How to make correct use of past and present tense on a CV
Don’t worry; this is not going to be a remake of those horrible grammar classes that you had to endure when you were a child. We’re just here to simply remind you that you can further enhance and strengthen the impact of your CV by making correct use of the tenses.
- When talking about previous Jobs and Positions held; always refer to them in the past tense (80% of what you say should be in the past tense)
- When talking about your current job and responsibilities; use the present tense
It may sound simple enough but I bet you my bottom dollar that most of you will have used verbs (e.g. ‘work’) in their Present Participle (e.g. ending with -ing: working) rather than in its Past Participle (e.g. ending with -ed: worked) in your CVs!
Here are some typical examples of what we’re referring to:
- “Duties included managing a group of young students”
- “Was responsible for analysing the finance books of a multinational organisation”
- “Have experience in working within a group of 20 sales professionals”
Now, rephrase these verbs into the past tense and behold the magic:
- “Managed a group of young students”
- “Analysed the finance books of a multinational organisation”
- “Worked within a group of 20 sales professionals”
The past tense is extremely powerful because it actually gives the impression – in a very short sentence – that you have really achieved something. It tells the recruiter: I have taken care of it. It’s finished. It’s completed. It’s done and dusted!
A much weaker form of writing on your CV is to use verbs such as ‘directing’, ‘designing’, and ‘investigating’ because these make the reader wonder ‘Have they actually achieved it? Was it a half-baked job? Were they struggling with it?’ etc.
Rather, replace them with the past tense; ‘directed’, ‘designed’, and ‘investigated.’ – This gives your CV that authoritative-punch which you so dearly need.