“The History of Recruitment” – How the evolution of Tech has changed the role

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Recruitment in its simplest form dates back to Ancient Egypt and the Romans.  An ancient art (some say a dark art!) and certainly one which has seen significant evolution, but for the purpose of this article, we refer to modern recruitment post WW2 since the 1940’s.

Worth in excess of £35bn a year in the UK alone and considerably more across the world, this is an industry becoming more and more lucrative year on year. Yet it’s still often seen as a ‘simple’ function by those using recruitment services or by people from outside of the industry, even viewed as the poor relation to HR.  Yet the role itself is sufficiently difficult to successfully undertake, that it requires such a vast array of services and products, skills and capabilities in order to deliver the expected results!  Good recruiters are hard to find and even harder to keep.  Any Head of TA will tell you that!

So – what’s at the heart of the role?

Individuals transacting and delivering candidates to fill open vacancies. Often over and over again. In high volume hiring cases, bottom’s on seats and if you’re an agency or internal agency team, for a fee. In many cases, a repetitive and transactional role. The industry are not regulated, formally qualified, licensed or require any specific training to undertake. Although a few organizations’ (such as the REC) have tried to encourage ‘codes of conduct’ to mitigate the risk from poor practices. Simply the ability to identify, attract, engage, represent and usher candidates through the door is all it takes. 

Simple in principle but as many threads on LinkedIn and social media will demonstrate almost on a daily basis, not quite so easy in practice for many who don’t know what they are doing. Or are doing well at face value but with unethical or immoral practices in reality.

Over the years telephones, newspapers, fax machines, emails, the internet, social media and the ability to build relationships with candidates and clients have been the ingredients to deliver candidates to roles for sustained success.  But over time, technology and strategy have started to play a bigger part in the evolution of recruitment during the past 20-30 years or so.

Talent Acquisition is born

CIPD qualified professionals have started to bring some strategy and planning to recruitment. Known as Talent Acquisition (part of the bigger Talent Management piece), HR introduced Forecasting, Workforce Planning, Succession and Structured Assessment to a very transactional activity. Recruiters have evolved to become Talent Acquisition Managers and HR / CIPD has started to bring some studiousness to an otherwise unacademic profession.

Technology has at that same time period had an enormous effect on Recruitment and Recruiters. The way in which Recruiters would squirrel away knowledge, connections, information and activities in notebooks, their minds and desk drawers… information and connections have ALL become so much more visible and accessible. Bringing in to question the value of a Recruitment Agencies to the whole process, who (in the past) would demonstrate their £ value based upon the level of ‘intel’ of a particular candidate market or industry.

The Internet. Google and search engines. Job Boards. ATS and CRMs. Social Media. Automation. Robots. Augmented Reality… and so on, means that businesses and candidate perception (of recruiters) has significantly changed. They no longer are the exclusive link to opportunities like before. There is a more direct and linear paths to jobs and vacancies.  There’s significantly more stakeholders and rigorous stages requires to transition, in order to be accepted into a role.  And therefore, a more ethical approach than a single recruiter decision maker, using their skills of Gut Feel!

The Recruitment Marketer is born

The impact from this evolution of the role has had a direct effect upon the TA Managers themselves too.  During the past five years, we have seen marketer skills becoming the heart of the role too. Focusing more on more on Brand, EVP and Engagement… the role has become more about journeys and experiences. So, is this the death of the traditional recruiter?

No. Not at all in my opinion.  Fundamentally, the role hasn’t changed.  It’s still at its heart, all about filling vacancies.  But the good news is that with these new tools, techniques and thinking – we’re seeing the evolution of an industry and the associated practices.  Good news!

Rise of the cool tech or Good Old-Fashioned engagement automation?

There’s plenty of media conversation suggesting that the evolution of technology in Recruitment has radically changed the level of sophistication applied.  I’m not so sure.  Let me give you an example.  Is a CRM any different to a Black Book that you kept in the top drawer of your desk in 1991? Agreed – It’s just more visible to colleagues and peers.  With that in mind, you’ve simply got to translate the typical ‘notes in the margin’ from your black book and be sure it’s up to date!  The ability to form, build and sustain relationships is no different from the 1980’s to 2018. The competition surrounding attracting quality talent is no more or no less challenging (proportionately) than 30 years ago, it’s just the playing field is now digital and not analogue.

So – has the changes in Recruiting been an evolution or revolution?

In summary

The role of recruiting has evolved significantly into a multi-disciplined and complex role incorporating a wide range of responsibilities – however, businesses must recognize, if a Talent Acquisition Leader is ever to have an impact, it’s not simply about giving them a fancy job title!  They need investment, resources, technology and support from senior stakeholders to ensure they are able to build capability to engage talent beyond simply the typical attraction stage.

Is there too much choice when it comes to tech (ATS and CRM)? Yes! So who is best to decide which one gets used and implemented – HR, Finance, IT, Recruiters…someone else? We all know about the ATS merry-go-round.  Use practitioners, colleagues and technology vendors to help you learn from others mistakes and cut through the noise when you’re choosing a platform.

Many will advocate that a CRM is the all singing and all dancing technology for the future when in fact, it simply reflects technology which services processes that ‘expert’ recruiters have been using for years (all be it, they’ve been using a black book rather than tech!).  The important consideration should be towards your hiring behavior (are you filling vacancies, or building a sustainable, engaging and dynamic process) before you apply technology to the process.

TA Leaders should be engaging with their own senior stakeholders (Hiring Managers et al) to support the development of this dynamic approach and deploying technology to facilitate it.  After all – they’re more likely to care about the outcome than even the recruiters themselves.  They want great talent!

The truth is, nothing happened to Recruiters in 2019 that wasn’t the case for the industry in 1959. Since WW2 HR and Technology just increased the competitive stakes, but the expectations ultimately remained the same for everyone involved – be they a candidate, hiring manager or recruiter.

Perhaps the one thing that may have changed slightly are the labels used for Recruiters as highlighted in this article. But then again, society has more labels than ever before…but that’s a whole other post in itself.


The evolution of recruitment will be accelerated by those recruiters who understand how to transition their existing (and successful) processes to tech – improving efficiency, consistency and accuracy.  Here are a couple of examples of how;

Pre Recruitment

Workforce Planning and Forecasting Tools (such as Foresight for e.g.) capturing data previously held in spreadsheets and trackers (or even in peoples’ minds). Even some ATS can now do this for you as a front end module to the process separate to day-to-day recruitment.

Aligning project and resourcing plans (typically in Org Design or Structures) that automatically track and notify leavers, new roles or growth against a programme plan or people strategy without the need for manual notifications from HR, Finance or PMO.


Talent Pools, Pipelines, Communities courtesy of our very own Hollaroo are allowing people (internally & externally) to connect and engage over long periods of time for various reasons. 

Job Board and Social Media aggregators automating advertising to multiple channels and locations. Marketing funnels that allow for automated time lapsed postings 24 hours a day or night. Pre Planned and released. “Omni Channel” attraction and routes to market from one-source without the need to manually populate 5, 10…20 fields.

AI is probably the single biggest innovation around Attraction. A Bot that works 24/7 365 programmed and taught as you would a recruiter, but now never stops and reaches wider and further much quicker than a human. However, for now, most would agree that from an engagement perspective AI – Actual Intelligence has it over AI – Artificial Intelligence….just.


Online / Offline / Automated Reports / Dashboards and Visuals almost instantly once a candidate completes their assessment. Without the need for extensive analysis by a qualified Occ Psych, the system spits of layman’s terms reports and professional ones too. Auto-Profile Matches too if fed in at front end job specs / profiles aligning to assessments.

Multi Platform, on the go – Mobile, Laptop, Desktop, Tablet.

Video Interviewing one or two-way allows for time differences and the candidate to answer at their own pace but still engage with the Hiring Manager even if not in real-time.

On Boarding 

Induction Sites & Modules within the ATS and again with Hollaroo helping for a soft landing on Day 1 leading to a partially completed induction ahead of time. Tailored to a candidate by role or department rather than a generic corporate one size fits all approach.


Increased engagement and touch points on scale and at pace, frequently. Pulse Surveys, Engagement Surveys, Performance Reviews automatically aligned to role profiles, without the need for large survey teams to distribute, collect, collate and analyse data.

Predictive Analytics providing trends and insights at the touch of a button (Resourcing Insight) aligning to demographics, diversity & inclusion, discipline, skill set, geography / department.

The common theme across all of these – AUTOMATION. Being able to do more of what we used to, quicker and digitally rather than manually / analogue.

Skills of a ‘new age’ recruiter

Referred to as Marketers / Comms specialists who are able to appeal to a broader demographic / generation with more diverse and inclusive language and engagement.

Customer Experience focused on those unsuccessful in the process as much as those successfully hired.

Pace of Work and Volume of Work can at times have greater expectations courtesy of technology and innovation investment by companies that mean they want a lot more in return of that investment in tools.

Time Management is crucial now that we are always switched on and connected (in theory).

It could be said that the industry is more competitive than ever and so new age recruiters may have less time to prove themselves (to employers and clients).

Data Analysts – how to interpret, utilise, optimise and present meaningful data. Distinguishing between just data vs insights. Helping them to become predictive and proactive rather than remaining reactive and of less value.

The moral of this story…

I also believe that TECHNOLOGY should be embraced to enable us all to be better at recruiting rather than the risk of becoming lazier as a result of it being so readily available.

By Aytan Hilton – www.cub3dconsultancy.co.uk

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