Old School Recruitment – How’s it changed for you?

Monday 5th October 1998. Can you remember your first day in recruitment? What has been the biggest change you’ve seen or experienced? If you take away the technology we all use today. No LinkedIn, no CV boards to search. No Facebook, twitter or Google. No internet full stop. All you have is your phone and a fax. How long would most recruiters of today survive?   

I will never forget my first day, Monday 5th October 1998. Until that day I never actually knew recruitment existed. I’d never come across, nor heard of a recruitment agency. I’d never met a recruitment consultant, and the truth be known the only reason I’d accepted this job in recruitment was due to my cousin telling me to work for him as he’d set up a recruitment agency.

Day one I was still pretty clueless as to what the job involved, and to complicate matters more I was now an IT Recruitment Consultant. Other than playing ‘Donkey Kong’ on an old hand held electronic game, I had zero IT experience. I’d never used a computer at work, only a phone. My typing skills included me using one finger on each hand, one of which was constantly on the space key (I now use three fingers and a thumb).

I had a stack of calling cards with a company name, and phone number. That was it. I now think back and wonder how the hell I generated money from just a phone, and them calling cards.

I touched on this in an article I did the other day (Time to type? ‘You’ve got time to talk’), whereby 90% of my day was spent on the phone. Every single client contact was sourced by way of phoning up the company and asking for their name. I remember one of the ways I would generate a list of names to headhunt was by finding out one person’s name within the IT department, then speak to another individual within the IT department telling them I was organising a surprise birthday party such a person, and would they be able to send me a list of his/hers co-workers so I could send out some invites. I can imagine some of you now cringing at the thought of this. I must have organised more surprise parties that year than most people do in a lifetime.

The one thing I will never forget is the time my company first introduced Monster as a tool for us to search for candidates CVs. That for me was when I saw the biggest change in recruitment. Overnight the atmosphere changed from an office full of consultants stood up speaking to clients and candidates over the phone, to an office of consultant sitting at their desks in deep concentration. We had gone from an office full of vocal sound, to an office where all you would hear was the scroll of a mouse, and the click of a keyboard. That one tool had revolutionised the way our company started to work. 

Like most things in life, businesses, and how we conduct our business is forever evolving. Take away the internet as a tool for recruiting now. How would recruiters survive?

I’d love to hear what has been the biggest change you have seen since starting out, and how you could imagine recruitment to be without an internet connection.

Views: 992

Comment by Tiffany Branch on November 29, 2012 at 12:14pm

As a corporate recruiter, I remember actually writing ads and submitting them to the newspaper(s) by Thursday so they could format them and send back to me for review (via fax) so they could be ready to run in the Sunday papers.


I recall my inbox and fax machine being full on Mon and Tues with resumes and manually sorting them into piles. Oh the paper cutes.


I recall sending out "thanks but no thanks" letters and doing mail merges. We eventually switch to postcards where we had an Admin affix an address label. This saved me from signing tons of letters weekly.


I remember making lists of competitors and cold calling into thier orgs trying to reach the folks I wanted to contact. I also recall contacting the HR Depts for companies that may have been going through lay-offs that had the same talent we were looking for.


I did alll applicant tracking in a shared excel worksheet that someone always messed up because they didn't know how to format correctly.


Before many companies created an intranet, I had to post print outs of the open job lists and post them in every breakroom.


Oh, those were the days.

Comment by Will Thomson on November 29, 2012 at 3:15pm

Does anyone remember the "Chop and Block".  As an old Aerotek guy, I would chop off the resume address and phone number of the candidate and put Aerotek's info on the top instead.  The Aerotek Triangle was raised slightly with shiny blue letters.

Comment by Will Thomson on November 29, 2012 at 3:15pm

Oh and don't forget the manual G2's.

Comment by Tiffany Branch on November 29, 2012 at 3:17pm

@Will, I remember getting those resumes from third party recruiters. I also remember "faxing back the signed agreement." LOL

Comment by Russell White on November 30, 2012 at 6:38am

I started in recruitment in 1983 with a load of typed candidate details on a Rolodex, cold calling companies that had advertised in the Slough Observer to get them to agree to see the CV's of my candidates (beautifully typed & posted by ny secetary - who was a lot older than me I must add!). It was all so genteel!

We got very excited a year or two later when we got a fax machine which meant you could actually forward details and the client would see them the same day!

I do like all the tools that have made the job a lot easier in some respects but also harder in others to maintain that 'quality service' which existed in a recruitment consultancy 30 or so years ago!!

Comment by Sharon Hibble on November 30, 2012 at 9:36am

I started out in recruitment in 2005 so we did have computers and internet however the company I first worked with was an Independent and had not greatly invested in technology.  Resumes/CV's were still mailed in by good old snail mail or dropped in by hand and kept in a brown folder on my desk.  A rolodex held all the handwritten details of our clients and I cold called companies from the "Yellow Pages" and "Telephone Directory" to gain New Business.

All of the business was local and I was out in the car almost daily visiting potential new clients to "win" the new business, sign contracts and of course deliver the agencies pens, writing pads and calenders.  I would also go out once a month to our using clients and deliver donoughts to keep them sweet. lol !

Candidates were interviewed face to face in the office and filled in an application form that was filled in the brown folder along with their Resume/CV.

Job descriptions were forms filled in by hand and kept in a seperate brown folder on my desk next to my folder of resumes.  All matching was done by the naked human eye!

Out of 50 clients only 2 used email.

The Franking Machine was a favourite Friday afternoon job along with the trip to the Post Office before 5pm!

I remember the days well !  I am now a Master at Internet Sourcing and all things Social Networking and as a Virtual Recruiter who fills jobs Worldwide I couldn't have evolved without technology however I do remember in 2007 my then Manager had one mighty job on her hands trying to stop me from printing off every job description and every resume so that I could match manually - For a long time I refused to give up my brown folders and diary and even now you will still find my diary, a notepad and pen next to my computer !!!

Comment by Mike McDonough on November 30, 2012 at 10:09am

Hey Tom,

Great memories of the past from my brain. Started 32 years ago and am still having fun! Think about it; we get paid to do what many of us have been doing our whole life. My fear of being fired as I transitioned from a salary job to a straight commission job was worth the risk. Change is hard and we have been changing to survive since we started in this world...

Can still remember being 1 of almost 100 people "dialing for dollars" and how exciting it was to get to use a fax machine for the first time, cutting out the ads on Sunday night for Monday morning, and meeting candidates or clients in  my first year-

Been a great ride and look forward to another great market. Thanks for the comments.


Comment by Steve N Odell on November 30, 2012 at 11:02am

When I see folks talking about length of time in the business I often say something joking that "I have socks that old" or "I drink scotch older than that". :) 44 yrs now.  Our tools were the telephone book and a phone. I remember having an argument in the office with a Sr recruiter who was saying "we don't need a fax. I mail it and if it needs to be there quick I can take it to them". Technology has positively impacted our industry vs killing it. Monster didn't and neither will LinkedIn. As John Kreiss says, those kinds of "sneaky calls" still work and so does the telephone. Relationships are not developed by email, it's conversations.

Comment by Meri Masters on December 3, 2012 at 6:25pm

Wow... does this take me back!  I don't remember the exact day of my demise...oops...I mean start :)  Technology has been the biggest change.  We used the yellow pages and the telephone.  I do remember the beginning of the tech age.  We had a PC with DOS operating system and I do remember finding something called "headhunter.net" that had resumes we could search with a promise that they would always be free.  It was a sad day when they started charging to search their database.  There was a certain sense of betrayal.  Kind of when like Joe Montana left the 49ers... !


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