The Origin and Global Use of Resumes and CVs in Job Hunting

Brandi Glass
July 143 min read
an oil painting of Davinci writing a resume

The Dawn of the Resume

The concept of a résumé or Curriculum Vitae (CV) as a tool for job hunting can be traced back to the 15th century. Surprisingly, the first recorded résumé is attributed to none other than the multitalented genius Leonardo da Vinci. In 1482, he penned a letter to the Duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro, outlining his skills in an effort to secure employment.

This could be viewed as the first résumé, but the adoption of this tool as a standard part of the job application process did not happen until the 1950s. It was during this period that employers began using résumés to swiftly review and scan a large number of applications for essential information.

Resumes vs CVs: Regional Differences

The terms résumé and CV are often used interchangeably, but their meaning and usage vary across different countries and industries. In the United States and Canada, a résumé is generally a concise document, often just one or two pages, used primarily for non-academic applications.

On the other hand, a CV in these countries is a more detailed, longer document primarily used for academic, educational, scientific, or research positions. It’s important to note that the inclusion of personal information such as age, marital status, or a photo is generally avoided due to potential issues with employment discrimination laws.

In contrast, in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, and much of Europe and Asia, the term CV is used for the document needed to apply to all types of jobs. These CVs are often more comprehensive, and they might include personal information like the ones mentioned above.

Cultural Variations in Job Applications

Job application processes can vary considerably across different cultures. For instance, in some parts of the Middle East and Asia, personal connections and relationships can play a significant role in job hunting.

The concept of 'guanxi' in China or 'wasta' in Arab countries emphasizes the power of networking and personal relationships in securing employment. However, even in these regions, a formal application document, similar to a CV or résumé, is generally required.

The Rise of Portfolios and Digital Profiles

In certain industries and tech companies, the traditional résumé or CV is evolving or being supplemented by other forms of presentation. Creative industries like graphic design, writing, or filmmaking often rely on portfolios of work samples in addition to, or instead of, traditional résumés.

For tech roles, GitHub profiles that showcase code samples can be pivotal. Increasingly, digital profiles on professional networking sites like LinkedIn are also becoming an important part of the job application process.


Q: How should I tailor my CV or résumé for different countries?

A: Pay close attention to regional expectations and norms. In the U.S and Canada, keep your résumé concise and focused on skills and experiences. Avoid personal details that could lead to discrimination. In the UK, Europe, or Asia, you can provide a more comprehensive CV, which may include personal details, but always research local norms to ensure appropriateness.

Q: I'm applying for a creative role. Should I still provide a traditional résumé?

A: While a résumé or CV provides an overview of your skills and experiences, for creative roles, a portfolio showcasing your work is often critical. It's advisable to have both a résumé and a portfolio, ensuring that potential employers can get a full picture of your capabilities.

Q: How important is LinkedIn or other professional networking sites in job applications?

A: LinkedIn and similar platforms are becoming increasingly important in the recruitment process. They not only allow you to showcase your work history and skills but also help you network with professionals in your field, which can lead to job opportunities. Keeping your profile updated and active can increase your visibility to potential employers.


From da Vinci's letter to the Duke of Milan to the digitized LinkedIn profiles of today, the journey of the résumé shows its importance as a tool for job hunting. It has adapted and evolved across cultures and eras to match the dynamic nature of employment and recruitment. As job seekers, understanding these variations and staying adaptable is key to success in the global job market.