No Tense Like the Present

I see lots of resumes mixing Present and Past Participles.

  • Present Participle: a participle form, having the suffix -ing, denoting repetition or duration of an activity or event
  • Past Participle: a participle with past, perfect, or passive meaning, as fallen, sung, defeated

I try to persuade my clients to stick with present participles (managing, leading, operating) instead of mixing present and past participles (managed, led, operated).

Note the difference between the two forms:

Past Participle

  • Designed framework to train incoming students in appropriate use of library tools
  • Performed statistical analysis on students’ use of legal research software

Present Participle

  • Designing framework to train incoming students in appropriate use of library tools
  • Performing statistical analysis on students’ use of legal research software

When you express a thought in the past tense (the past participle: designed, performed), your reader will imagine that you designed and performed in the past, but there is no implication that design or perform is something you can, and may, do today or tomorrow.

When you use the present participle (designing, performing), the reader can interpret your language as saying I was designing or performing; I am designing or performing; and even I am skilled in general at designing or performing. Present participle statements cover more than one base at a time. The reader can infer that designing is something you did before, do right now, will be able to do in the future, and are just good at.

Besides giving clarity, the present participle makes your tenses consistent so the reader doesn’t have to change mental gears as he explores your history.


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