How to Update a CV Without Ruining it

4 minute read

Curriculum vitae is Latin for ‘course of life’. And, throughout the course of your life, you’re going to have to update your CV every now and again to add new information, apply to new organisations and simply stay competitive.

A lot of old information—perhaps most of it—might still be relevant and useful, while some of the new stuff may not deserve a place on your CV. But how can you know what to axe and what to keep?


How often should you update your CV?

Some people like to update their CV every time they get a promotion or have a new achievement to add. Others prefer to keep an up-to-date document or folder listing all their successes and achievements. This can then be used to update a CV once you’re back in the job market again.

Whichever method you choose, make sure to keep track of your main achievements in your current and previous roles, and back these up with as many facts and figures as you can. This will make updating your CV much easier when the time comes. And remember, volunteering experience is just as important as paid experience when you’re applying for a charity role. Make sure to keep track of your achievements for any volunteering you take part in as well!

Here are the best ways to update a CV easily and effectively.


1. Tailor it to the specific job

One of the most important rules when updating a CV is to tailor it to the specific job description and charity you’re applying to. No two jobs are the same, and, likewise, no two CVs should be the same.

Locate relevant keywords in each job description to include in your CV. Where applicable, add those keywords throughout your skills section and other areas. When you apply to a second job, spend an extra 10 minutes repeating this process rather than sending in the same CV, and you’ll have a much higher chance of success.

How to Update a CV Without Ruining it

2. Make it easier on the eyes

When updating your CV, don’t just tweak the text—be mindful of the design as well. Make sure there’s plenty of white space so it’s easy for the hiring manager to read. Use clear headings for the various subsections to allow them to skim straight to the parts which interest them the most.

Pay attention to other design elements as well. Choose a legible font, and don’t go overboard on colours. Use neat columns to keep everything organised and include bullet points under job history and other relevant sections if you hadn’t already.


3. Swap sections around

You now have more experience than when you made your original CV. So, whether it’s been years since you last updated it or just a few months, prioritise the most impactful items up top.

For example, if you first made your CV when you’d just finished university, your academic history section may have come just beneath your career objective statement. Similarly, you may have included voluntary experience above work experience (if your job experience was a bit thin). If you’ve accumulated several years of work experience since, reduce the education section to only include the essential information. Move this and the volunteering section down a slot to allow hiring managers to see your job history first.

If you’re updating your CV for a different career path, you might need to reshuffle your CV entirely. Your most recent jobs won’t necessarily be the most relevant. If you have relevant volunteering experience, make sure this takes centre stage, especially if your work experience isn’t directly related to the job you’re applying for. In your work experience section, focus more on the transferable skills you’ve gained from your previous roles. Demonstrate how your skills match those listed in the job description, even if they were gained in a different role or industry.

How to Update a CV Without Ruining it

4. Remove old and irrelevant entries

As you dust off your CV to bring it up to date, it may be time to prune previous entries to make space for new experience and achievements. If you’ve had over a decade in your career path already, leave off some of your earliest entries, particularly if they have nothing to do with your profession now.

Have you earned a certificate in interior design which you proudly mentioned on your previous CV? Unless it’s relevant to jobs you’re applying for now, it’s unnecessary. It’ll only take up valuable real estate and detract from the rest of your accomplishments. Likewise, if you’ve completed a university degree, remove mention of your A-level or college exam scores. Remember: if it isn’t relevant or helpful, omit it.


5. Mind your contact details

Updating your contact details often gets overlooked simply for being too obvious. But it’d be a shame to lose your dream opportunity simply for failing to update your phone number.

Check your phone number and email address, of course, but also check the hyperlink is correct if sent as a digital CV. Check social media links as well, and go through each public profile you own to ensure there’s no controversial material to be found. Don’t forget to update your cover letter’s address while you’re at it.


It’s all about showcasing where you are now

Updating a CV doesn’t have to be a long and painful process. You’ve laid much of the groundwork for it the first time around, and a lot of this can be reused.

If you follow these simple steps, you’re sure to have an up-to-date CV hiring managers won’t be able to ignore!


Now you’ve updated your CV, are you ready to get back out on the job market? Search through thousands of charity jobs today!


This post was originally published in 2020. We’ve updated it to ensure relevance and to reflect the current jobseeker experience.


Christian Eilers

Christian Eilers is a career and education writer with a focus on the topics of professional development, college entry, university life, and entrepreneurship. As the Content Lead for the Goodwall Blog, he covers subjects including self-improvement, social impact, college preparation, career advancement, fighting climate change, and more. Christian is originally from New York City and now resides in Warsaw, Poland.

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