Using the right resume tense to write a resume is more important than you think.

Resume tense is an integral part of the proper construction of sentences. The tenses are directly responsible for how you can effectively communicate your past and current achievements. Appropriate usage of past tense and future tense on the resume has to be known before drafting an elegant resume.

In this blog, get an adequate insight into the following topics:

  • Which resume tense to use when
  • What difference will it make
  • ATS and optimized keywords
  • Power verbs
  • Active and passive voice
  • First-person vs third-person

Should a resume be in past tense?

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When drafting your resume past or present tense is the key. The rule for present or past tense on resume is pretty straightforward. Your current job role must be described in the present tense and your past work experience must be addressed in the past tense.

  • Present tense - current job role
  • Past tense - previous job responsibilities

Simple right? But you need to be aware of a few more things when it comes to using the right resume tense.

Resume tense rules

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You should never mix both resume tenses indiscriminately. Your career progression must be illustrated chronologically. So you have to list all your past achievements and accomplishments together and separate them from your current job responsibilities.

You must highlight your current job position in the present resume tense at the very beginning as it would be the most relevant to the next job that you are applying for. So there must remain no doubt regarding resume in past or present tense.

Why does the proper use of resume tense matter?

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Proper usage of resume tense is an absolute must because while describing your past achievements and your current profession, there should be no room for confusion or misunderstanding.

Mixing past and present tenses on your resume would result in unnecessary confusion in the mind of the recruiter.

Considering that most recruiters spend very little time in assessing resumes, it becomes apparent for a job applicant to take care of the resume tenses so that the employer does not confuse what you have already accomplished with what you are currently pursuing.

Some examples to demonstrate the usage of proper resume tense:

Resume present tense example

  • Handling a team of 30
  • Supervising risk mitigation

Examples of previous job experience

  • Handled the entire project successfully
  • Managed multiple teams

Hiration Pro Tip: It is sometimes necessary for you to list a past achievement even while mentioning your current job responsibilities. In such a scenario, you can make a clear distinction between finished tasks and ongoing tasks and thereby keep both the past and present tenses separate.

Application Tracking System

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As the work culture is evolving across the globe, even the hiring procedure is undergoing a very drastic change. Many budding startups do not even have a qualified HR to take care of the hiring due to various reasons.

On the flip side, many companies rely on automated applications like Applicant Tracking System or ATS to parse through the resumes, searching for keywords that are relevant to the targeted job profile. In such cases, the usage of proper resume tense becomes even more important and necessary.

Professionally designed resumes are ideally ATS compliant so read on to understand how the experts ensure compliance. First and foremost, go through the job description thoroughly to get an idea of what keywords have been used. Here is where your choice of resume tense usage matters.

If the emphasis is on the keyword programmer you need to ensure that you are using the keyword in the same resume tense.

If the ATS does not find the word programmer and instead you have only used the present tense programming, then your resume may not be shortlisted. Similarly, if you use the keyword Managed instead of Management, it may be a disadvantage for you.

Hence, it is all the more important to go through the job description, anticipate the keywords the employer is looking for in a resume, and carefully craft the resume with appropriate usage of keywords and resume tense.

The general rule with regards to the usage of resume tense remains the same. However, ensure that the sentences are constructed in such a way that you could accommodate the keywords which you feel is critically important to be present in the resume.

Power Verbs

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Power verbs are action words that emphasize your ability to work. Resume tense and power verbs are closely associated because while using any of the power verbs, resume tense has to be taken into consideration.

Here are some examples of power verbs: Spearheaded, pioneered, consolidated.

Power verbs are extremely important while writing the summary or while furnishing details about past achievements and accomplishments. Along with the power verbs, the right keywords should be chosen, depending on the job requirement, for a flawless resume.

Carefully choosing the right power verbs will project your personality in a confident and eager way on your resume. It also communicates the idea that you were in command of your job and knew what you were doing.

Using the power verbs correctly can put you one step ahead of everyone, read our blog on the same to get a detailed analysis on the use of power verbs.

Active or Passive voice?

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Now that we have seen how using proper resume tense on your resume is effective, we will now look at how we should frame sentences while using the appropriate resume tense. If you have used a grammar checker tool, you must have come across this error although it is not grammatically incorrect.

It is the usage of active and passive voice in a sentence. Refer to the few examples of the same provided below:

  • Passive voice - Production was increased by proper implementation of...

  • Active voice - Increased production by the proper implementation of...

  • Passive voice - Cost computations were formulated

  • Active voice - Formulated cost computations

As you can see from the above examples, the object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive voice. The emphasis of the passive voice shifts from the verb to the subject by adding a past participle.

What is wrong in using a passive voice on a resume?

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Passive voice is more suited for a report or an objective treatment of the subject. However, while drafting a resume, using passive voice should be avoided at all costs because the whole intention of preparing a compelling resume is to emphasize your contribution, your active participation in adding value to the organization.

Active voice will lend more intent in your resume thus highlighting your achievements well.

If you are using a lot of passive statements in your resume, you will only end up describing what you have done without emphasizing how or how efficiently you have accomplished those tasks.

When there are many talented professionals applying for the same job position, it is extremely important to show how keen you are to shoulder that responsibility and how effectively you are intent on finishing the job.

Always use third-person in resume

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While summarizing your resume or while listing your academic and professional achievements, always enumerate them in third-person and never in first-person.

Example:

  • I managed a team of 30 - First-person ‘I’

  • Managed a team of 30 - Third-person usage

  • I was actively involved in the whole project - First-person

  • Actively contributed to the whole project - Third-person

Why is this important, you ask? Simply because the usage of ‘I’ is redundant in a resume that is nothing but your profile. It is unnecessary and not very elegant to repeatedly use ‘I’ when it is already determined that it is you, by implication.

Hence the usage of third-person throughout the resume is professional and the perfect way of describing your accomplishments.

Conclusion

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If you observe, all of the above-discussed points are intimately connected with the proper usage of tenses. So far, we have seen what tense to use in a resume - whether past or present tense, resume tense, and other closely associated grammatical sentence structures.

To summarize, the key takeaways from this blog are as follows:

  • Use proper resume tense and segregate them appropriately to showcase your career progression chronologically
  • Ensure the resume is ATS compliant and use appropriate keywords depending on the job description
  • Usage of active voice over passive on any resume
  • Always address yourself in third-person

About us

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We have the best tools to professionally craft your resumes, carefully designed by the experts. You may want to check out some of our cutting edge AI-based tools that are fully accessible for a trial period. You can also check out the resources that we have on all kinds of resumes and jobs at Hiration.com.

If you feel that you need our assistance in helping you out with your resume, we are only an email away! Please do not hesitate to contact us at team@hiration.com.