Resume History: When, How and Why

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Why Learn History of Resume

Why bother to learn the history of the resume? After all, the past won’t help you understand its present form – or will it? Learning about how it has changed throughout its 500 years of use can help you understand why the current conventions have developed. A thorough understanding of any subject is always helpful in creating your own. Read on and learn about the resume’s venerable history.

What Is a Resume?

The first thing to hash out is the precise definition of a resume. According to, it’s “a brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience, as that prepared by an applicant for a job.” That’s the form of the resume that we all know today.

But how did the word come to be? It’s French, as you might guess from the alternate spellings resumé and résumé. Specifically, it comes from the Middle French ‘resumer’. In the early 15th century, this meant “to regain” or “to take back”, and it came from the Latin ‘resumer’, which “to take up again”, exactly like the modern verb ‘resume’. The noun came back in style in 1804, and at the time it meant “a summary”. It wasn’t until the 1940s that the current meaning evolved.

Resume Evolution Story

The document itself has a storied history. Leonardo da Vinci is said to have written the first resume when he listed his qualifications for the Duke of Milan in 1482. The resume is older than Columbus’s discovery of America! This, however, was a very rudimentary form. It was followed two decades later with a traveling English nobleman who used to present acquaintances with a handwritten letter of introduction which he called a resume.

It was here that the resume lingered for some years. Before the industrial revolution, most people didn’t have a need to seek out employers. Plus, literacy rates wouldn’t be high enough for every laborer to create a resume for quite some time. But finally, in the early 19th century, office jobs became increasingly common and the resume began to find a placeholder.

In the 1930s, resumes were often simply formalities. They might be scribbled on a scrap of paper over lunch with an employer and later saved to consult in the future. You wouldn’t be expected to present one upon entering an interview, nor would you be likely to prepare one in advance.

Cheap Resume Writing Services Steps

In the 1940s, the word ‘resume’ itself became more common. The documents that hopefuls presented to employees were detailed: they included height, weight, marital status, and religion. They were more like a social media profile than like the resumes we know today! At this stage, though, they were still optional.

Finally, in the 50s, resumes became an expected part of the application process. You would prepare one to avoid resume mistakes before going in and have it with you for your employer to review. In the 1960s, it became increasingly common to add in outside information, such as clubs, hobbies, and sports.

In the 70s and 80s, digital typesetting led to more formal, professional resumes with more sophisticated formatting. Microsoft released a universal RTF document so that anyone with a personal computer could have a computer-created resume. Finally, in the late 80s, it became possible to fax your resume to an employer – very modern!

In 1994, the Internet went fully public. Monster and CareerBuilder have existed ever since. By 1995, email was the hot new way to get your resume to your employer. That brings us up to the electronic world of the modern day.

Using This Information for Great Resumes

You know the history of the resume now. What do you do afterwards with this information? Knowing all about the past, you can look up current conventions and be informed. You’re more knowledgeable about how the conventions have changed and how they will continue to change in the future. In short, you’re positioned to create a great resume. Or you can just hire some cheap writers.

If you want to know more about resume history and how to get a great resume, contact us now!