Amaya Lopez offers five points to consider before tackling that most painful of chores, compiling your CV

You are at your wits' end at work and your next holiday seems aeons away. But then a "dream job" catches your eye. You've just got time to dash off a covering letter, pop it in the post with your CV and … aarrrgh … your CV! It's completely out of date! Time to whip it into shape …

1 Stop putting it off

One of life's most tedious tasks is compiling your CV. Rather than enduring the boredom of writing and typing the blighter, you convince yourself that you won't get the job anyway. Think! If everyone takes that attitude, then yours might be the only one to land on the desk … So pour yourself a strong coffee and get on with it.

2 Start at the beginning …

Avoid the use of the words "curriculum vitae" as a heading - it's so passé. Put your name in its place, centred at the top of the first page. Do not treat the reader like an idiot by including superfluous headings, such as "name", "address" or "telephone number". On no account include your two divorces or the number of children you have. And never, ever disclose your salary, unless you want to earn less than it.

3 Sell yourself

These two words strike the fear of God into most hearts (unless your chosen career is telesales). Carefully consider the tone.

You have to sound confident but not cocky. You have to sell your skills. Analyse every job you've ever had and assess its relevance. With enough creative thinking, you can squeeze significant "experience" out of the most blatantly irrelevant of jobs: your time as a cashier at Netto taught you the importance of handling money, for instance. Cut out embarrassing jobs, such as your stint as Chas the Chicken at the local shopping mall, but be creative with the gaps of "not working" on your CV. A career summary at the top of the CV gives you a chance to fleetingly blow your own trumpet before the reader loses interest. Above all be brief. Never run to more than two pages.

4 First impressions

Try to imagine your CV landing on your desk at work. Look at the presentation. Does the paper look like your dog slept on it? Is the layout neat and stylish? Do the margins line up? Is the ink nice and bold or is it obvious you couldn't be bothered to buy a new cartridge? Printing your CV on good quality, heavier weight paper can make it stand out in a crowd, particularly if you plump for an off-white colour - although on no account print it on silver paper in rainbow-coloured inks. Do not use over-the-top typefaces - the curly and archaic ones look naff and the futuristic ones sound the "boffin" alarm bells. Go for something sedate and stylish. Also, if you're sending your CV by email, some computers won't be able to read unusual fonts.

5 Check it like a maniac

Check the layout. Check the spelling. Check for typos. Check the dates and the years and the content. Check it makes you cringe (a good sign). Are all those interests and hobbies really relevant? Do some suggest disturbing character traits? Delete, delete, delete … If you are printing it out, hunt around for a decent-looking envelope (preferably an A4 hardbacked one so your CV won't get creased), pop it in with the covering letter … the covering letter? … aaaaarrrgggh!

Embarrassed by a former job? Just don’t put it in your CV