The Surprising History Of The Resume (And A Look At Its Future)

The History of the Resume

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It’s been reported that Leonardo da Vinci drafted the first known resume more than 500 years ago. Actually, it was more of a cover letter to the Duke of Milan, highlighting his considerable qualifications as an inventor of innovative technologies of war. Within a couple of decades, a traveling English Lord offered a handwritten summary of his abilities to new acquaintances, calling it his “resume.”

It wasn’t until the 1940s that the resume transitioned from a mere formality, often scribbled on scrap paper during a job interview, to a job search requirement. By the time the first word processors came along in the 1970s, followed by Microsoft Word in 1983, resumes were becoming more professional and salesy, evolving into polished one-sheet profiles printed on high-end paper.

Today, printing out a resume is usually done as an afterthought, a backup to the electronic one you’ve already sent to the employer. The advent of the Internet has transformed the way recruiters and job seekers find each other and connect. Often the resume itself is merely supplementary to the information that the employer already has about you electronically. One Google search can pull up your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts in one fell swoop.

Resumes are increasingly featuring links to LinkedIn, Twitter or online portfolios and blogs. In fact, many people now send their LinkedIn page in lieu of a resume.

While it’s still important to have a document that clearly lists WHAT you’ve done and WHEN you’ve done it, employers are also hiring based on WHO you are. After all, there are many people who have the same qualifications that you have. How else would you differentiate one candidate from another?

The future of the resume is about showing not telling. We’re all becoming one-name-brands and the onus is on us to promote ourselves in the most original way.

Personal websites are one of the most effective and direct ways for self-promotion. Designer Katie Briggs’ website beautifully illustrates how to stand out to employers by clearly showcasing your aesthetic while also telling what you’ve done.

Even though a resume excels at chronologically listing past experience, your SOCIAL resume more effectively demonstrates difficult to quantify traits including character, drive, creativity and social ability. Staying socially active online is one of the best ways to showcase your unique talents and personality.

Many believe that your online profile—a combination of what you’ve posted on sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr and Instagram, as well as on personal web sites and blogs—will eventually take the place of traditional resumes.

Already sites like about.me and Flavors.me enable you to create a visually appealing page that showcases all of your social media websites as well as images and links to other pertinent profile information. Your existing website or blog are also good spots to place your social media icons.

Another prediction is that resumes will become increasingly interactive. This video resume by Graeme Anthony and this content rich resume by Victor Petit are superb examples of how technology can give recruiters a more fun and deeply layered insight into a job candidate’s skills and personality.

In the meantime, don’t abandon that resume. It’s still your calling card in the job world. But it’s better to think of it as a caption to what you’ve accomplished so far.

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