How to write a good CV and covering letter
Rule 1. Read the job description.
Rule 2. Proofread your CV and covering letter*. This is one occasion when it pays to write in properly formed, grammatically accurate sentences. Even in the covering letter. If English is not your first language, get someone to check your spelling. In fact, this is a good idea even if you're a native speaker! If you've said you are brilliant at attention to detail then double-check your spelling of 'attention'!
Rule 3. Be concise. A CV should be at most 2 sides of A4. Most employers these days are snowed under with applications: they simply won't bother to read your 30-page life story. We (Daily Info) usually ask for a one-page CV.
Rule 4. Tailor your CV. Your grade 3 recorder exam result is not going to be relevant to many jobs. Tell the employer what they want to know - the most relevant thing for them may well be different from the thing you're most proud of on your CV. If you're applying for jobs in several different sectors, you may well want to emphasise your timekeeping proficiency for an office job and your customer service experience for a sales position.
Having said that, it's not a good idea to trim your CV by cutting out an entire section. Your education history should still be included even if it was a long time ago, or in a different discipline from the job you're applying for now. As well as the subjects you studied you should say where you studied them and how you did.
Rule 5. Don't get your mum to do it. Unbelievably, a lot of people these days seem to apply on behalf of family members. Your relative may make a great impression on your prospective employer, but it's not going to help you. Employers are far less likely to consider someone who can't be bothered to make contact for him or herself.
*What's the point of a Cover Letter? I hear you ask...
A cover letter is your chance to talk to your future employer. In the same way you wouldn't rush into a company, throw your CV at someone and run away, don't skimp on the cover letter either. Your CV is likely to be a fairly general document and it's hard to fit all the information in and make it feel friendly. There just isn't room for chat. But in the cover letter you can write in a way that shows off your language better, as well as showing you've read the job ad or description carefully and have thought about what sort of job it is.
What you're trying to do is guess what the employer is looking for, and showing why you're the perfect candidate. If it's a job for a Senior Chef you naturally wish to flag up all the cooking experience on your CV, but also the time you ran a project that went well (even if this is not job related, like organising a stag party of 10 people).
Why does the job appeal to you? Why do you think you'd be good at it? If you read the job ad or description (or contact the company and ask for further details if you don't have much to go on) then you should get a clear list of the things you need to demonstrate that you're good at. In the cover letter take each point and explain what experience you've had that's relevant and what it taught you.
It's really hard applying for jobs properly - each application should take you a while to get right, and that requires concentration and time. If you've been applying for lots of jobs it's easy to lose motivation. But you have to show the company who are going to employ you that you do care about their job - it really shows if you throw together an application without tailoring it at all. But the right job will come along, and someone will be picked to fill each vacancy. If you put in a good application, it might well be you.