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Some Fun Facts On The History Of The Curriculum Vitae

If you’ve been through the recruitment process in almost any capacity, you’ll likely have had to produce a professional CV. But have you ever asked yourself about the origins of the Curriculum Vitae, and how it became the expected method for recruiters to filter job applicants?

At CareerWise, we are experts in all things employment. From work experience to CV advice, our team of friendly recruitment specialists can help you with your job search – or, if you are a hiring manager, help you find perfect candidates with the relevant skills. Here is our brief guide to the origin and history of the CV.

What is a curriculum vitae?

The curriculum vitae – usually referred to as the CV, and sometimes the resume – is a document giving a written overview of a candidate’s professional credentials (their academic formation, publications, qualifications, etc.). Originally used as a letter of introduction, the curriculum vitae is now the most vital element of the entire recruitment process.

Whatever your level of job experience, you are likely to begin your job search by writing CVs and sending them out to recruiters and potential employers.

Curriculum vitae meaning in Latin

In Latin, the words curriculum vitae translate as “[the] course of [my] life”. This makes sense, as the core of a CV is a chronological list of your work history, outlining your key jobs and accomplishments from the beginning of your career to the present day.

Origin of the CV

The origin of the CV lies in the Middle Ages when skilled artisans provided portfolios exhibiting their personal style to prospective employers. By browsing these sketchbooks, wealthy customers could easily decide whether to hire an artisan based on their ability to illustrate their accomplishments.

Who wrote the first CV?

While history is open to debate, it seems that the very first resume was written by none other than Leonardo de Vinci. During the late fifteenth century, Da Vinci wrote a letter to the Duke of Milan seeking his lucrative patronage.

Da Vinci’s successful missive listed his achievements in engineering and weaponry, while also highlighting his capacity to create sculptures and paintings during peacetime.

Hidden amongst a lifetime of many achievements, this invention of the resume would nonetheless have impacts that last to the modern day!

The history of the CV

After Da Vinci’s creative problem solving and the skills of medieval artisans, the CV continued to evolve.

In Elizabethan England, a well-known land surveyor called Ralph Agas used pamphlets to publicise his services to potential clients. These booklets served as advertisements for his scientific methods and were widely circulated amongst rural landlords and the rich merchants of London.

However, for the next three hundred years, no historical evidence exists for the mass distribution of CVs in the western world. Most people were limited to the jobs available to their class. Furthermore, the pace of technological change also eliminated the need for highly skilled labourers in industrialising economies.

Employers and recruitment would often have been hiring on the basis of word-of-mouth recommendation, for jobs that did not require high levels of work experience or training.

But by the early twentieth century, things were changing. CVs had become more common. Job adverts in newspapers partly contributed to their growing ubiquity by requesting career details from qualified applicants.

Between 1900 to 1950, CVs evolved from being handwritten to typed documents essential for getting job interviews. Their printed format remained intact until the advent of the internet at the end of the eighties.

The ensuing era of mass digitisation once again altered how people applied for jobs.

The CV in the digital era

The dawn of the world wide web has changed the working environment beyond all recognition. From video CVs to LinkedIn launches, recruitment and the interview process has evolved a long way since the mid twentieth century. However, the CV is still at the heart of recruitment.

With the rise of the internet, candidates now began uploading their CVs onto recruitment and company websites, eventually leading to the demise of postal submissions. New online social media platforms like LinkedIn appeared, providing people with the opportunity to brand themselves and connect with peers within their field of expertise.

By 2010, multimedia CVs with visuals, social media links and infographics became prevalent within certain creative industries, allowing candidates to showcase their talent in a similar vein to the crude portfolios used by their medieval predecessors.

Nevertheless, some professions have remained impervious to such innovations with many hiring managers still preferring the traditional CV template over more innovative designs.

The future of the CV

So, what lies ahead for this historical document?

As the twenty-first century progresses, it is likely that online candidate profiles will become more centralised. Some commentators have even suggested that potential employers will be permitted to access an applicant’s personal metrics in order to gauge their suitability for a role.

Whether or not this transpires is open to speculation. What is certain though, is that the CV will continue to provide a space for candidates to highlight their past in the hope of attaining a prosperous future commensurable with their talent.

Do you need help preparing your CV?

If you’re struggling to put together a CV or resume, CareerWise can help.

Our specialist recruitment team can help you polish up your employment history, list your qualifications, and select your most useful skills. They will advise you on which work experience you should include, how to display the most relevant information, and whether to date your work history all the way back to university or be more selective.

If you need to attract the attention of hiring managers, a stand out CV is your first step to a brilliant new position.

  1. Be relevantRather than a rambling document many pages long, aim for one page, or possibly two pages of key information. As an example, if the role you are applying for involves working in a team, include that you are a team player. If your personal interests align with any of the job content, include them. But don’t be afraid to cut out irrelevant extras.
  2. Be honestRecruiters are trained to sense resumes that are telling less than the truth. If, for example, you have a glaring gap in your work history, address it rather than trying to hide it. Hiring managers will value your honesty.
  3. Be interestedThere’s nothing worse for an employer during the hiring process than candidates who aren’t really interested in the role. If it’s the right job for you, highlight exactly why you are the best candidate for this specific job. Show that you are engaged with this company, that you’ve done your research and can demonstrate relevant skills, qualifications and work experience. A recruiter soon gets tired of a CV which hasn’t been tailored to the job they are advertising.

Are you looking for a new job in Ireland?

If you’re looking for help with your resume, a new job in Ireland, or simply more fun facts on the history of the CV, look to CareerWise. As experts in the field of recruitment, we specialise in pairing the right candidate with the right role, every time.

Expert recruitment in Cork, Shannon and Galway

Based in Cork, Shannon and Galway, we can help you to find your ideal new job in Ireland. From interview tips to CV preparation, we can guide you through the recruitment process. We specialise in the Engineering, Supply Chain, Science/Pharma, IT and Accounting industries in Ireland, and we look forward to working with you.

Contact us online now or call us on +353 (0) 21 206 1900 to arrange a consultation.


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Phone: +353 (0) 21 206 1900