Resumes and How They Came To Be

By Peter Newfield, President of®

Resumes have evolved quite extensively since they first came into use. Allegedly the first resume was written by Thomas Edison who according to the story, simply placed his name at the top of a page and then added the words "I am available." What has ensued since that time has no resemblance to the original.

Why is a resume important? A resume, written properly is an effective marketing tool, not a laundry list of past experience. There are 11 recognized formats for writing resumes, one being the CV or Curriculum Vitae. Translated loosely, this means "life experience." In the United States, we talk about writing a resume, yet overseas they refer to these documents as CVs. As professional and certified resume writers, some of the bits of information we must keep stored in our treasure trove of knowledge are how resumes differ from profession to profession and also from country to country.

How do these documents differ? The CV utilized in the United States typically follows a reverse chronological pattern, meaning that information is presented from the current job first and documents the individual's work experience backwards from there.

Internationally, the CV follows a chronological pattern, meaning, as it states, from the first job forward to the present time. Perhaps the same reasons why the English and the Americans drive on the opposite sides of the road also effect the direction of the resume.

How many years should be documented? In the United States, we recommend going back approximately 15 years or so in a person's work history, yet for an international résumé we see them going back to education and including graduation dates.

Additionally, overseas resumes tend to have both college and high school, whereas those documents utilized in the United States include primarily college, technical schools, company sponsored training and personal development courses. International résumés also include various pieces of information such as citizenship, Visa, and immigration status (which are not usually included in United States resumes.) Here in the United States, graduation dates are generally not included unless they are within the past five or so years. In the United States we tend to have more hang-ups about age.

What pattern does the CV resume follow? The order of information presented in a CV is the same in both international and U.S. resumes but differs from the other ten formats. When writing a CV, naturally personal information is listed at the top of the page, specifically name, address, telephone number and most recently, an e-mail address. An objective, targeted or general, if one is to be used comes next, followed by education, experience and any additional information relevant to the document. Some examples would be affiliations, computer and foreign language skills.

The recommendation is that this additional information be added only if it is pertinent to the job being sought. For example, if a person is an active member of the National Basketweaver Society, this information would only be included if he or she is looking for a job in a basket designing firm. If however, the person is seeking a position as an ESL Teacher and has been volunteering to teach children and adults through a local immigration center, then this information would certainly be presented.

Why do we send resumes? The purpose of both international and United States resumes is to entice the reader to ask questions. Provide too much information, and the person does not need to meet with the applicant. Provide too little, and the reader does not want to do so. Therefore, a balance between too much and not enough can be delicate. For the most part, the person who receives a resume is aware of basic responsibilities from the job title alone. The most important information to get across is what makes this resume more interesting than all the others or, what sets this person apart from the other 600 applicants? The answer to this question is accomplishments. The how, when and what this person did to improve bottom line, operating efficiencies, accuracy, productivity or simply customer satisfaction.

Resumes, written properly will get the person's foot in the door, from there, either in the United States or abroad, it is up to the applicant to shine!

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Peter Newfield is President of®, one of the premier resume writing services in the United States. He is The Resume Expert for,,, and the former Resume Expert for, Spencer Stuart Talent Network and the Career Center on AOL. View samples at: