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A Brief History of Recruitment

Before the industrial revolution, large organisations were those specialised in trading and mining. But recruitment was widely focused on local workers, the management positions being generally reserved for noble or distinguished men...

Nowadays, when talking about the different methods to find a job, no one would ignore the Internet. It is amazing how the Internet has taken over the world in less than 20 years. But how were the companies recruiting before that ? How would they let people know about their job opportunities ?

Personnally, I did not get to know that good old times, as I first looked for a job in 2005, not that far from today (even though evolution made its work since then on the online recruitment industry). So, I had to ask some help on this History class ! Gilles Azzopardi, a French expert in sociology, used to know very well the recruitment mechanics. Thanks to his knowledge shared in this post, you will get a better understanding of how things have changed, and how they have not.

Recruitment is as old as the beginning of organisations. Mass recruitment had its very dirty side, and I will spare the paragraph on recruitment methods used to build the pyramids, the Great Wall or even the Panama Channel, as this would take much more than myself and a 500 words post to make sure the topic is addressed properly. My point is rather to focus on work as we consider it today : willing people getting money to use their skills in order to reach their employers objectives.

Before the industrial revolution, large organisations were those specialised in trading and mining. But recruitment was widely focused on local workers, the management positions being generally reserved for noble or distinguished men...

From the second half of the nineteenth century, major technologic innovations fostered economic development and wealth in what we call nowadays "developed countries". This industrial revolution created the first industrial giants. With the larger size of the company and growing needs for mass consumption, the complexity of internal processes increased considerably, and the working processes started to get more specific : production, business development, management. At some extent, companies had to find large amounts of specific people able to handle very specific issues. And these people were not necessarily from the nearest village, so it was necessary to reach them in a new and efficient way. Modern mass recruitment was about to emerge.

Until the late 1990's, the best way to hire people that were not necessarily your daughter or your nephew was to post an announcement in the newspapers. Almost all the newspapers had a job section, or "job board". At the time, companies had to pay for the surfaces of their announcements ! So they were keeping it simple and straight. And no Google search engine to help you know more about the position or the company.

When Internet started to get big, a lot of "job boards" made their apparition on the web. Many of them still exist today, and, created in 1999, is probably the best example of how the business has grown since then. In 2012, the company generated over a billion US dollars turnover. Thousands of online recruitment websites were born and died during the last 15 years, as it is a very competitive and aggressive market.

Back in 1999, online recruitment was basically the exact same announcements than in the newspapers, except that they were accessible on the web. It means that when you had to look for a job, you were proposed a list of offers, written in the same style and with a poor interface. Oh, wait a minute, did I say "back in 1999 ?", because it looks like what we still find on 90% of the recruitment websites... Indeed, the amazing part is how this industry managed not to innovate until the recent financial crisis, when a new generation of entrepreneurs decided to address the market and leverage the new technologies to disrupt the existing models. Let's make it clear, I try to be one of those.

Just like the dating websites, some recruitment websites started to consider candidates and companies as parties looking for one another. It is actually the personal and professional social networks that made this evolution possible. By making less taboo the professional world (on LinkedIn, you can check the profile of your N+3, and even connect with her/him), people anc companies have started accepting that online recruitment could be more than job boards, to become actual professional matching websites. And as innovations always come in grapes, such websites rapidly evolved to become smarter and closer to the actual needs and expectations of both companies and candidates. This last generation is called "affinity matching". A sort of "Attractive World" for recruitment.

I will write soon an article on how innovative the new generation is about recruitment, as it is frustrating not to tell you more about all these fascinating initiatives. Until then, just remember you are your best asset, so make it work !!!