I am writing my resume and have got one confusion regarding the tense to use when detailing present and previous job descriptions. I will ask my question with an example so that it is easy to understand what I am trying to ask.

I want to write "Understand and discuss requirements" as a bullet in the descriptions of both my present and past jobs.

Do I write it as: 1. "Understand and discuss requirements" OR 2. "Understanding and discussing requirements" OR 3. "Understood and discussed requirements"

Which of the above should go for the present job and which one for the past? I believe it would be the 3rd one for past jobs, but some confirmation would be good.

Any help is appreciated. Thank you.

  • 3
    As a side note, as a hiring manager, "understanding requirements" on a CV is kind of like "breathing air": meaningless fluff that anybody can claim. Go into specifics if you can, eg. "led requirement specification negotiations on massive project X with demanding client Y". – lambshaanxy Dec 15 '15 at 10:43
  • Thank you. Good point, but I don't have enough experience and not at the level where I could use your suggestion. I am more technically oriented, and haven't led or done such negotiations. I am not at a senior position right now, so my responsibilities are limited to understanding and discussion requirements. – LoveEnigma Dec 15 '15 at 10:50
  • For sure I would not use "understanding and discussion requirements". So you were not at the level. Go into the specifics. Understand / understanding / understood requirements is meaningless fluff. – paparazzo Dec 15 '15 at 11:37
  • I always use past tense for everything on my resume. In the 20 years I've worked as a professional, I've gotten plenty of replies and offers. I want to say I found this tip in a book as I graduated college (the professors didn't cover this in the senior classes), – Tim Dec 15 '15 at 11:41
  • Thank you for the good advice, Frisbee and Tim. I will think about it and see if I can improve what I have written. – LoveEnigma Dec 15 '15 at 11:45

When to use what tense:

Past Tense


  • Led the team which is responsible for _______________
  • Designed a system which _____________

Present Tense

Project/internship/job details and/or responsibilities:

  • Design and deploy the model which predicts the number of goblins in Hogwarts kitchen.
  • Understand and execute exploratory analysis on the patterns of unicorn movements.
  • Thanks for the answer. But won't responsibilities come under present tense? – LoveEnigma Dec 15 '15 at 10:55
  • @LoveEnigma If for current job, yes – Dawny33 Dec 15 '15 at 10:56
  • Okay. Before the tasks/responsibilities bullets in my resume, I have written for present job: "Key responsibilities include:", and for past "Key responsibilities included:" And then I have just listed the bullets under both jobs in present tense, like "Discuss requirements", "Support software team", "Prepare design documents", and so on. Does it look right to you? – LoveEnigma Dec 15 '15 at 11:00
  • You write Key responsibilities include for past job also. Only the bullets have past tense – Dawny33 Dec 15 '15 at 11:01
  • Ok, but any reason why I cannot write what I mentioned above? Since bullets are job details/responsibilities, they can be present tense for any job, right? For achievements in past and present jobs, past tense would be right, as you have mentioned. – LoveEnigma Dec 15 '15 at 11:08

Past tense if it's a description of what you did. Present tense if it's a description of the job requirements. I would say.

eg,. I understood and discussed requirements...

I was required to understand and discuss requirements...

Part of my role was/is understanding and discussing requirements...

It really depends on the context of the bullet list.

  • Thanks for the prompt answer. What I am trying to write is a list of tasks/activities that were a part of my job responsibilities/requirements. Since it is a bullet list, I just want to highlight some regular & important activities. So based on your answer and what I am trying to write, I think present tense would be the right choice for both past and present jobs. One differentiating thing I have written in my resume before the bullets for present job is: "Key responsibilities include:", and for past as "Key responsibilities included:" (added 'd' for past tense). Am I correct? – LoveEnigma Dec 15 '15 at 10:31
  • yes, that looks right with the 'd' so for 'key responsibilities include/d', would be 'understanding and discussing requirements' I would think. – Kilisi Dec 15 '15 at 10:33
  • Ummm, I am confused again. Sorry. Actually, my gut feeling told me that I should write "Understanding and discussing requirements" and that's what I had written earlier. But after looking at a few profiles on LinkedIn and some resume examples where present tense was used, I thought to confirm this. By the way, does it really matter in this particular case whether I use the 1st or 2nd option? Does it really make sense to think a lot about it? After all it is not grammatically wrong to write either of them for resume purpose, isn't it? – LoveEnigma Dec 15 '15 at 10:44
  • I would go with your gut, the other is not correct in context, not to me anyway. Whether it would make a difference if I was reading your resume, frankly it wouldn't unless you were applying for a job like translating or something, but I would definitely notice it. – Kilisi Dec 15 '15 at 10:47
  • Yes, these are subtle things which some may notice and some may not. Thanks for your time and thoughts. It definitely helped. – LoveEnigma Dec 15 '15 at 11:02

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