How can you make sure your CV lands on the "yes" pile? Robert Smith of recruitment consultant Hays Montrose explains how to make your resumé stand out.
What information should be on my CV?

Achievements, ambition, education and experience. Describe these concisely but in a way that tells your future employer how your skills can be translated into a new role.

Do not limit your list of academic qualifications to O levels, A levels and degrees. Industry qualifications and course attendance show your commitment to professional development. Make sure that you account for all periods after leaving school – employers are wary of gaps.

Can I use one CV for every application?

No, you should tailor your CV to each job. You may only need to make minor changes but an all-purpose CV will stand little chance against one that is 100% geared to the advertised position.

Is there anything I should leave out?

Avoid out-of-date information – you would be amazed how many people include their childhood paper round on their CV. And vague clichés such as "I am conscientious and committed" do not mean a great deal. Also, you should only offer referees' details if they are specifically asked for. They are seldom needed at this stage.

What order should the CV be in?

Put a paragraph outlining your key attributes and appropriateness for the job at the top of your CV. This statement will let the employer know your motivation and level of experience. It should be factual and specific rather than character-driven. Descriptions of your most relevant experience and qualifications should follow, in reverse chronological order.

How should my CV look?

Employers skim-read CVs, so your resumé has to do its job quickly. Headings and bullet points will help your cause no end. A clear layout is of paramount importance – steer clear of graphics and colour unless you are a confident designer. Gimmicks will detract from the most important component – the text.

Do not use more than one font – this can make the CV look cluttered. Classic serif fonts such as Times New Roman or plain, modern ones such as Arial look good on CVs. These convey a mature approach to employment, wacky ones do not.

There is no need to splash out on expensive paper, because many employers end up reading faxed CVs. However, it will not hurt to print it on good-quality plain paper. You do not want to appear cheap.

What should the covering letter say?

It should say where and when you saw the post advertised, why you are applying and, most importantly, the skills, professional and personal, that qualify you to do the job.

Should I attach a photograph?

Not unless you are asked to. The way you look is irrelevant at this stage. If your appearance is an issue, it will be addressed at the interview.

Do I need an electronic CV?

An electronic CV is essential if you are hunting for a job on the Internet. It should be the same length and contain the same elements as the paper version but the layout should contain the minimum amount of formatting. Complicated layouts may be lost or distorted as they travel through cyberspace.

Top tips for the perfect CV

  • Be concise
  • Check spelling and grammar, and get someone else to read it
  • Make personal profiles factual and specific
  • Use bullet points, not paragraphs
  • Start with your present job and work backwards
  • Give a detailed account of your last three jobs.
  • Know your CV inside-out, the interview will be based on it
  • Keep interests to a minimum, and do not try to be funny
  • Take time on your covering letter
  • Include industry memberships, qualifications and courses