Classifieds, Faxes and Paper Cuts, Oh My!

I was recently reflecting on how much Recruiting has changed since my first days as an HR Intern/Assistant back in the mid-90s. Before FaceBook and LinkedIn, Taleo and Twitter, Recruiter's Lounge and - before the Internet was available on every work computer - what did we spend our days doing? Come along as I take a trip back down memory lane.

The Old School Job Search

In the 90s, job seekers would read their local newspaper's Classifieds section to find out who was hiring. If a candidate didn't apply in person, they may have gone to a local Kinko's and paid to fax their resume (and cover letter) for consideration. (Depending on how serious they were, they'd wait around for a fax confirmation!) Resumes received by HR departments would actually be read by a person, not scanned by software for buzz words. I was tasked with skimming resumes before submitting (i.e., walking over and placing in the inbox of the HR Coordinator) for further review.

Professional Development

When it came to professional development, there were no webinars or eLearning options. Instead, I would request approval from management to attend a meeting with my local PIHRA or SHRM office. Or maybe even sign up for a Bernard Hodes seminar to stay abreast of employment law and market trends.

Vocabulary 101

Back then, "apps" was HR speak for "employment applications," not for "a special type of software application for a smartphone or mobile device."* Thanks to technology, I have the awesome opportunity to blog about my HR experiences. Ironically, when I started in HR, the word blog hadn't even been invented.**

Flashback: 1994

At Castle Rock Entertainment (CRE), we sent a nifty two-sided pre-printed postcard to candidates upon receipt of their resume (which I would address in my neatest cursive on the postage side). The verbiage on the postcard confirmed receipt of the job seeker's resumes and let them know they would be contacted via phone in two weeks if we were moving forward with their candidacy. I recall mailing these postcards within two days of receiving the resumes.


In my days at NBC as an employee relations assistant, my favorite task was to update the "job hotline" on a weekly basis. I would use my most professional phone voice, being sure to enunciate every word, knowing full well that if I stuttered or misread my script, I would have to delete the entire schpeel and begin again. In terms of applicant flow, employees would often hand deliver (or interoffice) resumes of their friends/family to the office. For externals, I received the mail in a crate delivered by the mail room staff, opened letter-sized envelopes with my favorite silver letter opener (the paper cuts were killer), and checked the fax machine for resumes hourly.

When I wasn't answering the phones and redirecting candidates to the job hotline, I was filing hard-copies of candidate resumes in letter-sized hanging file folders labeled by position. When positions were filled, I moved the files from one drawer to another. I mailed a closeout letter (signed by the HR Manager) to everyone who applied, thanking them for their interest in the company.

Flashback: 2003

I remember when I started at E! Entertainment as a Contract Recruiter. I was placed in a closet (hey, they were short on office space), given a desk, phone, computer and a 3 foot high stack of resumes (possibly from walk-ins or received via fax). With no job descriptions, and very little understanding of the TV Production world, I was instructed to call candidates and start interviewing. I started phone screening and conducting face-to-face interviews, and quickly learned about various positions - from Tape Logger to Creative Director - by talking to the people who were actually doing the work. A few weeks after interviewing what felt like 100 candidates, I spoke to several internal department heads about their needs, completed the necessary paperwork (then called an "RFP," Request for Position, in triplicate) and submitted my requests to the HRIS technical folks. Magically, within days, the jobs I submitted were "posted" electronically on the company's website.

Present Day: 2012

Unlike the days of yore, the pace of today's recruiting scene has reached a fever pitch. Recruiters are busy keeping up with Web 2.0, scrolling through 200,000,000 tweets a day, managing hundreds of applicants per job, sourcing additional talent by scouring the net, scheduling & conducting phone screenings for 20-50 separate positions, meeting with hiring managers, carving out time to watch video resumes via YouTube, and the list goes on. It's amazing how much the recruiting process has evolved. I don't miss the paper cuts, but at times, it's nice to reminisce on how it used to be. Just imagine how different it will be 10 years from now!

-->What do you remember about your earliest days in HR/Recruiting? I'd love to hear your fondest memories!


In case you need help managing the myriad of social media tools at your disposal, check out:

20 Apps to Help Manage Social Media

In case you're a glutton for punishment, here are 33 online recruiting tools that you may not be using:


 *Campbell, A. Small Business Trends. What the Heck is An App?" Retrieved from

**The word blog (short for weblog) can be traced back to it's origins in nineteen-hundred and ninety-seven. Yes, the 1900s!


Maisha Cannon is a Senior Recruiter and Researcher committed to introducing employers to talent that will enhance and grow their businesses. Over the span of her 15 year career in Human Resources, Maisha has filled over 1,000 positions, and has coached hundreds of candidates on resume writing, interviewing skills, and career planning. She spends her free time blogging, engrossed in social media, and singing along to the thousands of songs in her iPod.

Views: 235

Comment by Tim Spagnola on March 1, 2012 at 9:06am
I recall the days of '96 well. I also recall doing a similar type of mailing like you outlined in '94. It worked really well in looking back at it.
Comment by Pamela Witzig on March 1, 2012 at 11:46am

Our recruiting is nationwide. We had logo stationery cards with slits for business cards. We sent these out for thank yous and congrats, but mostly for tracking people down we had lost touch with and wanted to contact about a search. They were helpful because they were usually forwarded. Specializing in advertising, we received, shipped out to clients, and retrieved to return to candidates large portfolio books of samples. I love having digital communications and online resources for tracking people. From day one though we did not advertise jobs and still don't post openings or search job boards. That hasn't changed for us.

Comment by Maisha Cannon on March 1, 2012 at 12:40pm

@Tim In retrospect, it did work well, didn't it? Simplicity has it's perks! Thanks for reading & commenting.

Comment by Maisha Cannon on March 1, 2012 at 12:40pm

@Pamela What a nice idea to have business cards attached for keeping in contact. You're so right, if people moved residences back then, it wasn't easy unless they had a forwarding address on file with the post office!

I'm intrigued by the fact that you still don't post openings or search boards with a nationwide search firm. I was just reading yesterday that candidates should partner with 3rd party agencies because "many, if not most" jobs are not advertised. I was skeptical when reading that statement, but your commentary has brought validity to that fact. 

The article (I will try to find a link) also mentioned that some candidates don't even bother with applying online since it's become such a black hole. Do you know of other firms/companies that take your approach? It's hard to believe since we're INUNDATED with job boards and postings online, but it makes perfect sense. Tell me more!

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on March 1, 2012 at 12:49pm

I remember asking for internet access in the office and promising not to go to this fancy new internet job board called "". lol

Comment by Pamela Witzig on March 1, 2012 at 1:29pm

We also did mass mailings by the way - to people in our industry we had been in touch with.

@Maisha Cannon, we have 25,000 industry professionals in our database. These are people we have contacted - a number on many occasions - over the years. They were entered one phone call, and data, one byte at a time as we updated records. All of them passive candidates we approached on various searches. This way we are often able to avoid reinventing the wheel on a search because there are lots of "springboards" among our database records. If they are not candidates for the position we approach them on, they can often refer others.

My position has always been that working with job seekers is a weak pool of candidates. There is a reason they are looking - whiners, job-hoppers, has-beens, wanna-bes, or whatever. Sure people get cut in reorgs but companies still keep the sharpest knives in the drawers. And those people are busy doing their jobs, not watching job boards. It is easy to understand why good candidates avoid them. They don't get responses. Recruiters who see them have to wade through 100s of "chaff" to get to one nugget of wheat. In that same time we can proactively seek passive candidates who will find appeal in the opportunity. I believe the only ones making out on the job boards are the sites themselves raking in the dough. Have you tracked the rate of hires from ads?

Comment by Maisha Cannon on March 1, 2012 at 2:39pm

@Amy LOL And did you keep your promise? Oh yes, Monster was fancy, shiny and new. I can't remember the last time I visited How times change!

@John That's awesome, that you've seen technology streamline the costs of your direct marketing efforts. Isn't it amazing how sites like Groupon and Living Social can take a business' reach from 100 to 10,000?

Comment by Maisha Cannon on March 1, 2012 at 2:41pm

@Pamela Awesome - a database of professionals built consistently over time through hard work. That is a model that all recruiters should strive to attain. I can't say that any of the recruiting teams I've worked on in the past in a Corporate Recruiter capacity tracked the rate of hire from ads. Hopefully someone was measuring it... When I was recruiting independently, I didn't use ads, so again, no metrics. I completely see your point. Thanks for sharing your expertise!


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