A common question raised by my customers is ‘When can I patch up my CV and when do I really need to go back to the drawing board?’  Sometimes a quick CV update will suffice, but more often that not a comprehensive rewrite is a better approach to ensure their CV really serves their needs.  Read on to discover when to choose either a quick fix or a total overhaul when refreshing your CV.

Willington Street, the main access road to my home office, is finally undergoing an extensive repair programme.  The local council is investing £1.2M over the next 12 months to reconstruct and resurface the well-used road.  The plan is to carry out the work in three distinct phases, sectioning off parts of the road at a time to carry out these much-needed repairs.

Kent County Council have outlined with pride their plans to: grind off the top layer of the road; repair the lower layers of the road; sweep with a mechanical sweeper to remove dust and debris; lay a strengthening membrane; adjust all manhole covers and drains; lay the new road surface and finally repaint all the road markings.  Sounds comprehensive, doesn’t it?

Despite the considerable disruption to residents and regular users of the road, in the long run the benefit of a properly constructed, strong and smooth road surface will be well worth the short-term inconvenience.  Having myself sacrificed more than a handful of low profile tyres courtesy of the street’s potholes, I, for one, can’t wait for the new surface.  I drive a Skoda, but the bill has still made me wince.

You may be wondering why I am writing about local highway improvements rather than CVs or related job search topics.  The long-awaited resurfacing of Willington Street got me thinking about how people update their CV, and the effectiveness of a quick update (think pothole repair) versus a total reconstruction (think resurfacing).  A quick update of your CV here or there is, of course, better than no update at all.  There is no substitute, however, for a complete, thorough job every once in a while.

Follow the guidance below to establish when you can just fill in the potholes and when you really should lay a whole new surface.

When you can quickly update or patch up your CV

For me, a quick CV update is perfectly acceptable when you are adding something to your CV that doesn’t have a major knock-on effect on other parts of your CV.

A quick update is perfectly acceptable when you are adding detail that isn’t game-changing in terms of how you define yourself and your overall career goals.  If what you are adding is a natural extension of your career goals, as they are already implied and stated on your CV, then an update is fine.

If, for example, you are adding details of a professional qualification that complements your existing skills, experience and qualifications, then an update is fine.  If you are adding details of a new project to your description of your current role, then an update is fine.  If you are adding details of a new skill or area of responsibility that enhances, but doesn’t dramatically alter, your career target or overall positioning statement, then an update is fine.

Two signs your CV needs extensive reconstruction

The problem is that, as with pothole repairs on an existing road, once you’ve done a few, your CV does seem to be a different document and doesn’t have the same seamless appeal that it did when you first wrote it.  As time goes on and things change for you professionally and personally, your CV content will no doubt change as well.  It’s only natural.  Before you know it, three to 10 updates later, your CV may be looking more like a patchwork quilt than a vehicle designed to take your career from A to B.

Here are two telling signs that you need to stop with the quick fixes and invest in a comprehensive overhaul of your CV:

1.  What you do has fundamentally changed since you last wrote your CV.  If you are working in a new role, secured through an internal transfer or promotion or external career move, your CV will require a complete overhaul.  Your CV’s job is to position you for future moves, rather than ones that have already happened.

2.  What you want has fundamentally changed since you last wrote your CV.  If your goals have changed, then your CV needs to change too to reflect your new aspirations.  If you don’t tell the recruiter what you want, then how are they supposed to know?  It may be that you are seeking a change of role, change of industry or even change of lifestyle – whichever, your CV should make your goals heard, loud and clear.

When did you last update your CV?  Was it a quick fix or a thorough job?   

For a smoother ride from job A to job B, it’s worth taking the time to reconstruct your CV instead of doing a patch job and just filling in the potholes.  As with the road repairs outside my home office, it could be disruptive, inconvenient and time-consuming, but your CV will end up stronger, slicker and more meaningful.

Lis McGuire

Lis McGuire

Lis McGuire is a professional CV writer at Giraffe CVs. She has 15 years of experience gained delivering interview-winning CVs and cover letters for professionals at all levels, helping individuals to stand out from the crowd in a highly competitive job market.
Lis McGuire
Lis McGuire