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A Brief History of Recruiting (And Where It’s Going)

There was a time, not long ago, when job seekers looked through the classified section in the newspaper, typed up their resumes, and mailed or hand-delivered them in order to be considered for a position. This was, of course, after recruiters and hiring managers had constructed their job ad (which usually had a word count maximum) and found different means to spread the word the position was even open.

It was a completely different game back then.

With the evolution of technology, recruitment has become easier in some ways, but more difficult in others. It's fascinating to talk to different generations in the recruitment industry because they likely all had very, very different training in the early days of their careers.


history of recruitment


Recruitment Past

Getting the word out was vastly different before technology started to really play a role in recruitment. Aside from the local newspaper ads, recruiters had to come up with creative ways to get the word out that they were looking for candidates for an open position. Recruiters had to rely on bulletin boards, word-of-mouth, and/or take out (expensive) ads in trade or business magazines.

Reaching out to passive candidates was also a completely different game. In order to “source” for new talent, it required basically poaching from other companies. You couldn’t just type in a strategic search phrase into LinkedIn and send a short note to someone, you’d have to look them up in their company directory (or the phone book!) and actively call them - and seriously hope they were okay with you reaching out.

Selecting top candidates out of a stack of applications was excruciatingly more difficult. Today, most applicant tracking systems will weed out a good number of under or over qualified candidates based on simple factors such as salary or education. Before that, though, it was all on the recruiter. Recruiters had to look through each individual application/resume/CV to scan for qualifying information. Not to mention, if there was a paper application attached to the formal resume, recruiters had to read through a lot of really, really bad handwriting to make sure they weren’t missing anything important.

Interviewing candidates wasn’t much different, but the data collection around it was. Today, recruiters can take notes on a candidate and file them safely into the online applicant tracking system. Before that, it required paper notes, and a hard file stored in a cabinet somewhere within HR. Not to mention, if a candidate met with several people and/or had multiple interviews, sharing notes was much more difficult and required more in-person meetings and phone calls.

Offering a position to a final candidate was likely a little easier before the age of the internet at everyone's fingertips, because it wasn’t quite so easy to get salary information for essentially any job in the world. This may have made closing the deal a little simpler for a recruiter, with a lot less counter-offering and negotiation in the mix.


History of Recruiting


Recruitment Present & Future

Today, advertising job openings has never been easier. Recruiters have seemingly countless options from platforms like LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, and Monster to free websites like Craigslist or social media sharing on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Word of mouth has transformed into “shares” and “likes” and bulletin boards are definitely a thing of the past.

Passive candidates are no longer something to be tip-toed around thanks to email. While reaching out to people who are already employed (possibly at a competitor) is still technically “poaching”, reaching out to them through LinkedIn or another platform they are actively participating in is a little more appropriate than calling their office’s front desk asking to be connected to their voicemail. However, a good recruiter knows to keep in touch with those passive candidates even if they say no at first, and that follow up may require a phone call.

Weeding through the stack of resumes and applications to screen candidates has obviously never been easier (thanks to Boolean searches and keyword filters). Moving forward, technology will be more and more helpful in this aspect of recruitment - particularly with the use of video recruitment tools. Video tools are becoming more common in the industry, whether its to have a one-on-one interview with a candidate across the country or allowing candidates to answer application questions on video to submit along with their resume (a tool that DeepHire provides).

The nitty-gritty of interviewing isn’t much different than it was years ago. The majority of hiring managers still rely on speaking to a candidate in person, though, as previously mentioned, video interviews are also widely accepted. The data sharing tools that are available today are what makes the big difference now. Applicant tracking systems allow hiring managers, interviewers, and recruiters to share information and communicate quickly - no matter where they are located. This helps speed the process up and keep everyone on the same page as the process continues.

Selecting a final candidate and extending an offer also isn’t that much different today than it was in the past. The biggest difference is that thanks to new technology, the candidate pool is of a higher quality, so your chances of securing a top candidate for the position are much greater than years ago. This technology is only improving as time goes on, so ten years from now the process may stay the same but the mechanics behind it will likely be largely different.

It’s easy to have the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality when it comes to recruitment, but in order to stay ahead of the competition, you must do whatever you can to remain current (or better yet, ahead of the curve) with emerging technology. No one likes to completely revamp their personal process (especially if it works), but you don’t want to be the lone recruiter still hanging up fliers on a bulletin board while everyone else has discovered a better - more efficient - way of advertising.

Interested in learning more about the future of recruitment? Check out or email me at I’d love to discuss your recruiting needs and give you access to our video recruitment tools.