recruiting over the years

Recruiting: Then and Now

It’s standard practice today, using the Internet to find a job. The Internet makes it easy. And it’ll get easier as more and more companies move recruiting platforms to mobile. But I remember when I was first entering the workforce I would spend a fair amount of time going through the classified section of the newspaper. Or walking from business to business that interested me and asking for an application. There was no searching for jobs on the Internet . . . because there was no Internet.

Early Recruiting

Job searching and recruiting date back much further than my entrance to it in 1984. I’m talking B.C. back, as with the building of the great pyramids. There’s a great piece on it on the U.S. News site. But there was also military recruiting in the time of the Caesars. Largely a word-of-mouth operation, recruiting in that time resembled a kind of referral program for soldiers where they were rewarded for each person they encouraged to join.

Mass recruitment of this sort prevailed over many centuries, until the rise of the Industrial Age from which modern recruiting in the twenty-first century is still modeled: the newspaper classified.

Recruiting in the Industrial Revolution

Newspapers became the mainstay of getting word out about job openings during the Industrial Revolution, a time when exponential economic growth of a business quickly outpaced the local population and produced the hierarchy of employment we have today (employees, managers, managers of managers, CEOs, etc.).

Classified ads dominated recruitment for about 150 years, remaining largely unchanged in format into the twentieth century. The ads were pricey and placement limited the amount of content that could be printed. This meant there was no company branding in the message, just straight forward job descriptions with often generalized and abbreviated details.

I remember the first summer I looked for work, taking the help wanted section of the classifieds from the Sunday paper, before my parents could start their hours-long reading of every single page, every single column, including the classifieds. I’d circle the jobs that interested me then I would call the number first thing Monday morning. Or if it was close enough I would walk over and ask for an application. I did this every week. That’s just how it was done.

Recruiting in the Internet Revolution

Then came the Internet. Before the Internet, recruiting was largely done at scale, locally. Sure a paper might have state-wide distribution; some reached a nation-wide audience, for sure. Magazines certainly had wide distribution. But things really went national on the Internet with recruiter websites like You could still search for jobs in your area but so could job seekers across the country.

Hundreds of Job boards popped up after 1992. Then came the large aggregators, like Indeed, in the 2000s. Costs to reach a wider audience decreased allowing more opportunity for brand messaging. The decline of print ads were in motion as the Internet heralded a new frontier in recruiting. It spawned Applicant Tracking Systems that gave employers the ability to recruit efficiently, focusing on quality of hire through data collection. Career oriented websites empowered organizations to brand their business and promote company culture online at a near zero cost. Job notifications could be delivered to prospective candidates by email. Everyone and anyone connected to the web could access a company’s open requisitions. The Internet made it easy to relocate to where the jobs were.

It was as disruptive a technology in recruiting as it was in every other area it touched.

Recruiting Today

We’re well into the twenty-first century and now there’s mobile recruiting breaching the horizon. What else is happening? Looking at other areas, job descriptions pretty much follow the same format as they did in the times of classified ads. Technologies have certainly improved. Delivery systems have changed: just consider how social media has transformed recruiting strategies. There are video interviews now. Talent pools have grown; employers can’t fill jobs fast enough. Competition is higher. Quality is higher. Candidate expectations are higher. There’s no denying that the Internet has changed the landscape of recruiting, but what has been the real innovator to recruitment since it’s invention? I mean, look at any ATS today. What has changed in the last decade? Not much.

Except mobile. It’s still young with few early adopters. But its impact on the job search will inevitably put a new face on recruiting as more and more companies are pushed to a mobile platform. Those who do not make the move will go the way of the paper classifieds. They will be seen as outdated and the new workforce that is growing up with mobile technology will ignore them as employers. Adapt or die.

Having built a complete mobile platform, including mobile apply, for our clients who have taken the step to this new realm of recruiting, our research shows a slow move to mobile by job seekers. It’s slow, but it’s happening. And usage creeps up by the month. You can look at the market to see the inevitable result: desktop sales are down. Smartphone and tablet sales are up.

In my time, we’ve gone from weekend classified ads to searching for jobs at any time and are now moving into searching for jobs from anywhere. As mobile technology advances, I’m sure we’ll see many new forms of recruiting emerge and its evolution continue.

Like I said, inevitable. Isn’t it exciting?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Share This

Copy Link to Clipboard