The History of the Resume

In 1482, purportedly Leonardo Da Vinci created the first resume; though scholars debate, rather heatedly to this day, whether it was a resume or a cover letter?  Perhaps this was the first time someone struggled with the dilemma of a one page resume or two?

Sometime later, a vainglory English Lord traveling the countryside distributed a document summarizing his accomplishments to the people he met.  Perhaps this was the first time people were spammed?   In any case, this rather hubristic English Lord called the handwritten parchment “resume,” which is French for summary.  How pompous right?  An English guy using a big French word, sheesh!

Time ticks and we fast forward to the 1930’s, and the “resume” is now scribbles on scraps of paper during face to face interviews.  Then in the 1940’s and 1950’s, the resume becomes a standard and a requirement to applying for jobs.  The resume would have been completed on a typewriter.  Can you imagine typing some 25 copies to send out to potential employers?  For those of you who are not acquainted with the joy of typewriters, let me just share with you a few of things I miss:  The capital letter does not align with lower case letters, keys sticking resulting in letters piling on top of each other, there is no spellcheck, and heaven help you if you make a mistake because there is no backspace.  My fingers hurt just thinking of those typewriting days!

But thank goodness for the 1980’s and Microsoft.  They created sample templates to be used with a word processor, leaving the typewriter out of work.  Experimentation starts and some high school students used VHS tapes to record a visual resume to accompany college applications.  In addition, the resume, while still fairly standard in its presentation, now has delivery method options of its creator’s work of art to prospective employers; first through fax machines, and later through electronic mail (email).

With the advent of the Internet, job seekers can both send and post their resumes, allowing them to reach not just a select few but the entire world, giving job seekers unprecedented visibility and leverage.  Monster and Career Builders are some of the first pioneers bringing together job seekers and employers through the worldwide web.

Quill pens made way to scribbles on scraps of paper, scribbles made way to the typewriter, and the invention of the word processor improved the process considerably.  Experimentation with VHS tapes made their way to people posting “You Tube” videos of personal recorded resumes.  Writers and publishers, not wanting to miss out on a revenue opportunity, began to stock shelves of “how to look for a job” books and accompanying materials; in fact, there is a whole aisle dedicated to this, aptly named the “self-help” aisle.  And now with the explosion of the Internet, one can find articles on employment advice, interview advice, sample resume and cover letters, networking, etc. etc.  All with the goal of helping people Land-A-Job.

Next blog:  Drafting a resume and the different types of resumes

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