Recruitment Days Gone By

Posted 19th Aug 2014

The first recruitment companies, as we would recognise them today, can be traced back to World War Two and were born of the need to find workers to fill the gaps left by those employees called to military service. These new recruitment and employment agencies quickly proved their worth and found valuable employees in a time when matching people to vacancies was vital to keep the economies, both in the UK and the US, moving. Once the war was over, returning soldiers, once demobbed, needed to integrate back into the workforce and so the recruitment agency remained and the industry, from this well-motivated beginning, started to grow.

With the blossoming of the recruitment industry, the CV saw greater use and together they started a revolution in how employers and job seekers were introduced to one another. As the prevalence and quality of recruitment consultancies increased, the popularity of agencies with organisations that employed others rose dramatically, their focus quickly moving from searching for jobs for the unemployed to finding job seekers for companies that wished to recruit (a subtle, but very important change).

As the recruitment industry found its feet, so did the methods employed that became the tools of the trade. Word-of-mouth and notice boards evolved to become telephone and letters, followed by the game-changing introduction of the fax machine and now the revolution that is email. It wasn’t so long ago (only a few short decades) that a job seeker’s first port of call would be the local paper or a notice board at the post office. Interested applicants would make note of the vacancy and then run home to start hand writing a letter of application. The diligent applicant would take their time, perhaps a couple of hours or more, to craft a letter expressing their interest and setting out their suitability before enclosing a typed CV and then marching to the nearest post box. Days and weeks of anticipation would follow until a reply would land on their doorstep; how different life is now. There was recently an ‘app’ released that extracts personal information from your social networks and completes any application for a vacancy you are interested in. All you have to do is answer a couple of questions about your experience and hit the “apply” button. Applying for a job can now take less than a minute!

The nature of recruitment may have stayed the same, after all the industry’s sole purpose is essentially to source and place candidates in vacant posts, but modern recruitment practice is a million miles from its humble beginnings in the 1940s. With the advent of the internet, a recruitment consultant’s box of tools has expanded beyond what anyone could have anticipated. Electronic CVs, social networks, applicant tracking systems, video CVs interviews and much more are all part of contemporary recruitment practice. We obviously don’t know what the future holds, but it does looks bright indeed for recruiters and we certainly can’t wait to see how the recruiter’s role evolves further in the coming years.

Photography courtesy and copyright of Seattle Municipal Archives

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