Make sure your CV survives the purgatory of the HR filing cabinet by adding sparkle, dash and dare to your written credentials. Amaya Lopez shows you how.

You're at your wits' end at work and your next holiday seems aeons away. But then that swanky ‘dream job' catches your eye…Just got time to dash off that covering letter, pop it in the post with your CV and… aarrrgh… your CV! It's completely out of date! Amaya Lopez knows how to whip it into shape...

filing cabinet
The tomb of the badly written CV.

1. Stop putting it off. One of life's most tedious tasks is compiling and ‘creating' your CV. It almost makes you feel like never applying for a job again. Rather than endure 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 very beginning. (It's a very good place to start.) Take time to consider what a Curriculum Vitae actually is - in essence, the passport to a job interview. The good news is that it's not some crusty civil servant that's deciding the content - it's you. You can decide what to put in and what to leave out. Herein lies the art of creating the perfect CV and fine tuning it to each job.

3. First impressions. Try to imagine your CV landing on your desk at work. Look at the presentation - does the paper look like your dog's 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.

4. Avoid wackiness. Do not print your CV on silver paper in rainbow-coloured inks. Do not include a photo of yourself (unless you happen to look like a film star). You are applying for a job in the building industry, godammit, not the circus. Do not use over-the-top typefaces - the seraphy ones (curly and archaic) look naff and the futuristic ones just sound the ‘boffin' alarm bells. Go for something sedate and stylish - but not giant either. More than a 12-point font size for the body text will make you seem boasty beyond belief.

5. Start taming the beast. 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", Telephone Number", "Nationality". 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.

Then 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 cashier's job at Netto taught you the importance of handling money, for instance. Cut out embarrassing jobs, such as your stint as Kenny Koala 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.

Next week: You've rethought your CV and lived to tell the tale. But now comes the really tricky part - actually writing it.