Home Articles How to Write a Resume: Past or Present Tense?

How to Write a Resume: Past or Present Tense?


Writing a great resume can be complex enough, but you also have to consider whether you’re writing in the past or present tense. Depending on the type of resume you’re writing and what you’re including on it, it can be appropriate to use either. A resume best practice would be to stick to past tense for the majority of the resume, as most of your work and education was done in the past. But, you might now be asking, “How do I use the right tenses in an effective way?”

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When to Use the Past Tense in a Resume

Most sections of a resume are written in the past tense. This could include listings of your previous employment, responsibilities and accomplishments, and perhaps any relevant volunteer positions or internships. If you’re concerned about keeping a consistent voice in your resume, then use the past tense for effective resume writing.

Some examples of when to use past tense include:
✓ Past work history
✓ Descriptions of past employment duties
✓ Past education

ABC College
Bachelor of History
New York, NY
3.5 GPA

● Wrote an undergraduate thesis on Rome in the 18th century
● Served as captain of the basketball team; led the team to the state regional championships

School of Historians
New York, NY
History Teacher (October 2018 – November 2019)

● Taught students academic lessons on topics in social studies, historiography, human history, and current events
● Planned and delivered lessons for the day, week, semester and year to students, using creative and engaging techniques
● Built strong rapport with students and faculty

When to Use the Present Tense in a Resume

Using the present tense is quite self-explanatory – it is used for any activity or work that you’re currently doing in the present. You can use present tense if you’re set to graduate from a high school, college, or university and haven’t yet, are currently working as a volunteer or enrolled in a course, or just ending a contract with a company.

Your summary is also an important body of text to write in the present tense. This is because you are actively dedicated to your field and have a specific skill set. It should be kept short, at one or two sentences, no more than three. Being the first thing people read when reading your resume, you want to list your skills, profession, and experience in the first sentence in the present tense, and then list personal strengths or your dedication to your profession.

Some examples of when to use present tense include:
✓ Current work position
✓ Descriptions of current employment duties
✓ Your summary

Honey Cove Elementary
Philadelphia, PA
Instructor (December 2019 – Present)

● Prepares lesson plans for the fifth-grade class
● Instruct students on history, spelling, and English
● Work with other faculty members to design an effective curriculum

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