A brief history of recruitment and hiring

history of recruitment, recruitment, hiring, History, History of hiring, hiring brief history, all about history, history of HR, HR history

Why did Spartans have only an army of 300? Because they said,

“Good people are always hard to find!”

I started hunting for my first job in 2008 and always believed recruitment was synonymous with the Internet and Linkedin.

Some late night thoughts made me think on how did people hired “Ninjas” for their teams before the world wide web became as popular as it is today? Recruitment is something I always classified as new or modern. To my dismay, when I foraged the web, I realized it was as new as the Queen.

A long weekend in the public library, some meetings with sociology professors and several GBs of high-definition on YouTube made me realize that recruitment is as old as the civilization.

The first instance of a resume can be found on rock and wooden tablets, dating back to ancient Rome, which had an engraving of what a person worked on, which is the first listing of the professional details of people.

Another early evidence of recruitment can be seen in the history of imperial China. Imperial exams were a way of recruiting civil service candidates during the Han dynasty era around 1500 BC. These were considered one of the toughest assessments for centuries and often termed ‘exams from hell’ by the Britishers.

Impressed by the scale of assessment and its positive impact on hiring excellent talent, the Queen’s army took along with them this ideal method of hiring excellent talent when it went to the United States of America.

During World War II, Uncle Sam gave a call to the best in America, wanting them to join the army and help maintain peace throughout the world (pun intended!). With more and more youngsters joining the armies, the number of efficient people who could work in production declined. Despite high demand to produce arms and ammunition, there was a serious shortage of workforce.

Understanding this labor crisis, recruitment agencies come forward to help. These agencies would source people through job boards, print media, interview, or assess them and then lead them to the right set of companies.

It was during this period, during WWII, when recruitment agencies played a major role in empowering women across the country. Due to lack of manpower in industries, it was up to the women left behind to assume the responsibility of running the nation. Most of the job agencies opened up for women, helping them reach important places like NASA and BRL (they developed the first computer- ENIAC). Read this amazing publication – Women workers in wartime

Post the capture of Eagle’s Nest, the war veterans returned home.There were millions of people who had immense talent but had no jobs. Recruitment Agencies came forward again as the savior; they asked these veterans to create a resume, sharing all details of their skills. Once done, these resumes were shared with industries across the state based on their requirements. Recruitment agencies not only helped fill the job vacancies but also turned out to be the ideal bridge between candidate and industries.

With the increase in globalization, industrialization, consumerism, and economic growth, the need for the right talent increased many-fold. While these agencies were helping candidates by looking for the right kind of job for them, they realized it made more sense to hire candidates for companies—candidates who had special skills and were required for a particular industry.

It was at this time when recruitment agencies started to tie-up and collaborate with industries and companies to hire the candidate for them specifically. They used to get job requirements or job descriptions, post them on media and job boards, interview candidates, and hire only the impressive ones.

By late 1970s and early 1980s, database and online storage were introduced to the companies, giving them an immense supply of candidates who were interested in working with them. With the huge database and development in the telecom industry, suitable candidates could be found within a few minutes, making it easy for companies to invite them to the hiring process.

In 1994, the first public job search engine went live. Monster Job board was created, a place where job seekers could search the job database with the web browser. Monster Job disrupted the recruitment industry with its vision and ease of use. With the explosion of job boards and the movement of recruitment from print media to online channels, print ads for job requirements have almost become outdated.(Read – Brief history of Job Boards)

The explosion of e-recruitment agencies gave recruiters new ways to reach a global market of candidates. With e-recruitment agencies helping globalize, a new requirement solution to automate the available database popped up, giving way to what we call the ATS (Applicant Tracking System).

By the end of the 1990s, the Application Tracking System became a common industry term. The principal function of an ATS is to provide a central location and database for a company’s recruitment effort where the complete information from sourcing to hiring for the candidate was floated. Most of the e-recruitment agencies decided to upgrade themselves to evolving requirements, converting them into a fully automated recruitment solution — ATS.

Recruitsoft -> Taleo -> Oracle  

Recruitmax -> Vurv -> Taleo

Brassring -> Kenexa -> IBM

With Web 2.0 and growth of social media and the use of mobile technology, the recruiter’s ways to approach candidates changed. Now a Twitter/Facebook post with a URL link to the job description was shared with the candidates. Employers were wooing employees by video ads and slides.

Many consider this recruitment to be broken, but I believe it has been always broken. Moving from pen-and-paper to agencies to ATS doesn’t fix the recruitment.

A social recruitment strategy doesn’t mean posting a URL, rather it would mean an end-to-end recruitment cycle via social channels or the least by a cell phone. A fixed recruitment process would mean a process where a smart system screens candidate performance, an automated system evaluates their knowledge without any bias and an ATS that hires a candidate in a “true social sense” from social media.


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