Recruitment is a process of attracting, selecting and placing the right candidate for the right job at the given time and economy. Nowadays, when talking about the different methods to find a job, no one would ignore the Internet. It is amazing how the Internet has taken over the world in less than 20 years. But how were the companies recruiting before that? How would they let people know about their job opportunities?

Personally, I did not get to know that good old time, as I first looked for a job in 2005, not that far from today (even though evolution made its work since then on the online recruitment industry). So, I had to ask some help on this History class! Thanks to give me a opportunity share in this post, you will get a better understanding of how things have changed, and how they have not.

The Old-age (Days of Emperors): when a baby was born, he/she was believed to be the soldier and was taught the arts of war to join the Army. This was said to be ‘Self Recruitment’. Later, there were protests against the emperors for farms/fields and for the right to sell the goods directly to the public for a better price. As they progressed, entrepreneurs started recruiting the labor. My point is rather to focus on work as we consider it today: willing people getting money to use their skills in order to reach their employers objectives.

Industrial Revolutions (1760>1840): With the rapid increase of industries across nations was the need for more manpower. But, the working conditions were uncertain like – child labor, less wages, poor-living conditions and long working hours. Workers started forming unions to protest against this which led to first & second revolutions resulting in urbanization, decreased child labor, better wage and benefits. This encouraged people to migrate to urban cities. Agencies played a major role planning and recruiting the manpower. This had led many small & mid-sized agencies to scale-up and look at recruitment as the future. Walk-ins, references and standing on the roads advertizing their skills written on boards were the primary job searching avenues; Agencies advertised jobs through bulletin boards, newspapers, announcements & flyers in public places, theaters, town halls, etc,.

Pre & post World Wars – (1914>1945>later): As the army was in the battle, many positions were open. Companies and the government approached the agencies to recruit manpower. Agencies began to advertise for members of society who were not called into military service.  Once the war ended, the agencies remained with the purpose of finding the returning war veterans (with their new skills) a job. Distributing the CV/resume (self-written, hire type-writers, take the help of agencies) was the new job searching avenue during this time. Agencies had ownership of candidates CVs’ written by them.

The management/storage of information was quite challenging as the agencies needed to store files and archives of masses of CVs, This problem was solved in 1983 (launch of MS Word) and with the rise of internet and technology between late 1980s and early 1990s.

Birth of Public agencies: First proposal to establish a public agency (“Office of Addresses and Encounters”) was in 1650 by Henry Robinson which was rejected by The British Parliament.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, every developed country has created a public recruitment agency as a way to combat unemployment and help people find work.

Birth of Private/for-profit agencies: The first private recruitment agency ‘Engineering Agency’ in the USA was formed by ‘Fred Winslow’ in 1893. It later became part of General Employment Enterprises who also owned Businessmen’s Clearing House (est. 1902). In 1906, Katharine Felton had started a recruitment agency as a response to the problems brought on by the San Francisco earthquake and fire.

Regulation of the Recruitment Agencies:  In 1919, International Labour Organization of US recommended for the abolition of fee-charging agencies.  After 14 years of discussions by the government and agency unions about this convention a bill was passed in 1933 that resulted in abolition of for-profit agencies if the agencies were not licensed and a fee scale was not agreed in advance. In most countries, agencies are regulated. Like, UK – Recruitment agencies Act 1973; Germany – Employee Hiring Law of 1972, etc. Recruiters began to work for the client as an increasing amount of corporate and expanding businesses began to outsource their hiring needs to recruitment agencies. With the larger size of the company and growing needs for mass consumption, the complexity of internal processes increased considerably, and the working processes started to get more specific: production, business development, management.

Until the late 1990’s, the best way to hire people that were not necessarily your daughter or your nephew was to post an announcement in the newspapers. Almost all the newspapers had a job section, or “job board”. At the time, companies had to pay for the surfaces of their announcements! So they were keeping it simple and straight. And no Google search engine to help you know more about the position or the company.

The Internet age > Today: When Internet started to get big, a lot of “job boards” made their apparition on the web. Many of them still exist today, and, created in 1999, is probably the best example of how the business has grown since then. In 2012, the company generated over a billion US dollars turnover. Thousands of online recruitment websites were born and died during the last 15 years, as it is a very competitive and aggressive market.

Just like the dating websites, some recruitment websites started to consider candidates and companies as parties looking for one another. It is actually the personal and professional social networks that made this evolution possible. By making less taboo the professional world (on LinkedIn, you can check the profile of your N+3, and even connect with her/him), people and companies have started accepting that online recruitment could be more than job boards, to become actual professional matching websites. And as innovations always come in grapes, such websites rapidly evolved to become smarter and closer to the actual needs and expectations of both companies and candidates. This last generation is called “affinity matching”. A sort of “Attractive World” for recruitment.

In 2000s, Web 1.0 and its sequel Web 2.0 have highly influenced recruitment industry by letting recruiters leverage Social Media. The concept of “Head-hunting” became ever popular while Mobile based recruitment was popping in the market. With several sources available and the need for niche talent, recruitment/sourcing has transformed from being a task to a Research Function. Agencies started forming exclusive sourcing teams and research functions. Today, web based self-branding has become a necessity that most of the applicants, recruiters and agencies have online presence. Be it LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, wordpress, etc. This is an ever-ending list. Few recruiters/candidates own blogs, websites, online portfolios/resumes making web/internet ‘One World Database’ and the trend of ‘Cloud Sourcing’. Although the rise of the internet, job portal & social networking has been seen as positive & improved the quality of a recruiter’s candidate search. Therefore in recent years, it has become a trend for recruitment agencies to differentiable themselves from their competitors using various tools, specialization & recruitment methods whereas in specific agency would have ownership of a single candidate CV written on a piece of paper.  This new technique includes sourcing the resumes/e-profiles of applicants from web (including but not limited to) search engines, social/professional portals, blogs, e-directories, etc – to keep it short, everywhere!

Throughout this Evolution, one aspect has remained the same – ‘Change is the trend’. We will see continued transformation in future as well, especially in methodical and technical approach of recruiters. Data analysis/intelligence is expected to be a critical area of focus for the recruiters/agencies. Agencies, recruiters, candidates/applicants have high visibility in the internet world. So, everyone should be unique & innovative to offer a competitive-edge. In addition to your processes, tools, methodologies – your willingness to change for better will help secure the position in the competition!!!


Recruitment is ever-changing, ever-challenging and ever-transforming industry.


Happy Recruiting!

Article by-

Neelam Kashyap (HR Manager)