Resume Question: What Verb Tense Should I Use on My Resume?

Should you use past or present tense verbs on your resume? That’s a common question among job seekers. Here’s how resume expert, Yana Parker answered Deborah when she wrote in with her question about verb tenses on her resume.

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Resume Question: Verb Tense

Dear Yana,
I have been writing resumes for family and friends for over 15 years. I have enjoyed using your books as a guide over the years. In reviewing other resume books, I am confused about the grammar hang-ups on resumes. I have always been taught to use the same verb tense within the resume, whether the job is current or not.

My questions are as follows:

1. Should the current duties be in the past or present tense? For example:

Past tense:

1994 – Present, Gold Productions, Inc.

  • Served as on-call counselor….

Present tense:

1994 – Present, Gold Productions, Inc.

  • Serve as on-call counselor….

2. Is it okay to switch tenses within a resume?

3. How do employers view this major grammar hang-up among resume writers?

Thank you,

Deborah

When to Use Past and Present Tense Verb on a Resume

Dear Deborah,
This is one of “Those Questions”! I have an OPINION and a PREFERENCE, which is that everything on the resume be in PAST TENSE, even if it refers to activities one is CURRENTLY doing. To me this just seems like common sense but clearly there are equally as many folks who believe the CURRENT job should be described in PRESENT tense. I think that approach gets confusing, because SOME of the things you do/did on the current job may actually be in the past and not part of your current duties, while others ARE currently active duties. In either case, you HAVE DONE them — ALL of them — in the past even if the past is yesterday!

In cases where it’s important to distinguish which is which, you COULD say, “Currently managing a team of …”

So that’s my view. It’s not the RIGHT view, it’s just MY view.

But how do EMPLOYERS view this “grammar hang-up among resume writers”? My experience with employers is that they can’t agree on anything any more than we can. So do whatever feels right to you. Some will agree with you, and other won’t.

Thanks for your question,
Yana