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How Recruitment has Changed in the Last 10-15 Years

OK all you super ‘old-school’ recruiters, I can’t top your stories of Rolodex’s and phone book recruiting, but for many recruiters today who rely on LinkedIn alone, here’s how it used to be.

It’s been a little over a decade since I first started recruiting, but I can still remember when posting printed job bulletins at University Alumni offices was an effective means of sourcing.

In those days, the Sunday paper was your go-to source if you had the budget and were serious about making your phone ring with eager candidates on the other end of the line. The cost for one Sunday job posting could easily have been $2,000 to $8,000 depending on what you posted.

Your postings however would result in a few hundred if not a thousand calls in addition to as many resumes mailed to you in response. You could also post an ad for an open house and literally hundreds of applicants would show up to apply for your jobs.

In addition to the Sunday paper, Houston and its surrounding areas had the Greensheet, which was also a highly effective option for industrial, clerical and hourly type roles. The Greensheet then and to this day is a weekly classified with little editorial content, but heavy on local adverts for services and listings.

You can make the argument that the Greensheet is still a good source for hourly type roles, but 10 years ago it was one of the top sources for candidates.

A big challenge during those times was the lack of any true Applicant Tracking System. Some companies who were savvy enough modified CRM systems to manage candidates, but most relied on a paper based system.

Recruiters received a daily cascade of candidates who covered the full spectrum of capabilities. You could post a job for CEO and get entry level resumes sent to you. Of the hundreds of thousands of applicants per job posting, recruiters had to manually sift through paper resumes, color coding them along the way and marking them fail, hold or progress…

Recruiters, the ADD riddled bunch that we are, had to be highly organized and extremely efficient to survive. Today, many recruiters get by with sub par organizational skills mainly because of the level of automation afforded to us through advanced Applicant Tracking Systems.

Of course employment agencies were around then and somehow survived the change in technology better than anyone ever imagined. Even though corporate recruiters gained access to large databases of candidates and the exact same tools as agencies, search companies were still relied on to fill gaps in capability and bandwidth.

In short, your sourcing mix looked something like this for an all out recruitment drive;

  • 4 consecutive Sunday paper job postings
  • 4 consecutive job postings in the Greensheet
  • Printed job postings at universities, churches and community centers
  • Dedicated employee referral campaign
  • Attending trade shows
  • A lot of phone calls by the recruiter bumping around companies and leaving voice-mails after hours…

My exposure to this sort of recruiting was short lived because not long after I got into the recruitment game, came in and changed all the rules.

The Era of Golden Watch Implodes

It wasn’t the first online job board, but it was the first mega-job board of its kind. was closely followed by and the now defunct; in addition to a host of others that turned recruitment into a highly lucrative business for many more people.

There was a time before where applying for a job meant either showing up in person to fill out an application or mailing or faxing your resume to a company. Monster changed all that by making it as simple as a few clicks to apply for a job at many companies versus just one.

In addition, by posting your resume online, you could now be found by recruiters who were highly motivated to fill their open job. I also believe this is when direct control over an employee’s career and future was wrested away from employers who enjoyed a far too long monopoly over salary increases, promotions and other perks.

With this changing of the guard, ‘the era of the golden watch’ was gone. 25 years of services was now replaced by 15% – 25% salary increases by changing employers after every few years worth of work.

The online revolution in recruitment also accelerated the earnings of many agency recruiters by the thousands. With each hire raking in as much as $20,000 – $50,000 in recruitment fees and the ease of access to candidates and clients online, recruitment became a sure fire six figure career.

Considering there isn’t a true recruitment degree plan, the career path itself is as lucrative as any other high paying job.

During the shift, it was interesting to see old school versus new school recruiters go at it over what methods worked the best.

I still believe good old fashioned networking is the most effective means to identify people, but I also know leveraging technology makes good old fashioned networking more effective and efficient.

Enter LinkedIn & Social Media

I started my LinkedIn account sometime in 2006. At the time I had no clue what it was but it seemed cool enough. Myspace was still going strong and the concept of blogging was just taking off.

I’d argue 2005 is when LinkedIn started to really take off and turn into the go-to tool for recruiters.

LinkedIn differed from online job boards like Monster & Hot Jobs in that the profiles seemed more up to date than online resumes, search capabilities were streamlined and you could actually map out an organizational structure via LinkedIn.

During this time social media in general was taking off and I remember companies trying Twitter and Facebook as recruitment tools as well. To this day I find Twitter to be an ineffective ‘direct’ recruitment tool however.

Depending on the company, you could Tweet your jobs, but the return is so low compared to other means of communication that I just don’t support the platform from a recruitment perspective.

Although many of the same people who are on Facebook are on LinkedIn, it seems faux pas to recruit on Facebook for most professional roles. Reaching out to a stranger to recruit on Facebook is like the old door to door sales person showing up at at dinner time.

Recruitment Today & Beyond

Today, job boards still have their place. However, instead of massive universal job sites like Monster, they have become industry specific niche sites mingling news & jobs into one portal so to speak.

(Edited) Also, as Taylor White Mid Market Account Executive at AdRoll mentioned after I posted this article, sites like Indeed & Simply Hired are also great tools which did not exist before. They are job aggregators that pull open job feeds from just about every site on the internet. This enables the job seeker to search for a single type of job across thousands of companies.

Internal ATS tools have become much more robust and with each new applicant, the overall corporate database of candidates increases. I have seen corporate ATS databases with nearly a million resumes in it.

In my view the future of recruiting will lay in the hands of robust employee referral programs. Through the law of separation and the connectivity tools available to just about everybody, employee referrals are your quickest and most effective recruitment channels.

In 5 seconds I can name 5 – 10 great recruiters or engineers I have previously worked with and could contact each of them within a day. It would take weeks if not months for a recruiter to identify as many qualified people if starting the search cold, that does not even include contacting them and bringing them in for interviews.

As the landscape continues to evolve and as the cycle of business continues to get shorter, the quickest and most effective means of growing head count will prevail.

Which is why as we move from one era to the next, employee referrals will become the go to source for the bulk of hires if they already aren’t.

I am sure I left a lot out, but I hope this little piece of nostalgia brought back good memories!