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The History Of The Resume and Its Future

We have all heard the warning that the average recruiter spends no more than 6 seconds reading a resume. Yet, we still type up these traditional lists and chronologies of our life in the hope they will work.

The resume has been with us for so long that it is difficult to imagine a time without them. They may have evolved with technology, but we’ve used them for generations.

However, all that could change as the format loses relevancy. So, what is the history of the resume, how did evolve to where we are today, and can it survive?

There is some debate over the history of the resume. We can’t know for sure when the first resume was written. For all we know, civilizations have left some form of credentials when applying for work for centuries.

When was the resume first created?

The resume’s origin traces back to Leonardo Da Vinci in 1482. He sent a letter to the regent of Milan seeking a job. This is the first official resume on record. At first, used as a letter of introduction, the resume is a key part of the recruitment process. VHS resumes were used in the 1980s.

There is written proof that Da Vinci listed his abilities and stated his suitability for an engineering job. It is even thought he hired someone to write it so it would look professional and land him the job. He didn’t get it. But, he may have created a trend in recruitment that continues to this day.

An English land surveyor called Ralph Agas took the idea further 100 years later. We also can’t overlook the fact that the name, resume, is French in origin.

This is the history of the resume when it was first created.

The evolution of the resume in the 20th century

The history of the resume continued at the start of the century, applicants might write down a series of details, previous roles, and qualifications for recruiters to keep for reference.

Over time, more and more companies began to expect applicants to provide a resume when applying for a job.

It made a lot of sense at the time, especially for roles where experience and qualifications meant more than personality or outside interests.

A nicely typed resume and a neat cover letter were signs of professionalism. They communicated the bare essence of what was needed for the role and an appropriate level of desire for the job.

Over time, personal computers would make it much easier for applicants to create a professional-looking document with ease. It was also a little too easy to get carried away with styles and borders when you were fresh out of school. But, the printed resume also put all applicants on an equal footing, in its way.

Employers knew nothing apart from the basic details on age, residency, education, and employment experience. Also, you could print out a batch and hand them out around town in one afternoon if you were looking for any sort of part-time or seasonal job.

The Resume Goes Online

By the time we got to the 21st century, many applicants were sharing their resumes online. This was a giant leap forward for the history of the resume.

Where possible, it made a lot more sense to email files to employers instead of printing a resume out, paying for postage, and hoping it arrived safely.

An email was quick and easy with the potential for a more rapid response – if the company decided to respond at all.

Then came the online homes of resumes. Websites began popping up where we could upload our resumes on our profiles. This was meant to increase visibility and help match us to potential roles we weren’t aware of. The processes and forms weren’t always the most user-friendly, but they could get results.

Indeed and Monster are the leaders in this field. Impressively, this is still the case despite the outdated approach and potential lack of results.

The Harris Poll conducted a survey that found that most employers in 2018 found it difficult to recruit through these sites. Yet, we continue to post because that is what we’re told to do. You want your resume to be found? Put it up on Monster.

In fact, data for May 2019 showed there were 29 resumes uploaded each second on Monster and 7,900 job searches.

LinkedIn becomes a new resource for finding candidates

The rise of social media saw a new player enter the arena. LinkedIn was social media for professionals – a chance to upload professional information and network to find job opportunities.

It was a niche platform then and continues to be that way today. Those that never tried it may question if it is still relevant and effective in 2020. Linkedin statistics state that there were 706 million users in June. 171 million of those in the US, the highest proportion by far.

Interestingly, only 38% of users are millennials, despite the timing of the sites rise. It is a popular resource for employers, with 87% of recruiters turning to LinkedIn as a way of finding their ideal candidate.

Is the traditional resume obsolete?

For a long time, the resume was the perfect way to get noticed, to sell yourself as an ideal candidate. But, the way we interact and present ourselves has changed. This could also mean a change in the way that we apply for jobs and the future of the resume as we know it.

Employers may get hold of a stack of resumes for a job opening and maybe hold it on file for a while, but most will get the information they need from additional sources.

Also, it might not take long for information to become outdated as circumstances change. It is time to embrace a new approach and a new way of presenting ourselves to employers.

Our we selling our past experiences or our present circumstances and traits?

A large part of the emphasis of the resume – the traditional version we’re taught to create – is to list achievements. It is all about who we were over the course of our life. We list all of the roles we had, duties we undertook, and qualifications achieved over as much as a 20 or 30-year period.

However, this can be little more than a bland list of who we were. Previous experience in junior roles or work experience from a decade ago doesn’t showcase who we are today.

There is no sense of personality or much taste of what we can bring to a role or a workplace if we were to enter tomorrow. With that in mind, it would make more sense for firms to learn about us and what we are about via up-to-date content.

Social media pages and personal websites can be more informative and honest than any resume. That is where social media and personal websites can make a much bigger impression.

Anyone we hope to work for or go into a business venture with can browse these profiles and portfolios at their leisure.

They can see engaging, up-to-date posts about our work, interests, and a whole lot more. The themes, images, promotions, and general tone gives a good idea of what we are like to be around.

Furthermore, there may be a more instant connection and reliable first impression before meeting in person. A good website and social media page may also allow for a little more informal conversation through contact forms and DMs.

However, you also have to be aware that there is less room to hide on social media. You can’t rely on white lies to land you an interview if your social media or website tells another story.

This has also led to the idea of the multi-media resume.

We all tend to fire off an email with a dull Word document that could be from anyone with the same experience. We do so because it is what we have always done. But, that doesn’t mean that we have to continue that way.

A multi-media resume could act a little more like a presentation in video form, or a series of images, links, and other items that show us off.

In the right situation, it could be a perfect introduction and taste of what you have to offer. People in the food industry can showcase their dishes and skills. Those in the hospitality trade can show they are approachable, professional, and well-presented.

Recruiters could then make a more informed decision on whether or not they want to see more, or if your personality and approach is a bad fit. It could save employers some time in the recruitment process but require a lot more work and inventiveness from applicants.

With that said, the better the presentation the more it shows that you want the job.

What is the future of the resume?

Of course, this approach isn’t going to be for everyone. There will be older generations that don’t want to have to start recording video clips and maintaining websites when they believe they should be hired on experience alone.

So, there has to be a place for the traditional resume in the right setting. But, it doesn’t have to be the only way anymore.

Digital culture and social media mean we can be more creative, expressive, and accessible than ever. Applicants and recruiters that lean into this may get the results they are after.

Looking to engage a staffing firm for engineering or IT talent? Reach out to our IT staffing agency for help.

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