I wouldn't call myself an expert on the subject, but after going through countless CVs to recruit new people for my team, I definitely have a few ideas of my own about what makes a good CV.
Short and sweet
My CV is one page long - I've always liked to keep things succinct and I've had people comment before that they appreciated the length of my CV. Now that I've been on the other end of the recruitment process, I am completely in agreement that short is good when it comes to CVs. A one-pager shows that you can pick out the best bits of your employment history and other achievements and still sell yourself well without droning on for three pages. I have a slim column down the left side with the headings Employment, Freelance, Skills and Education. On the right-hand side, I have listed my current/previous roles with a heading and a couple of short bullet points with responsibilities and achievements. That waitressing job I had while I was at uni? I finally took it off my CV because it isn't relevant now I have experience in my industry BUT, if you're looking for your first job, anything from waitressing and paper rounds to after-school clubs can show valuable transferable skills.
Do I need a pre-header/mission statement?
While I quite like these - it's a good way to sum up who you are and what you're looking for - I don't think they are essential. If you want to have one, keep it short and to the point with a sentence about what you are looking for in your next job. Don't clutter it with things you think people want to hear like 'hard-working', 'excellent time management', etc. Anyone can make these claims and they aren't really a bonus - any employer, from a shop owner to a big accountancy firm, will want these things as standard. If they like your experience, they will want to meet you and find out these things for themselves.
Is it relevant?
Unless a job application specifically asks for it, you don't have to include a picture or information like your gender, marital status or date of birth. These things are not relevant for most office jobs; there is no need for companies to know your age as recruitment should be based on experience, but they can find this out for themselves anyway from your education dates or via LinkedIn.
What do I put in a cover letter?
Many job applications call for a cover letter, which is why I think the mission statement on a CV is a bit of a moot point. When you are writing a cover letter, tailor it to the job at hand. You can include a little about your current role, personal attributes and skills, but what employers want to know is why they should hire you and how your experience proves that you'd be an asset to their team. Try and use specific examples of achievements or times where you were faced with a challenge and how you overcame it; if you say you have good time management skills, tell them why. It's also worth tailoring the tone of your letter to the company - if it's a large corporate company, keep it professional, but if it's a media company with a reputation for being fun, you can be a little more creative with a well-placed joke. This is a perfect opportunity to show how your personality fits in with the company ethos.
Spell check and spell check again
I know this seems totally obvious, but you'd be amazed how many people make mistakes in their CV. I've seen typos, grammatical errors and even a misspelled blog link! It's worth having a second pair of eyes have a look over it - a friend might spot something that doesn't read properly, even though it's spelled correctly.
Photos from Jo's lovely Bloggers At Their Desks series.