The History of Recruitment: Part Two, Modern Times

Looking back at the origins of recruitment was fascinating, however, it has certainly come a long way since the time of Ancient Egypt!

So let’s take a more in-depth look at the history of recruitment after the 1950s and how the advances in computer and internet technologies revolutionised the industry. 

After the 1950s, it was some time before we saw significant changes in the way people were recruited. Up to the late 1970s and early 1980s, jobs were filled through newspaper adverts, job boards, word of mouth and cold calling (the latter still used in recruitment today).

You can probably guess that the big change came with the little matter of the introduction of office computers (I say “little” as an absolute understatement – the first computers were beastly-sized things!).

There were so many key developments in the 1980s it’s best to simply list them:
  • The first Apple Mac computer went on sale in 1984
  • The laser printer became more popular and widely used
  • The oh so handy, Post-it notes were born
  • Microsoft created Word in 1983, making it much easier to create CVs
  • Microsoft then went on to create the Excel software, making it easier to record candidates (both Word and Excel are still very popular tools in recruitment today!)
  • Fax machines were able to send CVs in minutes, rather than sending them via post

The increase of development in the telecoms industry and the rapid evolution in tools assisted the recruitment industry exponentially,  and then in 1989, Tim Berners-Lee came up with a concept called the World Wide Web. In January 1994, Yahoo! was founded (a few years before Google) and things went from 0 – 60 from there.

The Internet Revolution

In the 1990s, with the development of the Internet, we had the introduction of applicant tracking systems and databases which enabled recruiters to easily manage their candidate data and the different phases of the recruitment process. And although the first public job search engine, Monster Job Board was created in 1994, much of recruitment was still done through face-to-face interactions, selling to clients/candidates and cold calling to get leads. Fax machines and posts were still very much key in getting CVs and information out to clients and candidates.

It wasn’t till the late 90s that mobile phones became more widely used. When this happened being able to contact clients and candidates became much easier and quicker. This created opportunities to contact people on the move or away from the office. Also, the growth of the internet was not slowing down and websites were the next step for recruitment agencies to create a name for themselves, allowing both candidates and clients to find them much quicker than by phone.

By the late 90s and early 2000s, the internet was thriving. This meant recruitment and technology joined forces with the increase in online job boards and CV databases. This made it easier to search for candidates actively looking for jobs and roles that needed filling. Recruitment also started becoming more specialised with agencies looking for candidates and clients in specific industries in a way to differentiate themselves from the competition.


In the 2000s you started to see email communication blossom, making it quicker to get responses and send CVs out. In the mid to late 2000s when social media became part of the recruitment tool kit, recruiters could get hold of passive candidates with the help of sites like LinkedIn. Now Recruitment has a massive online social element to it.

Growing your network, increasing your followers, building your brand and creating social influence have all become integrated in recruitment today. As you can see much has changed drastically from the 1950s to the 1980s. Even more so from the 1990s to the 2000s. 90s Recruiters went from having a handful of candidates and clients they knew like the back of their hand to seeing thousands of CVs and finding any company to work with at the click of a button!

This is just a snapshot of what has happened in the last 70 years. With so much change over the last few decades, who knows where the next decade will take us? We hope to give you the next instalment of the History of Recruitment in the next couple of decades!

Alex Louise is a member of the Operations team at Harvey John.

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