Leonardo da Vinci’s resume

Buon giorno,

Before he was famous, before he painted the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, before he invented the helicopter, before he drew the most famous image of man, before he was all of these things, Leonardo da Vinci was an armorer, a weapons guy, a maker of things that go “boom”.

And, like you, he had to put together a resume to get his next gig. So in 1482, at the age of 30, he wrote out a letter and a list of his capabilities and sent it off to Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan.

Here at TheLadders, we like to celebrate Leonardo’s birthday — coming up next Sunday, April 15th — by sharing his wonderful resume with you. You can click on the image below to see the full-size version.

Resume of Leonardo Da Vinci
The translation of this letter is quite remarkable:

“Most Illustrious Lord, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said instruments are nothing different from those in common use: I shall endeavor, without prejudice to any one else, to explain myself to your Excellency, showing your Lordship my secret, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments on all those things which, in part, shall be briefly noted below.

1. I have a sort of extremely light and strong bridges, adapted to be most easily carried, and with them you may pursue, and at any time flee from the enemy; and others, secure and indestructible by fire and battle, easy and convenient to lift and place. Also methods of burning and destroying those of the enemy.

2. I know how, when a place is besieged, to take the water out of the trenches, and make endless variety of bridges, and covered ways and ladders, and other machines pertaining to such expeditions.

3. If, by reason of the height of the banks, or the strength of the place and its position, it is impossible, when besieging a place, to avail oneself of the plan of bombardment, I have methods for destroying every rock or other fortress, even if it were founded on a rock, etc.

4. Again, I have kinds of mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; and with these I can fling small stones almost resembling a storm; and with the smoke of these cause great terror to the enemy, to his great detriment and confusion.

5. And if the fight should be at sea I have kinds of many machines most efficient for offense and defense; and vessels which will resist the attack of the largest guns and powder and fumes.

6. I have means by secret and tortuous mines and ways, made without noise, to reach a designated spot, even if it were needed to pass under a trench or a river.

7. I will make covered chariots, safe and unattackable, which, entering among the enemy with their artillery, there is no body of men so great but they would break them. And behind these, infantry could follow quite unhurt and without any hindrance.

8. In case of need I will make big guns, mortars, and light ordnance of fine and useful forms, out of the common type.

9. Where the operation of bombardment might fail, I would contrive catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other machines of marvellous efficacy and not in common use. And in short, according to the variety of cases, I can contrive various and endless means of offense and defense.

10. In times of peace I believe I can give perfect satisfaction and to the equal of any other in architecture and the composition of buildings public and private; and in guiding water from one place to another.

11. I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may.

Again, the bronze horse may be taken in hand, which is to be to the immortal glory and eternal honor of the prince your father of happy memory, and of the illustrious house of Sforza.

And if any of the above-named things seem to anyone to be impossible or not feasible, I am most ready to make the experiment in your park, or in whatever place may please your Excellency — to whom I comment myself with the utmost humility, etc.”

What a fantastic piece of personal marketing! There’s none of his famous backwards-mirror writing here — this letter was intended to be read and to persuade.

I’m a hopeless pedantic, so here’s what I think we can learn from Leonardo’s resume:

You’ll notice he doesn’t recite past achievements. He doesn’t mention the painting of the altarpiece for the Chapel of St Bernard; he doesn’t provide a laundry list of past bombs he’s built; he doesn’t cite his prior employment in artist Andrea di Cione’s studio.

No, he does none of these things, because those would be about his achievements, not the Duke’s needs.

Instead, he sells his prospective employer on what Leonardo can do for him.

Now imagine being the Duke of Milan and receiving this magnificent letter from the young prodigy of Florence. The specific descriptives paint a vivid picture of siege engines and bombardments and mortars and trench-draining and bridges to defeat the enemy. You can imagine the scenes that ran through the Duke’s head as he held this letter in his hands and read through Leonardo da Vinci’s bold statements of capabilities.

What Renaissance Duke wouldn’t want “kinds of mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; [that] can fling small stones almost resembling a storm”? Sounds pretty enticing.

And that’s exactly what your resume needs to do, too. Not the laundry list / standard bio that talks about you, but the marketing piece that talks about the benefits to your future employer and how you fit into his or her needs and desires.

So it turns out that even on his 560th birthday, this remarkable fellow Leonardo da Vinci is teaching us about the future. What a genius…

Here’s wishing you an illustrious week, Readers!

As the Italians might say…

Sto tifo per te!

Write us your thoughts about this post. Be kind & Play nice.
  1. Dr. Desiree Cox says:

    Thanks. Brilliant post. Much Love Desiree

  2. amina says:

    I love it,was amazing read the letter, i wich add to my resume, he sell himselfvery easy.

  3. Bojan Cubela says:

    Thank you Marc! Wonderful story to share and consider.  For those of us who believe that “Finding a Job is a Job”, we should consider adding word a ”sales job”.  And what we sell has to align with what buyers are buying.  In our approach, we must address first what employer needs not who we are/were.  A true gem! Thank you for sharing.

  4. Filizshine says:

    Wow… Thanks Marc!  Reading this was amazing….. I suppose some lessons are timeless.  Thanks for sharing!

  5. Munir says:

    I agree with the approach, but the main task is to get the prospect hiring manager to believe in what we have to offer. It would be more difficult when the trend is to show what you have done rather than what we have to offer.

  6. I almost didn’t read this one, but I’m glad I did. It generated
    something of a lightbulb moment…


    But I do have a comment, and it’s this:


    I’m not sure Leonardo wrote a great resume; I think he wrote a
    great cover letter.


    If, and these days it’s a BIG if, one presents a resume AND a
    letter, don’t you think the resume IS about accomplishments, and the cover
    letter is the “here’s what I will do for you” selling piece? Or, put another
    way: the cover letter is the value proposition, and the resume contains the
    proof points.


  7. I,m looking for a Job for eating my family so what I make with Leonardo Dafinchi you can see your Picture in the top that was you are singing (ya lil ya ain)  so what I must to do for my JOB in your Company??????????

  8. Miami Boy says:

    I agree with those remarks … I thought great cover letter when I read it … and maybe points that could be reiterated in a thank you note.

  9. So true. It’s not about you or your past.  It’s about them. How and why other employers utilized you is not what is on your next boss’ mind at all. His business situation is. I’d add that presenting old information on a speculative basis is unnecessary. Asking questions is how to make yourself the only person the boss meets who ‘gets’ what he wants accomplished.

  10. Hilldomain says:

    Here is the irony. This article is  marketed to people looking for better work and claiming we should be tailoring our resumes to the needs of the employer but the letter is saying nothing about how Cendella can help us get a job. We are Cendella’s clients the ones that would hopefully hire them for their services of how they can assist us , not in general, but specifically. 

    It is a general mass email which I usually dump in the junk mail pile. Why? Again it is not addressing me as an individual. It is much like Davinci’s weapons- buckshot across the field. 

    It is also a tired old story. Employers claim they can’t find qualified candidates yet all the while they want to know single-mindedly how the worker can help them. It is a working relationship. I wouldn’t want to work for a company who could only see their needs and not the ones of their employees. Take care of your people and they will take care of you. 

    Yup it’s been a buyer’s market for the past few years but that won’t be true forever and the buyers/employers are amounting some serious bad karma. They won’t survive the market. If they can’t take care of their internal  clients/workers how will they be able to meet their client’s needs? This is Total Quality Management.  We forgot about the days when companies would have the skill to recognize talent from afar and do some recruiting of their own. Our nation and economy thrived because we were about finding the best person for the job. Maybe the future really is in the past. If we all can hold out for making a life rather than a meager living we will all be better off as a nation.

  11. gutmach says:

    I’m in recruiting, and fully agree it’s a great cover letter, not a
    resume.  Recruiters need to see past experience that matches (or at
    least strongly relates to) what will be expected to succeed in the next
    job.  The old maxim of “the best predictor of future X is past X” is
    held dearly by most recruiters.  Sure, we are fine with a 10-15% stretch
    in one’s next role, but it’s typically too great a risk to hire someone
    trying to re-invent themselves.  That kind of experimentation needs to
    be done on your time via freelance consulting projects (even if it has
    to be a pro bono project for a non-profit organization) until you build
    up a track record of the kind of work needed by your new employer.  Then
    you have some credibility when submitting the resume.  It’s not as good
    as having done the same kind of work at a direct competitor, but it’s a
    lot better than a career changer.  The cover letter would have gotten
    my colleagues’ initial attention, but would not have called him in for
    the interview unless it accompanied a resume that DID mention painting of the altarpiece for the Chapel of St Bernard, the effect of some past bombs he built, his
    prior employment in artist Andrea di Cione’s studio, etc.

  12. Rkarmiol says:

    wow. it really makes you think.yes one has a resume but it is a work in progress. kudo’s! rita karmiol

  13. George Zorbas says:

    Loved your da Vinci proposal letter. It appeals to history buffs like.
    The next question is “did Leonardo get the job?”
    I believe the answer is no.
    Keep punching.

  14. Shaunna Morgan says:

    The letter is written with Leonardo’s knowledge and deep understanding as an inventor and that of a strategest to apply his thoughts to creating new and innovative warfare equiipment that would take the enemy by surprise and also offer his services in arhitechtual enterprises, including his confidence to create perfect monuments. Throughout the letter, Leonardo’s passion to please was paramount.Whether his letter is conmsidered a cover letter, Resume or Execitive Profile: As an employer – what’s- not to like?

  15. Dan Graves says:

    Isn’t this really a terrific cover letter with a strong sales presentation?  I am sure it would get the Duke’s attention, but  anyone can make claims.  Where is the proof  (resume’) that the claims can be achieved if Leonardo is hired?   I am sure the Duke had nothing to lose by inviting him to talk, but I am sure he would have sent him a carriage if he had a strong resume’.

  16. Shaunna Morgan says:

    I agree, as a nation or as an inividual we should cosider raising our expectations in what we value and hold true.

  17. Ferdinando Voto says:

    Mr. Marc Cenedella:

    The closing remark should read “sto tifando per te!”

  18. Jeff says:

    Hi Marc,
    Thank you for sharing Leonardo’s letter and résumé to the Duke of Milan. Incidentally, I had in my possession at one time a compendium of da Vinci’s drawings. The man was amazing, and I just love the way you wove this letter of da Vinci’s into a learning lesson for us all. You know, the point you make is something I’ve struggled with quite a bit over the years as I’ve re-written, updated, and re-written my résumé in an attempt to best pitch myself for future work assignments. 

    For example, I’ve been asked by a large recruiting firm to prepare a summary of three projects I’ve worked on in the past that will best showcase cost savings, metrics and positive outcome. So, what does their request tell me? That they are taking a shot-gun approach in trying to market me. That’s okay, I guess, for what they do, but I am about much, much more than just what I’ve been asked to accomplish by past employers, you know? As in Leonardo’s letter to the Duke, I have ideas for the future that I want to pursue — technological and socio-economic — to benefit an employer, myself, and America. But how do I pitch myself and my ideas when most recruiters and employers are ingrained with the notion that a résumé should simply showcase the candidate’s past achievements? I think I just answered my own question; the future can be addressed by a letter, just as Leonardo did.  

    Many thanks.

    Jeffrey J. Western

  19. Mike A says:

    What is the source for the translation?

  20. Graysonladonna says:

    Inspiring information. I always found  history to be fascinating.  Also,
     I agree that the company must be for the people are their system will fall.

  21. Mattnelko says:

    Unfortunately, Leonardo wouldn’t even get a first look (let alone a second look) in the 21st Century because he would be forced to apply online, and this letter, good as it is, wouldn’t even bubble to the surface of the database because of its woeful lack of “keywords”.  And even then he still wouldn’t get past the front door, because today’s brain-dead HR idiots are too stupid to recognize good talent in the first place.  In the 21st Century economy, I see Leonardo da Vinci languishing on unemployment until his benefits ran out, losing his home, and eventually struggling to make a living as an artistic panhandler on the New York subway system. 

  22. Danfrom2000 says:

    I choose to do not invest in such organizations. It is a waste
    of time, period; investing in recruiters and get involved in nonsense story
    like this. I have tried all this suggested surrogates recommended by remarkable
    agencies, recruiters, head-hunters. After one year I just realized “these
    are words only”. Facts? There are no jobs! If you do not have connections to
    get back to work or into work, the only thing that these companies are doing is
    to get an existing employer from A to B, for some extra money.


  23. Mattnelko says:

     Amen, Hilldomain.  Our entire corporate hiring infrastructure today, thanks to the internet, is rigged so that across all industries, we’re ending up with a cheap, young, and mediocre workforce. 

  24. smt says:

    Does anyone know if he did in fact get a job from this letter?

  25. Victoria Swift says:

    This is so true and so sad that a genius such as Leonardo’s could possibly go undetected due to his cover letter or resume.

    Perhaps there is a better way to discover new talent?

  26. Mattnelko says:

     Well, a good start would be getting HR out of the recruiting and search process, and let them go back to focusing on what they do best — administrating benefits and handling the paperwork of people who already work there.

  27. Jarofisher says:

    Its good and interesting but what does it achieve?

  28. Rene Remington says:

    Whether you use this for a resume or for life in general it is a great piece. It is  written with a bit of charm and a lot of wisdom.

  29. jalel says:

    what is the purpose of this resume,tel now ill wait for my application.no body rply on my cv,and always send for likee.

  30. Suvoac says:

    I find it interesting that Mr. Nobel as in the Nobel prize was a dynamite inventor but had a major shift in his priorities like da Vinci another destructive inventor.  What I got most out of this was beware what we do distructively under the guise of making a living.  Pursue life and the share the talents that are life giving from within you.  Everyone will benifit from it

  31. Sam says:

    Great pick and the best posting I’ve seen by far on “Self Marketing”. It may not be a resume for some people who look for past experience, but to that I say mix this with past experience as additional points and you got the creative Bio. Let the reader ask for your resume which will be the second round.

  32. Richard Rayyis says:

    Dear Marc,
    Thank you so much for sending this out, I truly enjoyed reading it. I wonder how many of your readers know who Leonardo is and with this email I hope those that dont know who he is will take the time to look him up and learn more about his great accomplishments.

    Richard Rayyis

  33. Maliaarcio says:

    I believe it is inspiring and  gave me a much needed jolt o reativity. I loved it . Wether he got the job or not. His work is still loved and admired to this day. That he knew how to sell himself and articulate all that he brought to the table. Mark thank you for the info.

  34. euonymous says:

    As so many comments point out, by today’s standards Leonardo’s letter may be more of a “cover letter”, but in his day it was clearly an employment pitch. Appropriate and effective. I enjoyed it tremendously. Thank you.

  35. In the 21st century economy what I see Leonardo doing is what has always been how jobs are awarded for centuries – keep in touch with the people in charge of the work he wants, so that they’ve met and talked before, perhaps over months or years, and they therefore are confident he can produce the results they want. HR is a relatively recent invention and often is not even part of the conversation or transaction.

  36. Peter McLaughlin says:

    Apparently he was employed by the Duke, but not in the manner suggested by Leonardo’s cover letter.  According to Wikipedia he and another hired hand “orchestrated the wedding celebration” of the Duke and his young bride.  And the Duke apparently later employed him “at court,” though it seems to be conjecture.  In any case, let’s not let the lesson be lost on picky details.  Nice job, Mark!

  37. Mbishop43 says:

     I agree with: gutmach, Dan Graves, Nils and Miami Boy!

    The text is indeed more of a “Cover Letter” than a resume!  However, STILL a GREAT example!  It is thought provoking and as was mentioned by Dan Graves .  .  . I’ll bet it garnered the attention of the the Duke!  Isn’t this what it’s all about!!!!!

    I also thought Mr. Cenedella’s idea of taking of Mr. DiVinici’s letter of “560 years ago” and making it relevant “today” is . . . a work of art itself!

  38. Mbishop43 says:

     While I agree in essence with the sentiment of Hilldomain, because I too have been unemployed for almost two years, however,  I believe Hilldomain is missing the point and also has a “forest vision” problem because of the tree in front of him. The tree in Hilldomain’s line-of-sight is attitude. While it is true that HR Depts seem a hindrance, they are a reality and we have to deal with them! Otherwise you are “tilting with windmills” to borrow from anohter historical figure.  BELIEVE me I understand your frustration, however, you can not allow it to show when you are applying for a positon with a company. 

    I disagree that the article was “a general mass email”!  To me the article was addressing me as an individual and pointing out how Mr. DiVinci’s “Cover Letter” can indeed help me today!  The foundation of Mr. Cenedella’s article is about “differentiation” .  . . How do you make yourself stand out in a crowd a la, Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow”!  Also, unfortunately, it is the company who holds the power of who t hire and it is based primarily on their NEED . . . I believe this is the way it has been for a long time.  Some companies do indeed care for their employees too and that’s the kind of company I’m looking for and hope to find soon!

  39. Francesco Molino says:

    Italian it’s not easy: I suggest to modify the sentence
     to the correct

  40. Ken La Kier says:

    Great and interesting letter, Marc, like reading “Sun Tzu,” but what was more interesting was your sales commentary about enticing customers only with present endeavors.

  41. S Addio says:

    I was about to ask the silly question “What does it mean?”. Thanks for clarifying, Francesco

  42. Ltwingz says:

    I agree 10,000% and give 1000 Likes to your comments Matt. And I’ll add this: in this day and age, a letter like this would never get read. It’s too long, too wordy. Don’t bullshit me, recruiters, I know most of you don’t read cover letters. 

  43. Mikkoregina1 says:

    Amazing resume. This should to be placed in LinkedIn for a bait?


  44. SmartGy says:

    Your gay.

  45. charyd says:

    This is the first time I read this article and I am blown away with it having met its objective. I am in pursuit of my next adventure in my career and have been searching for strategies to make it to first base; land an interview. As other posts and articles indicate, there are other components that create the perfect storm. This approach of a cover letter invites.

  46. If there’s a Leonardo DaVinci out there today, I’d like to speak with him.

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