There is a lot going on in the world and it seems daily we are seeing historians commenting on how current global events, such as Donald Trump and Brexit, relate back to our history. This got me thinking about the CV, what is its history and what can we learn from how it has evolved over time?
From humble beginnings
What do rock flinging, creating bridges and sculpting all have in common? If you are anything like me, you’ll be surprised to know that they were the skills listed on the first ever CV in 1482. Leonardo da Vinci (of Mona Lisa fame) created the first professional CV and although, thankfully, rock flinging is no longer a skill that will impress a graduate recruiter, the essence of including your skills and experience on your CV hasn’t changed. Many graduate recruiters will suggest that by not referencing your skills you will be putting yourself at risk of simply being passed over in the recruitment process. As a starter, you should be working in reverse chronological order working back through your experience. Start with your most recent and giving the recruiter evidence of your skills will ensure that you get noticed for the right reasons. My top bit of advice here is to break up your employment and education history and prioritise those which are most important for the role.
Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived
When Henry VIII was busy, marrying, divorcing and ultimately beheading some of his six wives, the CV was busy evolving. In the 1500’s the CV became mainstream, and you’ve probably guessed it, being used to by more than just great inventors and artists.
Travelling workers were using the CV to introduce themselves to guildsmen or lords. At this stage you may be wondering why a CV is important, a CV is a CV… isn’t it? It’s not just that, it’s a personal document and what better way to make that introduction than by using a personal profile. Whilst a personal profile is now optional on your CV it’s worth remembering a good profile can enhance your chances of getting shortlisted, whilst a bad one can mean it’s the end of the line. If you are going to use a personal profile I would recommend putting this on your CV after your personal details and before your experience. Keep it short, snappy and to the point. Make it unique to you, what are you currently doing (the present), what have you achieved (the past) and what are your goals (the future). Two to three sentences should do the trick and serve as an introduction to our modern-day guildsmen – graduate recruiters.
Name, address… weight!?
Believe it or not, it wasn’t until the 1950’s that CVs began to become more formalised and widely expected for job applications. At this point in time CVs would include a lot of personal information such as religion, marital status and oddly… weight! Over the past 60 years the ‘personal details’ section of CVs has evolved greatly. Arguably, the Equality Act 2010 (which legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society based upon a range of protected characteristics) changed what information needed to be included in this section of the CV. You now no longer need to include information such as your date of birth, religion and gender, freeing up precious line spacing to talk about other skills and achievements. When putting together your personal details be sure to always ask yourself ‘does the employer need this information?‘ Keep it concise – your name, contact details (phone and e-mail) and a contact address.
To hobby or not?
It was from the 1950’s that the CV came into its own due to rapid changes in the labour market and national and globalisation of workforces, which in turn led a need for more information to be included. The 1960’s saw the inclusion of a ‘Hobbies and interests’ section which could give employers a fuller picture of you as a candidate and an individual – ultimately letting them see you fit to the organisation. The same is true today, adding in information about what you get up to outside of the lecture theatre and workplace can add value. There are however some pitfalls to avoid. Firstly, ensure that it isn’t just a list of your hobbies, talk about what you gain from these, you may want to link this into skills. Hobbies like baking, for example, can develop your ability to work accurately and follow instructions. Secondly don’t include hobbies and interests just because you feel you should do. It’s not an essential section of your CV, so unless you are struggling to bulk up your CV with other experience and skills, it can be omitted.
The CV has come a long way since 1482 and it does make you wonder what next? A glimpse into the future may just be found by looking a bit closer at recent developments. The growing use of the internet which began in 1995 and the launch of LinkedIn in 2003 has seen the digitisation of the CV. Being able to use the internet to research employers allows you to tailor your CV to the organisation and its values makes it essential now that you craft each application. LinkedIn allows you to use your online profile as a way of expanding on your CV and showcase your work. Effectively what LinkedIn has done is allow you to expand on your CV beyond the traditional 2 pages. The key thing here is to remember that for this to be effective you’ll need to shorten your LinkedIn profile URL and include this in your CV (on a side note make sure your LinkedIn profile isn’t a carbon copy of your CV). The growing digitisation of the CV will no doubt continue, the increased use of video CVs is an example of one such area. What is important to remember in this history lesson is whilst the CV has evolved the principles of using your CV to sell your skills and experience to employers has remained constant.