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Hands up if you only dust off your CV once a job deadline is looming? In a rush to get the CV posted off, it’s tempting just to shoehorn in your last job at the top and hope for the best. It’s easy to forget all those great achievements you kept meaning to put on your CV some day. If you only ever update your CV during job applications, it is probably not doing you justice.
Refreshing your CV on a regular basis allows you to:
- Respond quickly to unexpected job opportunities, including meetings with contacts who may want to hire you.
- Post your CV onto databases on a speculative basis
- Remind yourself of what you have to offer, focusing your mind on your next career step.
- Identify ongoing issues with your career development, such as gaps in experience or a need for more training.
1. Start at the End
Don’t overwhelm yourself by looking at your entire resume — yet. “Look at the bottom of your resume and see if there’s anything new that you can add, ” Milligan says. “Workshops, professional training or awards are a quick way to add something current.”
2. Where You’ve Been and Where You’re Going
Next, look at the position nearest the bottom of your resume. “Ask yourself if it’s still relevant to your current career goal, ” Milligan advises. “If it’s not, delete it so you can build on more current accomplishments that will further your career.” If that last position is still somewhat relevant, edit it down. “The very first position you held should get the least amount of attention, ” Milligan says.
3. A Year in the Life
Turn your attention toward your current job. “Update any new projects or accomplishments that have occurred over the last year, ” she says. “Even if it’s not a promotion, just include anything from [the past year] that can be added to it.”
4. Update Your Look
Current information deserves a current look. Is your resume’s look stylish and polished — or plain, dull and dated? If so, Milligan says it may be time to give your resume a face-lift. “If you’re still using the same resume format you used a few years ago, you should change it to something more suited to the positions you’re currently pursuing — not those you had after graduation.”
Also, make your resume available in several formats — text only, Microsoft Word and PDF. “There’s a good use for each of these formats, ” Milligan says. “Having a PDF of your resume at the ready implies a little more technical savvy on your part.”
5. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
Milligan cannot stress enough the importance of proofreading your resume. “Every time you make any changes to your resume, it’s possible to introduce another error, ” she says. “Proofread it again and again, and ask a few friends to look at it, also. You can never be too careful.”
6. Update your Current Role
If you have taken on a new role since the last CV update, include a section reflecting the responsibilities of the role and your achievements to date. If you are still in the same role, add in some new bullet points to reflect recent activities. You can use your performance appraisal and CPD records to jog your memory. Find CV templates here
Have you worked in the same role or organisation for a long time? Do you wish you could show more career progression on your CV? Create a separate section for each role or project with the same employer as if these were separate jobs. Note where a move was due to a promotion or increased responsibilities. Even if you have held the same job title for years, you can always create a new section detailing recent projects and achievements.
7. Draft a New Profile
Update your Profile at the top of the CV to reflect your recent track record and the kinds of roles you are now targeting. See our article on how to write your personal profile here.
8. Tailor to your Career Aspirations
Your ideas on your next career move may have changed since you last updated your CV. Make sure your CV is well targeted in terms of:
Content Select the most relevant achievements to mention in each job and decide which sections to include (e.g. a researcher moving into administration might cut out the section on research publications).
Emphasis Consider the order of information and the length of each section. Reflect the language used by your target employers in your CV.
9. Edit down your Earlier Jobs
Your CV should be no more than 2 pages (longer for academic roles). When you add new information to your CV, something has to go. As a general rule, the older the job and the less relevant it is to your target position, the shorter the section should be – regardless of the length of time you were in post. Be really selective in the information you retain. Be ruthless in cutting down unnecessary detail , as it will free up space to talk about more recent achievements. Sometimes a job and organisation title, with dates, is enough or you can use only one or two bullet points.
Is your CV getting too long as you continually add new jobs? Stop your early career history taking up too much space on your CV by combining similar jobs into a single section e.g. ‘Researcher roles’ or ‘Administrative roles at Northtown University’. List job titles and dates briefly and then use a single set of bullet points to cover all those jobs in one.
10. Bring your Education and Qualifications up to date
Include any training courses, professional memberships and conferences undertaken recently . Include anything significant and relevant for your target career areas.