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Resumes (CV - Curriculum Vitae)

How to Write a CV
The purpose of the Resume (CV, Biography) is to present you and your education to someone who do not know you, or do not have time to get acquainted with you. The Resume should present you in the best possible light, in a concise and well-structured manner. There are numerous guides where you can learn in details about ways of writing a CV for each specific situation. Each of these guides has its own style of writing a Resume, so there is no singular way of doing it, but a universal way of writing a Resume, which we would like to present, can still be extracted from all that. A Resume you write for the purpose of applying for a job should not exceed two A4 pages, unless you have an extremely rich work experience, or you are applying for a top management position. A well-written Resume shows the most important things first, but also includes all the relevant information. In order to achieve your goal, we suggest that while writing a CV, you should adapt it in accordance with the goal you want to accomplish (a job, continuance of studies, scholarship, conference, etc.).
If you are mailing your CV, print it on pure white A4 paper. A CV is written in Arial or Times New Roman font, and the font size should be between 10 and 12, but never larger than 12, because large fonts leave a bad impression. On the other hand, you should not use a font which is too small, because it could be illegible. Do not write your CV in capital letters, or use letters in different colors, too many underlined letters or italic. All these contribute to illegibility and lack of seriousness of a CV.

A CV should not be sent without a cover letter, even when it is not indicated that a cover letter is necessary. It informs the reader of your resume, and it points out to its important parts. Make sure that the overall appearance gives the impression of a neat and educated person.
The CV itself should ideally include the following: personal information, education, work experience, awards you’ve won, relevant courses and seminars you’ve attended, knowledge of foreign languages, computer literacy, personal traits, hobbies, and other notes, if there are any.

Personal Information
Here you should state your name and surname, date of birth, your address, e-mail, telephone number, and citizenship (which should not be identified with nationality). If you have two addresses, you should write both of them, preferably with dates when you can be found on each. Personal information may be written in a smaller font, if you want to save space for other data. If your CV attracts somebody’s attention, that person will look more carefully into your personal information. What is important is that it is there. It is particularly important not to embellish the text with different fonts, drawings, animations, etc. You only should make sure that your name and surname are written in the same font as the rest of the text, so the reader could see whose CV he/she is reading. The title (Resume, Curriculum Vitae) should be in the upper part, but if there is not enough space, it can be omitted, because, if your CV is well-written, it will be clear that it is your resume, so the fact should not be especially accentuated. In the section with your personal information, you can put a photograph on the right. The purpose of the photograph is to help the employer link the impression from the resume to the impression from the interview, after the interview is over, especially if he/she had many candidates before and after you. The photograph should be smaller, like the one in your ID card (unless the nature of the position requires otherwise). In no case should you send the photograph as a separate file, nor should you send photographs in which you do not look serious, or professional.

In this section it is important to emphasize which secondary school you graduated from, the period of time you were in secondary school, the degree you have. You should state your average grade in secondary school only if it was high, and if you do not have a university degree. If you have a university degree, you should state the name of the faculty you graduated from, its location, the duration of your studies, and the date of your graduation. You should state your average score only if it is representative, and if it exceeds 8,00, in case you intend to use your CV in our country, or 9,00 for foreign countries. When you are sending your CV abroad, you should list the rating scale used here, and state that the passing scores range from 6 to 10.

Work Experience
In the work experience section, you should state the list of companies you worked for, the period of employment in each of them, the position where you worked, your duties, responsibilities, the things you have learned there, skills you have acquired. You may list the practices you have attended in this section.
You should not try to diminish the things you did, nor should you be ashamed of your previous jobs. Show your future employer you are a person ready to learn, and to develop his/her potentials in every situation. Work experience not particularly relevant for the position you are applying for now should not be particularly emphasized or described, only mentioned.

This kind of information is what distinguishes you from the other candidates. Name the scholarships and awards you have won, and competitions you have participated in. You do not have to specify the name, year, or place. You can describe in a few words what you think is important about these awards, scholarships, etc.

Seminars and Courses
Here you can list professional conferences and seminars you attended, both in the country and abroad, as well as other courses you attended. This kind of information presents you as a person who takes initiative, and is ready to fight for good education, practical experience, and as a person ready to learn and develop.

Foreign Languages
List all the languages you can speak, with a note referring to how well you know that particular language (beginner level, intermediate level, advanced level, proficiency in reading, writing, and conversational skills). Also, if you have attended and successfully completed a language course, and you have a diploma from it, write that as well.

Computer Literacy
List all the computer programs you are familiar with, including the use of Internet, and determine the level of your knowledge (beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert level). If you do not know how to work in Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and how to use the Internet, we suggest you should start learning as soon as possible, because this is the minimum computer knowledge required both in our country, and abroad. If you have completed a computer course, be sure to list it here.

Personal Characteristics
List all the characteristics relevant for the position you are applying for, such as: initiative, team work, persistency, communication skills. Very often, desirable personal characteristics are listed in the job advertisement, so you should adjust them to those characteristics you possess.

If your Resume sounds too cold and professional, you can refresh it with a section about your hobbies. Hobbies and other interests look nice in every Resume, because they present you as a person who, in addition to work, knows how to include and organize fun in his/her life.

In this section, you can list everything you deem important, but you could not write it in any of the previous categories. Be sure to specify if you possess a driver’s license. You may also add that you have a car (especially if you think this information is important for the position you are applying for), that you have completed mandatory military service, etc.
These are just some of the standard parts that a CV should have, and you can naturally add anything you think is necessary, and create a Resume at your personal discretion.

Additional Instructions for Writing a Resume
Write in the third person, or in the passive voice.This will create an impression of objectivity. If you write in the third person, do not use personal pronouns (Correct “graduated from secondary school”, Incorrect “He graduated from secondary school”).

A CV must be free of spelling or grammatical errors. If there as such errors in your CV, you look like a person who is not familiar with spelling, like a negligent, reckless, superficial, or indifferent person.

All the information in your CV must be correct.  If you have stated incorrect information in your CV, you risk being discovered at your first interview, or not being invited to the interview at all, because your potential employer had previously checked you. After all, if you get hired on the basis of false information, it is highly likely that there will be a discrepancy between a person from the CV, and a person who does the work in practice.

Do not omit any important information. If you fail to mention any piece of important information, your potential employer might get an impression you are negligent, so you have not paid attention to the content of the CV, or that you are trying to withhold information. 

Put yourself in the role of the person who reads your CV. Try to understand the qualities that this person, organization or company is looking for. Think about the questions you would ask, if you were a person who receives hundreds, or thousands of job applications, and what would appeal to you in a particular CV. Of course, you must take into account the purpose of your application, business policy of the company/organization you are applying for, and other factors important for that particular situation. 

Be as specific as possible. Do not let your CV sound as a general story. If you have anything to say about yourself, do it as specifically as possible, because this is exactly how you will distinguish yourself from other candidates. Naturally, specificity and conciseness go together, so your CV would not be overly long. For example, it sounds much better to say that, at your previous position, you had ensured four new clients for you company, with whom long-term cooperation contracts had been signed, than to simply say your work had contributed to the more successful business of the company.

CV must not be too long, and should include only relevant information. Human Resources departments often receive a large number of applications, to quickly review, and select between suitable and unsuitable CVs. Which is why a CV longer than two pages is inappropriate, and it would be best if it could fit on a single page. Shortening, of course, should not go at the expanse of the content quality, because it is sometimes hard to write a short CV, without omitting important information. However, you should remove all the information irrelevant for this particular position, otherwise, your CV could be perceived as tiresome and you as a person who cannot sort his/her priorities. 

CV should be legible and structured. The skill necessary to organize the structure of your CV, identifies an organized person. Sections should be visibly separated, so it is clear at first sight where every part is. The order of information must be logical, in other words, information should be listed by relevance – not by your personal relevance, but by relevance they could have for the organization/company you are applying for. Also, information should be listed chronologically.

CV should be visually appealing – dynamic. If everything in the document is organized in a square, or a regular rectangle, the page may seem monotonous to the observer. However, your CV should not, in any case, look like an essay. For example, choose a page in a daily paper which is dynamically organized, so that every text has its place, and you can correctly estimate which text is more, and which less highlighted. Compare this dynamic structure with a textbook page where the only highlighted part is the title, and the rest of the page is filled with text which is not divided into sections, where nothing is particularly emphasized, rather everything is aligned in regular margins on all sides. Such an image discourages a potential reader. 

Photograph placement in your CV.  A photograph may be put into a CV, if you are absolutely certain you seem like a professional, reliable, and pleasant person in the said photograph. If you do not want to get the opposite of the desired effect, make sure that your photograph represents exactly a person that the organization/company requires. 

A CV should be brimming with positive energy – pay attention to the words you use. People do not react positively to pessimists and passive persons. Your CV should be full of enthusiasm, confidence (not excessive, but in accordance with your knowledge, experience, and the position you are applying for), and it should represent the ambition which corresponds to the position you are applying for (e.g. if you are applying for a secretarial position, your ambition of finishing PhD studies someday will not help you to land this job, on the contrary, it could hinder you). You will achieve this with an appropriate content, and a positive attitude, and it would be wise to pay attention to the words you use. Namely, some words sound better than others. For example, if you write that at your previous position you were in charge of monitoring clients, it will sound more passive than having written that you were in charge of the quality control management. Also, it sounds better to say you were undertaking certain operations, than that you were executing them, etc. 

Do not attach documents to your CV (this does not apply to cover letter) which were not required of you. The employer will emphasize in his/her job advertisement which documents are necessary in order to apply, which is why it is not advisable to send various diplomas, confirmations, or recommendations of one’s own accord. You may send a recommendation (reference) if it comes from a very respectable person, but it is perhaps better to mention in your cover letter that you have a reference written by that person, and that you may disclose it, if necessary. 

Do not send one and the same CV when you apply for different positions. A CV should be adjusted to every job application, in order to emphasize exactly those things that will grant you a “green light” for that particular job. For example, if you are applying for a job in a marketing agency, your experience in public opinion polls will be of significance, and it should be emphasized. However, if you are applying for an accountant position, the said experience should be mentioned, but not particularly emphasized. 

Write down the name of the person to whom you had sent your CV, and how exactly the job advertisement read. If you should be invited to an interview, on the strength of your CV, and the application, the basis of this interview will probably be your CV. This is why you must know what exactly you wrote in it, and you should be ready for some additional explanations on the information you had listed in the CV. Also, you must know how exactly the job advertisement read, so you could navigate yourself through the interview with the basic criteria listed in the advertisement. If the employer establishes you are not certain what the company/organization is looking for, you will show you are indifferent toward the job, or unreliable, which will bring you a lot of negative points.

Put your name in the CV’s title. In other words, the name of the file should be petar_petrovic.doc, or petar_petrovic_cv.doc, because thus employers can find your CV much easier in the archive, than when they have dozens of files titled cv.doc, resume.doc, my_cv.doc, cv_serbian.doc, etc.

Cover Letter

A cover letter (CC) is a document which accompanies your Resume (CV) when you are applying for a job. As the CV is a document written according to an established pattern, and therefore, different candidates have similar CVs, the cover letter is your chance to give a stamp of individuality to your CV, and to express those things that make you different from other candidates. Cover letter should be very short (200-250 words), and its goal is to introduce the employer to your CV, to indicate the activities and characteristics of importance for your application. Your cover letter should answer the questions that the employer might ask himself/herself after having read your CV. In short, the goal of the cover letter is to answer the employer’s question: Why should I hire this particular person?

Form – CC has a form of the business letter: your address, and contact information come under your name, in the upper right corner of the page. Under that, on the left, write the name of the person you are addressing, as well as his/her position in the organization. If you do not have the person’s contact information, your letter should be addressed to the company.

If you know the name of the person you are writing to, begin with Dear Mr, Mrs, or Ms. In this case, the letter should be ended with “Sincerely”, or “Kind regards”. If you do not know the name of the contact person, begin with Dear Sir, or Madam.

At the bottom of the cover letter, write the date and place of writing. Below this, you should write a list of documents you attached to the application. If you are sending only your CV, it is enough to mention this fact in the text of the CC.
If you are sending your application by mail, print your CC on a white A4 paper, same as your CV, and put it in a white envelope. It is not advisable to print your cover letter on the paper of other colors but white, and to use other letter color but black. Make sure to provide quality print for your CC and your CV.

Content Structure - It would be ideal if your CC did not have more than four paragraphs. The goal of the first is to underline the position you are applying for, and where did you get the information about the job advertisement.

In the second paragraph, you should list the qualifications and skills you possess (presentation skills, communication skills, negotiation skills, or other skills relevant for that particular position), and which make you a perfect candidate for that job. Read the job advertisement carefully, determine the necessary qualifications, and check one more time if you are the right person for that job. Do not just list your qualities, explain them. Maybe the best way would be to start with your previous work experience, and the way in which you developed the qualifications and skills you now possess. Just as in your CV, the result should be that you are an independent person who knows how to take initiative and responsibility. In this section, you should explain the potential uncertainties that the employer could encounter while reading your CV, and explain the reasons why you are the right person for that position, even if you do not meet all the criteria required in the advertisement. In short, the second paragraph should show you are good for the job.

The third paragraph shows why you want that particular job. Think about it, because this question will probably be asked during the interview – why did you apply for this particular job, and in this particular company. You should express a strong motivation and ability to contribute to the work of a particular organization, and to receive a certain satisfaction in return (it would be preferable if money were not your only motivation, but also a possibility of improving yourself, promotion…).
The last paragraph emphasizes you are willing to show and explain your qualities in detail to the employer during the interview.


Letter of Recommendation

A letter of recommendation is written by your professors, your superiors, or other persons who know you, emphasizing your abilities to meet the requirements of the program you are applying for.

A letter of recommendation should help the selection committee to choose exactly you. One thing is sure, if you apply for an MBA program, or a PhD, sometimes even for summer schools, or jobs, you cannot avoid them. Unfortunately, a common problem here is that persons you are asking a recommendation letter from either do not know how, or do not want to write these letters. Therefore, when you ask a letter of recommendation from a professor, you may expect he/she will ask you to write the letter, and he/she will just sign it (you should never suggest this yourself, in order to avoid an unpleasant situation).

Sometimes letters of recommendation should be written on special paper, found within the application form. However, if this is not the case, it would be best to print it on the faculty/company letterheads. You should choose a person who knows you well and who would, by his/her qualifications, or position, best act like a person of authority for the program you are applying for to write your letter of recommendation.

Situation A - they write the letter of recommendation by themselves. Introduce the person in question with your abilities and qualifications you possess, and give him/her enough time to write the recommendation. Explain what exactly you are applying for, and what should be written in the letter of recommendation, in other words, what should be emphasized, and what shows you in the best light. Of course, it is necessary that you should be able to confirm all these things in reality, with your characteristics and skills, but you should always make sure that your recommendation letter sound as good as possible. Do not deceive yourself with false modesty, always keep in mind that the selection committee should choose you of all candidates. Finally, pay attention whether the program you are applying for requires that a letter of recommendation should be sent by the person who recommends you, or whether you can just enclose the recommendation.

Situation B - you are writing a recommendation. You absolutely must write the name of the person who recommends you at the beginning, or at the end of the recommendation letter, as well as his/her title, or position (pay attention to the professor’s title, because it may be awkward if you make a mistake, or omit their titles of Docent, Associate Professor, Professor), the name of the faculty/company, and sometimes even contact information, because the program organizers want to check your recommendations. Also, it must be perfectly clear from the recommendation that this person recommends exactly you. It is necessary to write how long has the person who gives the recommendation known you, what kind of cooperation you had (business collaboration, student-professor relationship, etc.), as well as why this person recommends you exactly. The letter of recommendation should provide insight into your knowledge, activities and results, work habits, personal characteristics, etc. If you can illustrate them with some facts and examples, even better. Finally, the last paragraph should show your potential of meeting the criteria of the program you are applying for, namely, the conviction of the person who recommends you that you are the right person for the program. Do not forget to put the date when the recommendation was written. Naturally, you should give the recommendation to the person who wrote it for inspection, although, you should not be surprised if they sign it without reading it in detail. But you must not count on this while writing your recommendation. Also, you must not forget that the letter itself should not be longer than one A4 page. Use standard fonts, size between 10 and 12.

Tips and possible mistakes during a job interview

  • Poor performance (weak character, a personality who does not stand out in any way, etc.)
  • Avoiding eye contact  
  • Lack of confidence (or overemphasizing of one’s shortcomings)
  • Lack of future career plans (lack of vision concerning one’s personal professional development in the future)
  • Emphasizing one’s private or professional plans, which show you do not intend to stay in the company you are interviewing for
  • Using regionalisms or slang in speech
  • Lack of communication skills (speaking in incomplete sentences, or answering questions with yes or no, persons you need to pull the answers from)
  • Being late to the interview
  • Overestimating, but also underestimating one’s expected salary. Many candidates are not prepared for this question, they declare it is an inappropriate question, or they refuse to answer. Keep in mind this is a common question in a job interview, so you should better prepare for it, because thus you are showing the employer that you value yourself and your skills. Therefore, it is important not to underestimate yourself, or to ask for a big salary, which is not in accordance with your current capacities, nor the position you are applying for. If you cannot specify a figure, you should specify a salary range that you think is fair. 
  • Lack of enthusiasm and desire to do that particular job, and to work for that particular employer
  • Displaying nervous habits (foot tapping, nervous hand gestures, etc.)
  • Overemphasizing the financial component (if the employer gets the impression money is your only motivation for work)
  • Lack of tact (a person too hot-tempered, lack of sensibility for interpersonal relationships, etc.)
  • Lack of knowledge from the chosen area of expertise
  • Inflexibility (lack of desire for a change of the place of residence, for work in shifts, for a change of position, etc.)
  • The fact that you have never before heard for the company, or that you know very little about it
  • Lack of willingness to start working in a lower position, a desire for great success, but fast
  •  Lack of desire for further professional improvement
  • The fact that you do not speak well of your previous employer
  • Bad self-assessment (egotism, arrogance, overestimating one’s qualifications and abilities, etc.)
  • Short-term previous employment (a large number of short-term jobs may indicate that you do not know what it is you want to do, that you are not persistent, or that you are not good in what you do)
  • Inappropriate attitude toward the employer (being too cold, or too intimate toward the members of the admission committee)
  • Frustration and pessimism (persons who are frustrated and nervous because they had waited too long for a job, persons who blame the state, or their previous employers for their problems, etc.)
  • Intolerance and prejudice
  • Cynicism/indolence
  • Lukewarm handshake
  • Informal addressing. Regardless of how relaxed the atmosphere is, and how pleasant the interview is, regardless of the fact the interviewers are perhaps the same age as you are, if they do not suggest you should start addressing them informally, do not do it of your own accord, because it may be seen as a sign of disrespect.

Common Mistakes in the Job Application

  • Empty email – If you are sending your CV as an attachment, do not leave the email title and body empty. This looks like you had not bothered to say hello to the person who receives your application, and to indicate your intention. It is advisable to write the cover letter in the body of your email.
  • CV in the email – you should send your Resume as an attachment – not write it as a part of the email.
  • Lack of attention – Do not allow yourself not to read all the required conditions of the job advertisement carefully, as well as all the notes emphasized by the employer. If you do not meet some requirement, and you still want to apply, you should explain in your cover letter the reasons why you believe you are still the right candidate for the job.
  • You are looking for any job – Try to avoid the situation where the employer concludes from your Resume you are looking for any job. Adjust your CV, and especially your cover letter to the particular advertisement, explaining why you applied for that position. If you do not state this, it will look as if you were applying for every job you find, and that will certainly not be a plus with the employer.
  • You are emphasizing irrelevant data – You should not burden your Resume with the kind of information such as the names of your parents, name of your primary school, etc. There is no need to state your nationality, but you should write your citizenship. Irrelevant work experience (e.g. you are applying for a secretarial job, but you have experience as a salesman) may be mentioned, but you should not emphasize it.
  • You did not specify all the relevant data – Do not omit information on the fact you possess all the required qualifications, or the extent to which you meet the requirements. Do not leave out other important elements of a CV, including personal information and contact information. 
  • Temporary employment – Do not say you find this job interesting only as long as you do not find a better one, a more appropriate one for your profile, or until you have acquired necessary work experience to start looking for another job. 
  • You did not specify a position – You should specify in the cover letter the position you are applying for. Keep in mind that some companies are advertising for several different positions simultaneously, and they may not know which one you are applying for.
  • You believe that the structure and appearance of the CV are not important – This may not be crucial for being hired, or rejected, but it certainly shows your effort and professionalism, and it also enables the employer to first see your important qualities for the job.
  •  There are spelling and grammatical errors in your application – This certainly looks unprofessional, imprecise and sloppy, and these are certainly not the characteristics you want your employer to remember you for.
  • You are applying after the advertisement has expired This action gives you away as a person who does not respect deadlines, or the employer’s time from the start.
  • Moving because of work – If you live outside the place where the job is, you should emphasize you are willing to move, because otherwise the employer might get the impression you sent your application by mistake.
  • Sending your CV from your current employer’s address – If you already have a job, and you are looking for a new one, do not send your application from the e-mail address you have been given for work by your current employer (e.g. yourname@the Many employers consider this unprofessional. Also, in some companies, especially larger ones, there are filters which register e-mails sent from the companies accounts, and which contain words such as “CV”, or “job application”, etc. In this case, your e-mail may end at your current employer, instead of the company you are applying for, or he/she may be informed of your application. If you are looking for another job, it is better to inform your current employer by yourself, instead that he/she should find out about it like this. When you are applying for a job, use your private e-mail account.

Many of these mistakes are a result of the candidates not being informed about the ways to write a CV, and a cover letter, negligence, or ignoring important rules concerning applying for a job. Also, one of the important causes is the fact that candidates send one CV with a cover letter to all job advertisements, instead of adjusting the CV, and especially the cover letter to the requirements of the particular job advertisement. Do not let it be your practice – increase your chances of being invited to the interview!  

Questions frequently asked by employers

  • What did you enjoy most/least at your previous job? State the reasons for this.
  • Do you possess appropriate skills for the career you want?
  • What is it that you possess, and that could make you successful in a future career?
  • Do you prefer working by yourself, or with others? Why?
  • What do you know about this company?
  • What is it that you would like to do for our company?
  • What is it that you did in the past, and which shows you can take initiative?
  • Do you get along with other people? Give us an example.
  • What school subjects did you like/hate? Why?
  • Do you like specific work hours?
  • What is your opinion of overtime?  
  • Are you organized?  
  • Are you a team player?  
  • What activities you actively participated in at the university?
  • What are your chief qualities/defects?  
  • Do you have recommendations from your previous employers?
  • What salary do you expect?
  • What is your motivation for work?
  • Why do you want to leave your current company?
  • How well can you use the computer?
  • Where would you want to be in 5 years? 10 years?
  • Who is the person you admire most?
  • Why should we hire you? What can you bring to my organization?
  • Why are you interested in this profession?
  • What makes you different from others?  
  • Tell me something about yourself.
  • Describe the skills you possess.  
  • What would you do if… (questions concerning situations that may arise in your future job)
  • How did you prepare for this interview?  
  • Describe a particular situation when you used the skill of __________ to solve a certain problem. What was the result?  
  • Describe your concept of professionalism.


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