Everything has to start somewhere and that includes… Whoever came up with the idea to write down their qualifications and attributes and then give it to someone who might benefit from said qualities and attributes? Well, according to many, the first documented resume came from Leonardo da Vinci in 1482. That’s right, even the guy famous for painting the Mona Lisa had to have a resume. Although we are 500+ years removed from the first resume the objective remains the same: self-promotion in order to secure employment. In da Vinci’s case, he was writing to the Duke of Milan. Some of the qualifications he noted for the Duke included:
Making covered chariots, safe and unattackable in which there is no body of men so great to break them.
Constructing extremely light and strong bridges that could be most easily carried, in order to pursue or flee the enemy.
Contriving catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other machines of marvellous efficacy and not in common use.
Carrying out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also could do in painting whatever may be done.
In case you were wondering, he got the job and spent the next 17 years designing weapons, painting, sculpting and completing studies on a multitude of subjects for the Duke.
It was a relatively short time later that this type of document was referred to as a resume, which is French for ‘short, descriptive summary’.
In the 1900s, the concept of a resume as a tool for securing employment really began to catch on although not in the formal documented style we know today. It was not until the 1950s rolled around that resumes became expected from a job applicant; prior to that it was an informal, casual and often handwritten presentation of skills. These earlier resumes included height, weight, religion, hobbies and interests – all modern day resume faux pas.
Throughout their existence resumes have seen changes in technology that made it faster and easier to create and submit a resume. In the 70s it was word processor, the 80s it was fax machines and the 90s introduced us to the internet. Resources available for job seekers progressively increased over the years as well. Books, career counselors, professional resume writers, websites and more focused on resume standards and job searches.
In recent years, job seekers have continued to embrace technology in order to promote their resume. Electronic resumes, video resumes, infographics, QR codes and personal websites have become increasingly common while traditional paper resumes are declining in popularity. In addition, social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook have given job seekers even more opportunities to promote themselves beyond a resume.
It is interesting to see how far back in history resumes can be found and makes you wonder what they will look like 500 years from now. Leonardo da Vinci certainly had the vision to imagine the future but I think even he would be surprised by the advances technology has given us. I would love to see his LinkedIn profile or video resume. Although I don’t know what position he would be targeting today with his catapult making abilities.
by Megan Koehler