A Brief History of Resume Writing

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We seldom think of resumes or CVs as something with a history. Most of us take for granted that the resume has been around as long as employment itself. Historians don’t have a lot of information about the origins of the modern CV. However, if you’re curious then read on and learn what facts we do know about the historical characters who pioneered the resume.

The first recorded resume

The word resume comes from the French word for summary. While the exact origin of the resume is widely disputed by historians, one theory attributes the first CV to a very famous Italian inventor. In 1482, the Duke of Millan received a letter containing all the features of a CV. The letter requested the Dukes patronage and documented the skills and relevant experiences of its sender. This first recorded example of the resume was handed in by none other than Leonardo Da Vinci himself.

Who coined the term resume?

Leonardo is just one candidate for the inventor of the CV. A competing school of thought claims that the term resume likely evolved naturally from the culture of medieval guilds. Another alternative source postulates that the term resume was first coined by a wandering English lord, who referred to his letter of introduction as his resume. Whatever its precise origins, the CV probably came to be simply because it is, and continues to be, a convenient and effective way to sort the wheat from the chaff when hiring new employees. Now CVs are a cornerstone of the modern hiring process. There is even a thriving modern industry around CV writing, with numerous online businesses competing to be the best executive resume writing service.

Ralph Ages

Ralph Ages is another colourful character in the history of the resume, as he was the first person to publish his CV through advertorial media. Ralph covered his town in posters advertising his name, skills and “40 years” experience as a land surveyor. His practices would make him a trend setter, as in the modern day, many people have found new and interesting ways to present their CVs.

The many faces of the modern resume

  • CVs first started to enter common practice in the 1930’s. However, they were an incredibly informal procedure and were often written on scraps of paper during the interview itself.
  • By the 1950’s CVs were a mandatory part of the hiring procedure. They contained all the information we would normally put on our social media profiles today including name, height, weight, and date of birth.
  • In the 1980’s the first accounts of video resumes appeared, recorded on VHS tapes. This practice would later evolve into the YouTube resumes that started to gain traction post 2007.
  • 1983 saw the CV change forever with the release of Microsoft word. MS word is now an integral part of writing a modern resume, and it is likely you have used it yourself for your own CVs.
  • The invention of the internet opened up whole new ways of making and sharing CVs. Not only can you now pay to have someone write your CV for you, but many people even make their own personal websites which act as their CVs. Ralph Ages would certainly be proud.

So, there you have it. The history of the resume is still somewhat shrouded in mystery, but the little evidence we do have certainly proves that the concept has been around for a long time. CVs are a great way for employers to get an idea of who they are hiring and are great for deciding whether a potential employee is worth interviewing. So, in a way it’s no wonder they have become as ubiquitous as they are today. Next time you’re writing a resume, just remember that you are following a precedent set down by Leonardo Da Vinci himself. That should help keep you motivated next time your job hunting.

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