Yes, there really is a rule for the style in which to write your resume. Like many things in life, resumes follow trends and slowly evolve over time.
To stand a good chance of being shortlisted by a recruiter you need to speak their language and present a modern up-to-date resume written in a style that they are used to.
Okay, it’s good to let your own personality shine through; no one wants to sound like a robot or characterless bore. In fact, recruiters will be more put off if you rely on a dull, copy and paste resume with tired, repetitive examples.
But there are some general guidelines that will still let you sparkle and appeal to the recruiter.
Which tense to use…
Past, Present or future?
Should you be talking about what you are doing right now? What you will do for the employer you are applying for? Or what you’ve done in the past?
Modern resumes should be written in the past tense.
Tell the recruiter what you have achieved and the accomplishments you have made in your past jobs; once you have started writing in the past tense stick with it – Don’t swap between present and past tense (or even future tense for that matter).
Instead of writing in the present tense…
I greet and serve customers in the shop. I help to solve problems for customers when the manager is away.
Served customers and resolved problems quickly and efficiently. Successfully managed the shop and staff.
Some resume specialists suggest writing your personal summary and current job in the present tense and then switching to the past tense for everything else.
However, to avoid confusion and make life easier for yourself, staying in the past tense throughout your resume is the simplest and most recognised style to present.
Now choose your voice
Top engineering recruiter, Ambra Banjamin, posted this reply to a question on Quora, “I suggest third person and past tense. If I were you, I’d eliminate pronouns from your resume altogether”.
What’s meant by this? The best place to start is to strip out any uses of I and my in your resume. It’s best practice to write in the third person but don’t use he or she anywhere in your resume.
By eliminating these pronouns you’ll soon be able to craft short, succinct bullet points of past achievements that deliver a powerful message for the recruiter to quickly digest.
Banjamin added: “Your resume should always be voiced from the perspective of something you already did, not something you’re currently doing”
- Write in the past tense
- Focus on things you have achieved
- Your voice should be in the third person
- But eliminate any pronouns
- Write short bullet points to strip out any unnecessary fillers words