A quick look at the history of modern recruitment
A quick look at the history of modern recruitment

Posted on 13 July 2015

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One would think that recruitment would have been around for as long as people were working, but in actuality it is just half a century old.  Even though it is widely believed that ancient Greeks and Romans started the ball rolling by writing down their skills and passing it on to potential employers, modern recruitment only took off in the 1940s. This birth came about during WWII, where an exodus of able men left their countries to defend their homeland. Their departure left many gaps in the workplace, and thus recruitment agencies were born.

Back then, there were very few platforms when it comes to sourcing for candidates. It was pretty much down to two methods: direct headhunting, or through the usage of a bulletin board. As newspapers and television gained popularity and became commonplace, companies began to place advertisements on both mediums. In fact, newspaper recruitment ads were so popular that from the 1940s – 1980s, more than 75% of talents were sourced from them in that period.

Here, you can see how a recruitment classified ad looked like in in the 1960s (source: The National Library Board) 

Print ads retained its popularity until the World Wide Web came along. Online job sites were first seen in the mid-90s but they mostly used a supplementary mode – recruiters usually advertised openings in print at the same time to ensure that they reach out to a wider pool. Interestingly, only 6% of jobseekers used the internet to job hunt in the early 2000s.

Fast forward to today, and look how recruitment methods have evolved! Majority of candidates now look for openings digitally; this in turn see recruiters shying away from print and moving to where their candidates are as well. Job boards and portals are the most popular methods – a recent CareerBuilder Singapore survey shows that 64.5% and 54.1% of jobseekers use them in their job hunt respectively. On top of that, with the proliferation of social media comes hyper-connectivity. This means that anyone can look for a job anytime, anywhere.

This look back in time has led us to wonder: How would recruitment be like in the future? 

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