Recruiting Then and Now - What has changed in the last 30 years?

I wanted to do a fun, nostalgic blog post about what recruiting was like in the 1980s vs. what it is like now. 


Obviously technology has changed a lot...what tools and technology were useful in the 80s? 


Does anyone miss anything about working in the 80s?


What has stayed the same over the years?

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Great idea Jessica......


I would have responded sooner, but was waiting for a fax. Ahhhh...the good old fax machine.

Tim - very funny - made my morning!

Kids nowadays, when they even use a fax, have no idea of the challenges of toilet paper roll-type fax paper, or the joys of using white out tape and a name stamp.


Here in NYC, before the fax, we had to messenger our candidate resumes to our clients.  One of my former colleagues even tells me of a time when he called a client and placed the call on hold to tie up the client's line long enough to get a "perfect candidate" to arrive at the client's office for an impromptu meeting (on old lines the caller had to hang up for the call to disconnect - the person being called was at the caller's mercy).


Resumes had to come in by mail, messenger or in-person, and MUCH greater emphasis was placed on in-person interviews.  Nowadays, only a small percentage of our candidates come in unless we've got serious interest in their background from a client!


Notwithstanding the above, I recall a time in the 90's when people thought I was crazy for buying a (then-expensive) computer to link in to our monochrome Unix database, when said database already came with a screen and keyboard.  6 months later, the whole firm was on PC-driven platforms.

I started recruiting in the 90's, but  I remember begging my boss for an hour of computer time so I could type up an employment ad which I then faxed to the Seattle Times.  I had to hire 10 people a week and yes, every interview was in-person.  Plus, we issued all our contractors pagers (remember those?) so I had to do a monthly pager audit.


When I finally took over the branch a year later we had 3 computers but only the intranet.  I begged for "real internet" and had to promise not to go on job boards like  They were afraid I would use the internet at work to look for another job!

Wow Amy.....standing in line for computer time. I almost forgot that PCs were a luxury at one time. Dan thanks for also sharing your thoughts. The messenger idea made me think of Kevin Bacon in that great 80's flick Quicksilver(enter own sarcasm).


So now who wants to bet me that there is a RBC member that made candidate presents via smoke signals?



I'm waiting for an RBC member who smacked a candidate over the head with a club and dragged them to their client's cave...  :)


Yes Tim, standing in line for computer time indeed.  :)  I had previously worked in advertising for a very large company that had computers for every desk (WOW!) but that was not the norm, at least in small staffing agencies.  We actually had to (gasp) PICK UP THE PHONE.

I knew i would get called out sooner or later.  Now about those smoke signals.  Back when tennis balls were square i did make more than one candidate presentation in person.  Still do sometimes as a matter of fact.  Just gathered up some resumes and marched over to the client's office sat down across the desk and went over resumes with the hiring authority.  He picked the ones he liked, we went to lunch and talked about the some more then i went back to my office and set up the interviews.  No HR, no wait time, blah, blah.  Face to face presentations still work very well in my world.  Many of my clients come to my office to review resumes if they are local so some good things never change.  I started the face to face presentations because snail mail took 3 town.


I well remember being very excited about the fax machine and a story i have written about before.  Not everybody thought the fax was the golden bullet.  I had a snafu on my Amex bill once.  Paid them 500 and they credited 50.  I called and said hey folks we have a problem here.  I was told to mail them a copy of my cancelled check front and back.  Ok, sez i but how about i fax you the copies.  Nope, we can't accept a faxed copy, it has to be mailed.


Now i still run into shining examples of the Darwin awards and i always enjoy messing with them, it makes life worth living as well as giving me something funny to tell my clients about the next day.  The conversation went something like this:


Me:  Wait, what do you mean you can't accept a faxed copy.  Do you not have a fax?


Amex rep:  Yes we have a fax but we can't accept a faxed copy because it could be altered.


Me:  How do you think i am going to make this copy that i am going to mail you?


Amex rep:  You would need to put the check on the copy machine make a copy front and back then mail it to us.


Me:  Uh, huh.  Do you realize that most of the copy machines in offices these days are on the top of a little thingy that copies and is connected to the phone line so i can push a button that will send the copy exactly as it scans right to your fax machine?  So what i am going to do is walk in there put the check on the top of that little thingy.  I have the option to either print it or fax it and it is exactly the same document.


Amex rep:  I don't know about that but we can't accept faxed copies because they can be altered.


Me:  Alrighty then, i will put this check on the top of my fax machine, copy it, print it and mail it to you.  I am delighted to know that American Express is such a progressive company and has such high standards of risk management.


Amex rep: (All smiles and giggles)  Yes we are and we do make every effort to do our best to protect our customers.  Please copy and mail your check front and back.


Me:  May i speak to your supervisor or one of the attorneys in risk management.


I faxed the copy of the check.  Somewhere as we speak is a somewhat red faced attorney who still probably tells the same story as to how they figured out that it was ok for folks to fax a document.


The interesting thing to me in terms of how recruiting has changed in the last 30, let's make it over 35 years is that we went from personal contact via phone or in person to everything being electronic with little personal interaction now everybody is screaming about developing personal relationships and engaging people.  What a shock that personal contact works better than email and a keyboard.  Some of us just added the  electronic means of communication to our personal interaction to speed it up but it never took the place of the way we started.

Welcome back to Old School..People are our most important product.  It's not how you find them it's how you communicate that builds those relationships ,us old warhorses were "social" before it was fashionable.  :)

@Amy I never smacked one on the head with a club but i did (before the days of cell phones) leave a note in her mailbox and on the windshield of her car that she had an interview the next day.  Answering machines were not the norm back in the day either so if we couldn't get them on the phone and they couldn't take calls at work we worked a lot at night to contact candidates.



I think you said it best - welcome back to Old School.  People and people skills are still fundamental.


Now:  post a discussion to the Recruiting Blogs forum and get input from around the country, pretty much instantly.


Then:  share ideas locally, at lunch, at a conference?

Wow, I also remember standing in line waiting for my turn to use the computer and the internet.  Thanks for this thread!  It makes me even more appreciative of the tools we now have in the workplace to more effectively recruit!



Career Recruiter

Now:  Post, do a linkedin search, do a twitter search, do a facebook search, do a google search.  Pick up the phone and cold call into companies, get referrals from previous candidates or clients.


Then:  Put an ad in the local paper and papers in every metro area that might be a source.  Do a search in every publication, trade mag. and phone book in the U. S. or the regional area targeted. We had a room full of phone books, subscribed to every trade publication and professional group like the AICPA list or the local chapter lists of CPA's, Professional engineers, Architects.  IT didn't get sexy until the 90's.  Pick up the phone and cold call into companies, get referrals from previous candiates or clients.  In my book conferences have always been a bunch of recruiters lying to each other about how great they are and beating the drum about the "way we do it". (slightly before they got drunk and obnoxious just like they do now).  Ideas shared on the phone with other recruiters is nothing new but they were a bit more selective and did not have the reach we have now.  Technology has expanded our worlds but it has created a lot of noise that has to be filtered.

I still remember my mentor throwing down a computer on the floor at Recruiter's desk and picking up the phone shouting "This is the computer I want you to learn, and wait let me check," dialing his phone number "It still works!  Powerful...  Back in 1996.  I was too young in the 80's :)

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