How to Write a Resume in Past or Present Tense (With Steps)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 10, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Resumes are an essential part of the job application process, showing your skills and experience. Determining the best tense to use on your resume depends on the job description, industry, and the document's grammar and syntax. If you want to revise your resume, understanding how to apply tense to the document can help you better list your work history and show your educational background. In this article, we explain how to write a resume in past or present tense, provide a template, and offer an example.

How to write a resume in past or present tense

Learning how to write a resume in past or present tense starts by understanding the meaning of tense. It's the form of the verb to indicate the time of an event or action. The following steps can help you create a document using the correct verb tense:

1. Determine past events or actions

Usually, certain aspects of your resume reflect your previous accomplishments, responsibilities, and actions. You can assess any changes in your current situation that may differentiate the past from the present. For instance, your work history typically expresses your most current work activities and continues listing those from the past. Ideally, the way you use verb tenses reflects these ideas.

To consider how verb tenses impact your documents, you can review your current resume and assess elements that are part of past events you want to highlight. For instance, if you're currently working in a specific company but want to highlight an achievement made within position, you can use past tense to emphasize your accomplishment, as it has already happened, and present tense to list your responsibilities, as they are currently ongoing.

Related: What Is a Second-Person Narrative? (With Tips and Examples)

2. Determine present events or actions

Your current situation contains important information for prospective employers. An accurate representation of your present situation enables an employer to determine whether you're a good candidate for the role in which you are interested. For instance, indicating that you have current employment shows that you require time before transitioning into a new position. Providing an honest record of your responsibilities and current situation helps ensure that you can find a position that suits your goals.

Related: How to Explain Employment Gaps during Your Job Search

3. Indicate your location and contact details

Indicating your city and province or territory of residence tells an employer where you currently live. For remote work, this shows your time zone and can affect your ability to work certain hours. If you plan to relocate and pursue the position, write those intentions using the present tense. Also, provide your e-mail address and your current phone number.

Related: How to Include and Format Contact Information on a Resume

4. Establish a professional summary

A professional summary is a crucial component of your resume that you usually write using the present tense. Using an active voice indicates what you currently seek from an employment opportunity and highlights its relevance to the position. The professional summary refers to parts of your work experience, accomplishments, and goals that describe your professional profile at the time of writing.

Read more: How to Write a Summary (With Tips and Examples of Summaries)

5. List your experience in reverse chronological order

Your resume usually lists work experience in reverse chronological order. This means that you detail your most recent position first, then list the previous roles. If you're currently working, you can use the present tense to show your job duties in bulleted list. For any previous jobs, use the past tense when referring to your duties and responsibilities. It provides clarity for the reader by listing both the duties you can perform and conveying where you gained the experience.

Related: Using a Chronological Order Example Resume (With Tips)

6. Identify and itemize your skills

The next step in writing your resume is to list a series of pertinent skills for the role. This entire section requires present tense writing because they are your current abilities. For instance, if you list communication skills, organization, and spreadsheet software as your skills, you want the hiring manager to consider how those skills can be helpful to the company and role to which you are applying at the present time.

Related: What's the Difference between Hard Skills and Soft Skills?

7. Detail your relevant education

If you're currently attending school, use the present tense to highlight this fact. Detail your projected graduation date and inform when you're available for work. For instance, if you attend classes every Monday and Thursday, you can use the present tense to indicate this and establish your availability. Those who already graduated can use the past tense to indicate their education, using reverse chronological order to note their credential, place of education, and graduation date.

Related: How to List Education on Your Resume (With Examples)

8. List any up-to-date certifications

Usually, you include certifications on a resume when they're current and relevant for the role, meaning you always write this information using the present tense. For instance, if you recently got a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification, you can include details about it on your resume. Many resumes include this section to accommodate any industry-specific licensing required for the position.

Read more: How to List Your Certifications on a Resume

Template of multi-tense resume

The following template applies to professionals with a minimum of three years of work experience:

[First name] [Last name], [Degree or certification, if applicable]
[Phone number] | [E-mail address] | [City], [Province or Territory]

Professional Summary

[Two to three sentences that highlight years of experience, relevant skills, education or certifications, and achievements as a professional.]

Experience

[Job title] | [Employment dates]
[Company name] | [City], [Province or Territory]

  • (Strong verb) + what you did (more detail) + reason, outcome, or quantified results

  • [Job duty]

  • [Job duty]

  • [Job duty]

  • [Job duty]

[Job title] | [Employment dates]
[Company name] | [City], [Province or Territory]

  • (Strong verb) + what you did (more detail) + reason, outcome, or quantified results

  • [Job duty]

  • [Job duty]

Skills

[Skill] | [Skill] | [Skill] | [Skill] | [Skill] | [Skill]

Education

[Degree and major] | [Name of school or university]
[City], [Province or territory]

Optional

[Certification name], [Host organization] - [Year completed or expiration date]

Read more: Clean Design Resume Template (With Tips and How to Use)

Example of a resume written in past and present tense

The following is an example of a resume that uses both past and present tense to communicate accurate information about the candidate:

Joanie Lam, Master of Science
984-009-4536 | j.lam@email.com | Richmond, British Columbia

Professional Summary

An experienced and motivated scientific professional specializing in marine biology research. Seeking a laboratory-based position to apply my expertise and fieldwork skills. Research papers available in three of the most prominent peer-reviewed industry publications.

Experience

Head Marine Biologist | September 2018–Current
Ocean and Seas Research | Vancouver, British Columbia

  • help a team of students familiarize themselves with the collection, analysis, and reporting aspects of marine-based research

  • review reports created by those on the ship-based research station, including from operations and human resources

  • make budgetary decisions while still ensuring the integrity of the scientific expedition

  • set research goals and create scientific proposals for funding

  • research new scientific methods to implement to streamline processes

Marine Biology Technician | September 2016–August 2018
Refresh Beverages | Revelstoke, British Columbia

  • applied scientific knowledge to determine the safety of the water the company got from local sources

  • provided assistance with environmental impact assessments

  • drafted reports that included financial documents and water analyses

Skills

Statistical knowledge | Raw data analysis | Good observation skills | Reporting | Excellent swimming skills | Communication skills

Education

Master of Science | Blue Skies University
Vancouver, British Columbia

Bachelor of Science | Blue Skies University
Vancouver, British Columbia

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