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Feel the power

I write resumes using past tense verbs, through the entire document, regardless if it’s a current position or not. Every now and then, a client asks why? I decided to post the answer.

Some writers use present tense for current positions, then shift to past tense for past positions. Some writers use all past tense like I do. Either way is acceptable. I intentionally write resumes using past tense verbs for several reasons:

  • Power. Say the word manage or managing out loud. – You can slouch and sort of “wimp” it out. Now say the word managed out loud. – You have to sit up straighter and push the word out, putting some power behind it.

Past tense verbs are the powerhouses of the English language. They convey more power, more value, make a stronger impact. Another verb to try is act or acting. vesus actedYou can physically feel the difference in the push and impact when delivering a past tense verb.

  • Document consistency. It keeps one tense through the entire document.
  • “Been there done that.” While you may still be doing something, you have also done it. You’re conveying a sense of “I’ve done that. What else ya got? I can do that too.”

All that said, if a client isn’t comfortable with past tense for current positions, I make the change. Although, after my explanation, I seldom do. 

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dawn Bugni, Gayle Tabor. Gayle Tabor said: Feel the power […]

  2. Wow, Dawn, this post further reinforces your impactful influence and communication skills. You have me convinced that your reasoning for using past tense verb throughout the resume is “right on!”

    I especially like your example regarding “act, acting or acted” and your conclusive: “You can physically feel the difference in the push and impact when delivering a past tense verb.” Yep, good point!

    As well, your post is a testament to the nuances of resume writing and that, though there is no one right way to write a resume, there are compelling reasons why we writers choose the strategies we choose. Your passion behind using past tense verbs reverberates!


    • Dawn says:

      Jacqui –

      You’re so right. There are many ways to successfully present information. Effective resume writing is more about nuance and strategy than “do it this way” or “this is the only way” rules. Thanks for reinforcing that fact. Drives me nuts when people start quoting “resume rules” … but that’s a soapbox for another day. 🙂

      You always bring value to a conversation!! ‘preciate ya dropping by!!

  3. Makes total sense and I quite agree with Jacqui. At this point, I do a mix of both. When someone is done with a project but still in their present job, I put it in past tense for example:

    As Winemaker, committed to producing wines to accent special characteristics of grapes grown in the area, directing entire cycle of winemaking activities, from vineyard to bottle, for XYZ wines.
    • Built positive relationships with third-party winemaking facilities, resulting in increased productivity.
    • Charged with winemaking of all scales with programs ranging from 250 to 350,000 cases.
    • Manage 11 direct reports, including production staff, laboratory technician, and entire winemaking staff.
    • Developed brand representation on a national scale, including public appearances and media interaction throughout the United States and internationally.
    • Selected as a consulting winemaker in Bordeaux, France, resulting in increased expertise and knowledge of the global wine market.
    • Offered quality and logistical input on XYZs $250,000 purchase and set-up of red grape sorting equipment.

    Some of each and it made sense to him and to me. It was for an internal position within a large firm.

    • Dawn says:

      Julie –

      Great. Now I want a glass of wine! 🙂

      Good example of mixing it up. Like I said, there is no one way. What matters most is conveying the value and of course, client comfort.

      You always have such wisdom to add. Keep it coming!!

  4. Daisy says:

    Hi Dawn,

    It’s always good to have options. Honestly, I was fixated on the present tense in a current role, but I must say the past tense ‘managed’ sounds rather powerful. That said, I also like the present tense for the current position as it shows the person is still ‘doing’. In addition, a recruiter or hiring manager wouldn’t have to second guess whether or not the candidate is still ‘doing’ the job, or s/he made an error in dates – 2005-Present – for example.

    From a project management perspective, Julie’s use of the past tense once a project is completed is also a good point, and confirms what Jacqui implied, that there are more exceptions than rules in resume writing.

    Ah well… “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”


    PS: I have 4 cats and wouldn’t dare think of skinning any of them (:>).

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