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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I can not go back to the 80's put would the early 90's do?  You are correct technology has changed the recruiting profession in many dramatic ways both good and bad.   Not sure if  "miss it" it the correct phrase but I often think about how powerful it was to have those boxes of "pump cards" that took years to fill in that no one else had.  There was great leverage in being one of only recruiters on the face of the earth that knew all of the professionals in a particular niche.  Raw data was once very valuable. 


I still have one of my pump card boxes.  :) 


What has stayed the same? Recruiting is not about data, it is about relationships and bringing value.  That will never change. 


Happy 2011!  Charlotte

Information was expensive, which made it more precious.

Now, information is abundant. It's free to find people. So, the focus is on volume. We went from stealing business cards out of a fishbowl, to linked in. Those 30 business cards were precious, I used them to gather more names, and contacts. Now, 30 names aren't as valuable. The leads we give our recruiters aren't as valuable to them. 

It is very interesting that companies still have to pay fees. Yes, they still need us more than ever :)

There was one thing I completely forgot NYC there was a guy named Butchie Marks who made a living off of buying and then re-selling company directories.  He used to have a list with company names and dates that he put out to nearly every NYC area search firm; sometimes the directories would be outdated, sometimes only for a specific department.  It was considered a "big win" internally if any of the directories were departmental (versus alphabetical).


The rumor was that he was connected with a company that printed the directories, and that he used this to start the business, growing it into an ever larger business by either acquiring directories from employees (for cash, via an advertisement in the Village Voice) or trading directories with search firms (typically one-for-one...but we never traded ours with him because we wanted to preserve the value inherent in low distribution).


I wonder what Butchie's doing nowadays since almost everyone's directory is intranet-based?  And while I agree that the phone is a great tool, who among us would trade the internet and social media for the old days of the paper directory?

ok here's a fun one.  My first recruiting job was with a company that contracted drivers out to area automotive and pharma business.  We had one major competitor and they were picking off our contractors left and right so I went down to our biggest client, hung around outside and waited for the drivers to get off work.  I snatched up every single competitor driver I could find and offered them $100 sign on bonus if they started on MY payroll the next day.  At the end of the week the competitor's manager called and offered me a job.  :)  I didn't take it.
A better question might be what hasn't changed?

There was another, similarly dressed guy a little further West towards Times Square that I seem to remember who was always talking to the pretty girls.  He had a big hat and a chrome-ensconed El Dorado, but I don't think he was recruiting receptionists.




Early in my own career, I was a wire operator (when such jobs existed) for some larger brokerage firms -- end result of that job was picking up the ability to type about 80 words per minute.  I was always nice to our admins, but eventually just wound up doing my own editing most of the time.  But it's a valid point both internally and externally -- always be nice to the admin is a good rule to live by.

Bill Schultz said:

I remember Butchie Marks!  Hey Dan- Remember that guy in the trenchcoat who used to stand on the corner of 42nd and 5th ave asking every pretty girl "Need a job?, need a job?"  They worked for a receptionist agency.  That was down and dirty recruiting at it's best.  


When I broke in, I recall it was very important to make friends with the administrative assistant.  She typed all the resumes (my boss wanted all our resumes to go out under the same format) and did all the faxing.  If she didn't like you, you were toast.  I would buy her lunch once a week and slip her $100 when I made a placement.  Still friends with her, actually.  

Reading these stories reminds me of a Dana Carvery skit on SNL...GRUMPY OLD MAN

"Back in my day we didn't have cut and paste! We used wax! Hot, sticky wax. It'd burn your finger tips and get in your hair too. We'd manually cut the tape out with sharp knives, put the wax on and stick it down. Then on the way to the printer, the sun would melt the wax and all of your hard work would be on the floor of your car! AND WE LIKED IT THAT WAY!!!"

I got in the recruiting business in late 93, but I helped my father with all his technology for his firm while I was in college.

1. Wyse dumb terminals

2. Dot matrix printers with tear off edging. 

3. As mentioned, fax paper rolls. 

4. DAT tapes that were the size of dinner plates.

5. Suitcase cell phones, then the brick cell phone. 

6. Secretaries that would listen to the micro tape of a dictated letter.

7. Going to the library to do research.

8. Using a service called Dialog for company research information.  So slow.

9. Going through the major pain of registering a URL...what a hurdle.  I grabbed about two years after I was out of college and recruiting, in late 1994. It took about 11 months to finally register on 9/1995.  I'm pretty sure we were the first US recruiting firm to register.

10. Having clients that didn't hiccup at expenses or paying a full 33% retainer.

11. Flying and being upgraded out of curtersy on every flight.

12. United Red Carpet Room interviews.  We used to joke we had an office in every airport around the country.

13. Showing up about 15 minutes before a flight and pulling an O.J. Simpson dash (not slash!!!) through the terminal.

14. Everyone wore suits and ties

15. and... being thought as a consultant rather than a sales person.



Grumpy Old Man for the win!

Bill Ward said:

Reading these stories reminds me of a Dana Carvery skit on SNL...GRUMPY OLD MAN

"Back in my day we didn't have cut and paste! We used wax! Hot, sticky wax. It'd burn your finger tips and get in your hair too. We'd manually cut the tape out with sharp knives, put the wax on and stick it down. Then on the way to the printer, the sun would melt the wax and all of your hard work would be on the floor of your car! AND WE LIKED IT THAT WAY!!!"

Tools and technology of the early 80's? US Postal Service and land phone lines, that was about it. What did this 'allow' recruiters to do? Spend a lot more time in front of candidates and clients! Having begun my recruiting career in 1981 (after a decade in IT), I can tell you that it's a lot different now and a lot more challenging. With all the technology and tools available today, it's often more of a foot race to get resumes in the door. Back in the 80's, the skills sets for doing IT (data processing) searches were pretty much all mainframe centric. Now, we're recruiting for a much larger, broader base of skills and as a result, each and every search is much more finely tuned. That's not so bad, I don't mind the challenge. The biggest "problem" and certainly challenge has come from the change of recruiting models for most large companies - specifically the VMS programs! Anything that gets the recruiter farther away from the decision making hiring manager is a BAD thing.  I'd go on but I've got to get back to dialing for dollars!! Thank God for my CISCO IP phone ;)

Well, I always say "I've been recruiting since before the earth cooled"...I can remember BEFORE the fax machine, we used "v-files" which were paper applications with skills listed, and as you interviewed the circled the skills that were appropriate --and then you FILED the paper applications in a SKILLS category in the "v-files."   We kept a manual list of available candidates, which was challenging because there were no computers or software --there were "stand alone word processors" ...does anyone else remember Lanier No Problems, NBI, CPT, Wang...then they evolved into DisplayWriter, Volkswriter, Multimate and Word Perfect on early personal computers.  Then there was calling candidates before anyone had answering machines. The temporary staffing industry in the early days...good times :o) 

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