If you're applying for jobs and not getting them, maybe you're making a common mistake - under-estimating your covering letter. You see, your covering letter is actually far more important than your CV - because it's the first thing the employer will see. Write a bad letter and he won't even look at your resume. Write a good one that pushes the employer's buttons, and he still may not look at your resume - he'll be too busy reaching for the phone to call you!

You do that by writing each cover letter specifically for the job applied for - and you do that by using their wording.

Take the job ad and highlight the key skills and abilities they want. Then start your letter:

"Dear (....)

I wish to apply for the position of.... advertised in .... on... I feel my skills are a good match for this position, as you can see from my CV (attached)."

Now make a list of bullet points. For each bullet point, start with a skill or competency that they've asked for, then explain why you've got it. For instance:

"- Computer skills. I have completed courses in Excel, Word and Powerpoint. I have been working with spreadsheets for 5 years and prepare presentation materials for sales staff on a monthly basis.

- Customer service orientation. In my present job, I deal with customers on a daily basis and have received the Customer Service Award three times."

...and so on. Keep going until you have given an example for as many skills or competencies as you can - but don't let the letter get longer than two pages! And, of course, don't mention the ones that you don't have!

By the time the employer has read your letter, he hardly needs to look at your CV: he's so impressed that you can do almost everything he's asked for, you're almost certain to get an interview!

Recent research has proved that gimmicks don't work, and can even backfire because they irritate recruiters (one was quoted as saying he automatically put all CV's that were on coloured paper, or illustrated, straight in the bin withouth reading them). Keep your letter and CV simple and elegant, on good quality white paper.

Writing your resume is really just a case of listing each job you've had, starting with the most recent and working backwards. For each job, give a short description of the job and some key achievements. Also list qualifications and training courses that are relevant to the kind of job you're looking for. If you do a good job with your covering letter there's no need to customise your CV for every application: a standard one should be fine.

Most recruiters will read a long CV, if the first page or two look interesting enough. However, don't get carried away - and if you are getting older, it may actually pay NOT to list every job you've ever had and give away your age! Your most recent jobs are likely to be the most relevant anyway - leave the older ones off the list.

To keep improving your CV, ask recruiters for their feedback. If you get an interview, you can ask then. If you didn't get an interview, ring up and ask what you could have done to improve it. Don't be shy to do this - sometimes it can even open doors, because the recruiter is impressed you are taking the trouble to improve yourself. And Good Luck!