How to update your CV

Written by Career Mums

7th January 2019

update your cv

If it’s been a while since you’ve been in the job market, the chances are you will need to update your CV. Or, to put it another way, your chances of landing a job that meets your requirements will increase if you update your CV.

There is a skill to updating a CV, and if you don’t have the resources or desire to invest in a professional CV writing service, follow our guide to ensure your CV is the best it can be, to beat the competition and land you an interview.

Traditional Recruitment

Traditional recruitment channels use CVs to match CVs with job descriptions, typically using automated Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).  ATS provide a way of filtering large numbers of applicants down to a more manageable and qualified number ahead of the interview process.  Therefore it is important that your CV contains keywords for the specific jobs you are considering. CVs that don’t contain sufficient keywords will be automatically rejected. Also rejected will be CVs containing tables, logos or other images that the software is not able to recognise.

CVs also need to be able to be scanned quickly by humans.  Again, in traditional recruitment channels, human sifting will be completed quickly typically by a junior team member.  They are likely to reject any CVs that look problematic, such as those showing a recent career gap.  Afterall, a recruiter is looking to find the best, most experienced candidate, ready to fit straight into the vacant role, as quickly as possible.  This is how traditional recruiters achieve their commission targets.

Your CV is a sales document

Your CV is a sales document – the very first paragraph, your Executive Summary, has to stand out – it is your business case setting out why an organisation should hire you.  You will need to tailor your CV for each job application.  Use the job description to pull out the key words to include in your tailored CV.  These words are the specific, technical, expertise-based words rather than the softer, more subjective behavioural traits.  Use the most commonly-used current industry terms to reflect your experience, which may involve some research if you have been out of the sector for a while.

Use active language in your CV rather than passive words.  For each role use active, achievement-based verbs to start each sentence such as organised, planned, created, designed, operated, headed, coordinated, chaired – try to avoid more generalised words such as led, managed and responsible for ….  Be specific, demonstrate what difference you made and impact that you had so that you sell yourself.

CV guidelines

There are many templates available on-line for suggesting how you layout your CV.  Here is a summary of the main guidelines:

  • Length: never more than two pages long, keeping the font size at a normal level
  • Style: write in the third person, avoiding pronouns
  • Personal details: Include name and contact details: phone, address and email address. Don’t include date of birth, photo or your marital status as these are totally irrelevant. Include a hyperlink to a website or LinkedIn profile rather than the full URL to keep the document tidy and information accessible.
  • Executive Summary: this should be a concise, memorable synopsis of you, summarising why you should be hired.  Some people will only read the rest of the CV if this part is compelling.  It is likely to take time to write with lots of editing to ensure that it reflects the key words of the role you are applying for and concisely sums up your business case:  who you are, what you’re offering and what you’re looking for – ideally in 3 sentences.
  • Key Skills: before detailing your work experience, provide a bullet list of your key skills. Use key words from the job description or what you imagine they are looking for, ensuring the skills that you choose can be backed up through your work experience.
  • Work experience: list your work experience chronologically, providing sufficient evidence that you can do the job that you are applying for, ensuing that you showcase the most relevant experience. Rather than listing all your responsibilities for each role that you have had, bring your experience to life, making it interesting for the reader.  For each role, briefly tell the story of what you were hired to do and how you added value. Focus on your achievements and outcomes, including facts and figures.
  • Other information: include details of your education, qualifications, language skills and any other relevant information.  Be wary of including any hobbies and interests unless they stand out from the crowd.

Explaining Career Breaks

If you have had a career break, our key tips are:

  • Don’t make a big deal about it – simply put the dates and “planned career break” to explain the gap in your work experience
  • If you did anything relevant to the role you are applying for during your break, include this information, e.g. voluntary role, retraining
  • If you have taken on other roles during this time, they can be briefly summarised and grouped together focused on any relevant deliverables, so that they don’t compromise your key work experience
  • Avoid language that is too mumsy – it is likely to put recruiters off.

 Further thoughts

Here are a couple of further thoughts on updating your CV:

  • Updating your CV involves an investment in time and focus. Once you have created an initial draft, we recommend sharing it with a couple of people that you trust in your network (preferably individuals that know the industry sector that you are applying to and/or know your work experience) for their feedback. However remember that their feedback is subjective, so take the constructive parts to enhance your CV further, following the above guidance.
  • Ensure that you adapt your CV for each role that you apply for and ensure that you are incorporate the key words that the recruiters – automated and human – are likely to be looking for. Ensure that you showcase your most relevant work experience on the first page of your CV.
  • Update your LinkedIn profile to ensure that it reflects you CV. Your LinkedIn profile is likely to be more generic and not necessarily contain the keywords that a tailored CV has, however ensure that it supports your CV and is a complementary sales tool for getting your next appointment.

Good luck.  If you find that you’ve applied for a few roles without getting shortlisted for an interview, review your CV again in line with these guidelines and consider seeking further help. 


If you would like further support on updating your CV or anything related to securing your next ideal role, get in touch with the Career-Mums team.

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