The History of the Resume
In today’s society you would never think of applying for a job without a resume. It is a key aspect of the recruitment process allowing an employer to assess someone’s experience, skills and accomplishments relevant to an advertised position.
With that in mind, let’s look at the history of the resume and where it came from.
To begin with, the word resume comes from the French word résumé which simply translates to ‘summary.’ While it is not known who the first author of a resume was, we do know who was first accredited with its use. The Italian artist and icon of the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci.
In approximately 1481, Leonardo authored a letter, his resume, addressed to Ludovico Sforza who was the regent of Milan at the time. The purpose of the letter was to secure Sforza’s patronage for a commission, wherein da Vinci outlined his skills and experience.
The next instance of the word resume being documented in history was shortly after this time, in the 16th century. An English Lord and Surveyor, Ralph Agas, is accredited with popularising the word and even advertising it in media after penning and distributing several ‘advertisements’ of his skills and experience in surveying. He referred to his advertisements as his resume.
After this point, however, the use of the word is not widely documented again until the 20th century when resumes were used to indicate height, weight, religion, and marital status. By the mid-20th century, resumes became a mandatory aspect of the recruitment process, and some were even documented indicating a person’s personal interests and hobbies. It was at the beginning of the digital age in 1970 when the first professional resumes came into existence, quickly following the invention of digital typesetting. A decade later, in 1980, the first VHS portfolios were recorded and used for resumes and a number of people authored books on resumes and career counselling, particularly on how to sell oneself. At the same time, Microsoft and IBM released personal computer systems to the public which enabled more people to access a means to professionally create a resume.
The resume itself hasn’t changed much since the 1970s, but the way we use our resumes certainly has following Web 2.0, when digital applications and social media started to become an integral part of the modern digital era. In 2003, LinkedIn launched its website and still today is one of the leading networks between jobseekers and employers.
While it is quite possible that the history of the resume goes back further than Leonardo da Vinci himself, his use of the word to secure patronage started the short 500 year history of the resume which has evolved from meagre pieces of paper with one’s name on it to a comprehensive profile of someone’s career history, skills and achievements. With the modern age ever advancing and the job seeking process becoming more refined and selective, the future of the resume as we know it is changing.