document that can either open or close doors for you during a job search. While grammar and its many rules might seem like a bit of a pain when you are crafting your resume you might want to pay it some attention. You don’t want to ruin your first impression on your hiring manager, do you? In this article, we will explain to you when you should use past tense and when to use the present tense in your resume.

Past Tense: When and How

The rule is pretty simple: If you are referencing your past jobs or achievements then you must write in the past tense. Considering most of the work and laurels and accolades you will be highlighting in your resume have happened in the past, then you will write most of your resume in the past tense. For instance, if you are referencing your last job in the resume then under the job title you should list your role, responsibilities, and achievements all in the past tense (Mentored a team of 10 freshers and oversaw their day-to-day activities). As always, use bullet points to highlight your work. Adding numbers to back up your claim and quantify your achievements is always an added bonus.

Here are a few resume action words in the past tense that you could consider using while creating your resume.

  • Contributed
  • Created
  • Collaborated
  • Executed
  • Directed
  • Delegated
  • Increased
  • Mentored
  • Trained
  • Produced
  • Performed
  • Participated
  • Volunteered
  • Led
  • Set up

Present Tense: When and How

The present tense is best used when you are writing about your current job, volunteer project, or education status. This includes your summary where you might be describing your current role and responsibilities. Use the present tense to describe the things you still do at your job, the relevant activities you perform, and anything associated with industry associations that you belong to.

Here are a few resume action verbs you can consider using.

  • Teaches
  • Mentors
  • Leads
  • Oversees
  • Creates
  • Collaborates
  • Directs
  • Contributes
  • Trains
  • Participates/ Participate
  • Perform
  • Setting up
  • Delegate
  • Produce
  • Execute

Mixing Past and Present Tense

As a general rule, you should avoid mixing past and present tense under a single topic. It is a reflection of poor language skills. However, there is an exception: if you are listing your current position you can use the present tense. But for accomplishments,  you can use the past tense. For eg: ‘Oversees a large team’ would be an indication of your current responsibilities. ‘Received the best employee award in 2019’ is a reflection of your achievements in the same role in the past. It is important to note that while it is all right to use both past and present tense in your resume as the situation warrants it, it is important to maintain consistency. It is the inconsistency that will create a poor impression on hiring managers.

Samples of Past and Present Tense in a Resume

Resume Tense Sample 1(Text-Version)

In this sample, we will list the employment history of a Media Professional.

Employment history

Jenks Communication Inc.
Assistant Editor (February 2015 to 2019)

  • Curated and edited content for the weekly technology pages.
  • Authored bi-weekly column on apps for 2 years.
  • Mentored a team of cub reporters.
  • Worked with other team members to bring out a well crafted daily.
  • Collaborated with the online team to bring out a series of learning videos.

Resume Tense Sample 1



Resume Tense Sample 2(Text-Version)

In this sample, we will list the current job profile of a teacher.

Employment history

Garnett Elementary School
Teacher (June 2018 to present)

  • Prepares lesson plans for grade seven students.
  • Works with faculty members to evaluate curriculum.
  • Collaborate with parents to ensure students have access to and understand the learning material.
  • Creates innovative learning mediums to ensure student participation and enthusiasm.

Resume Tense Sample 2




When writing your resume do keep grammar in mind as well. It will aid you in presenting your skills and achievements in the most compelling manner. Most companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to filter and shortlist resumes before a hiring manager or recruiter goes through them. As it turns out, ATS not just scan resumes for keywords, it is also influenced by the tense of a verb. Something as simple as, if the job posting said ‘mentor’ and you typed ‘mentored’ can work against you as the ATS will overlook it.

Before you dash off that resume, do take the time to carefully read the job posting and tailor your resume accordingly. Don’t opt for a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to job applications. It is in your best interest to optimize your resume in a manner that it will be picked up by the ATS from the sea of job applications and give you an edge over the rest.

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