Your résumé has come a long way. The document has changed countless times since its unofficial invention over 500 years ago – but its original purpose remains intact to this day. You can find out here how your résumé has changed over time.
The beginnings of the résumé
The curriculum vitae has always used a very simple formula: It summarizes school and vocational training and lists relevant knowledge and skills. So it is a short form of the biography. Your task: the targeted marketing of your own skills in the professional world.
The modern form of the curriculum vitae goes back to a famous speculative application by Leonardo da Vinci. When the inventor applied to work for the Sforza family in 1482, he had a brilliant idea: Instead of restricting himself to a simple letter of recommendation, he compiled a list of his previous projects that identify him as a brilliant engineer and master builder.
The story of the résumé
Examples from the Prussian civil service in the 19th century follow a similar pattern. At this point, documents already existed in which officials retold their career stages – initially as running text, a little later in tabular form.
These first résumés differed primarily in their structure from their modern successors. Resumes from this period started with the applicant’s early school education and end with the most recent segment of the career. This chronological structure is rarely used for the curriculum vitae today. In the beginning, the letter was mainly used to regulate organizational exceptional cases – for example, the search for suitable employees for a new authority. Only later did it gradually become an integral part of the application process. Over the years, the formal rules of the CV have changed several times.
1950 – 1970: The curriculum vitae was a must for every application from the 1950s onwards. In terms of content, some specifications are no longer part of the scope of writing – such as the parents’ occupation or the size and weight of the candidate. For a long time, the classic fountain pen served as a tried and tested writing tool. It was not until the beginning of the 1970s that the typewriter slowly found its way into the professional world – and thus also into the application process. Despite all the innovations, every letter had to be accompanied by a sample of the handwriting.
1980: In terms of content, some important innovations have become established. For example, the parents’ professions disappeared from the résumé and gave way to international standards such as bullet-point job descriptions. The need for this arose above all from the growing specialization in the labor market. The average length of the résumés was often more than one page.
1990: The résumé increasingly served as a means of self-marketing – not least through the development of new technical design options. Microsoft Word and the Internet were slowly gaining ground at this point – both in private households and in companies. The resume now also contains new elements such as cover sheets and prominently placed portrait photos.
2000: CVs created on the computer have been standard from the turn of the century: regardless of whether they are sent by e-mail, post, or online form. The question of a standard for the résumé now mainly revolved around file formats. German companies preferred application documents as PDF, while international companies are increasingly relying on Word.
The modern résumé
With technical progress, of course, the design options for the résumé also develop. Numerous providers offer their users the opportunity to get the best out of their vita with an editor. Applicants without any special knowledge of layout and graphics benefit from this. In the end, there is the finished curriculum vitae with all the important data and form specifications – without frustration when creating and long research work.
With a little work, your résumé will address your dream employer directly. Your résumé will not look like one of many, instead, it will show your interest in this exact job. You can achieve this, for example, with an individual layout and the color design of your résumé. If you adapt them to the customs of the employer, you not only signal that you belong, but also that you have an eye for detail.
The online résumé
It’s an open secret: HR professionals also use social networks to find out about applicants. Why shouldn’t you use this knowledge to your advantage? This profile provides evidence of your hobbies and soft skills. Are you an active team athlete? Post pictures and information about your games or training sessions regularly. They show you your active and sporty side – and also prove your ability to work in a team.
Of course, the same applies to other formats and platforms: Perhaps you also run a blog that is central to your application. For example, articles for international magazines can serve as evidence of your English and technical skills. In principle, any evidence is more valuable than a mere assertion.
The curriculum vitae has changed over the decades, but the intention behind it always remains the same. It offers your future employer a rough summary of your activities and experiences. The competition is fierce – so try to stand out with your resume!