Recruitment has drastically changed since its beginnings. The early days of the industry saw candidates being hired through word-of-mouth, family and friends, or a postcard propped up in a window. In its current form, recruitment was born just after World War II, when the post-war boom led organisations to find other ways to resource their growing teams. The first recruitment agencies were founded and the CV was invented as a way to highlight skills and experience.

A slow process

In those days, hiring someone was a lengthy process. A job advert might be posted to a relevant local or trade newspaper. Recruiters then had to sit and wait for CVs to roll in via snail mail. Fast forward a few years and the fax machine was suddenly cutting-edge. Candidates could now fax their CV to agencies, which recruiters then forwarded (again, via fax) to their clients. A slow process began to speed up… a little.

Computing power changed the game

Little changed for a few years until the 1990s, when personal computers entered homes – changing recruitment forever. The Internet soon followed, with email and online jobs boards swiftly entering the scene. Jobs could now be posted online and candidates sourced within days.

When our mobiles changed from brick-like devices into sleek smartphones, recruitment shifted again. Candidates didn’t have to hang around their landlines anymore waiting for a call from a prospective company. People became instantly contactable and now recruits can be qualified via Facetime, WhatsApp, Skype and other instant messaging/video tools. 45 per cent of job seekers now use their mobiles every day to search for roles and 89 per cent see mobile devices as critical to their job hunt.

Recruiting gets social

Social media caused another leap in recruiters’ skillsets; 84 per cent of companies now use social media in some form to aid recruitment. And for good reason – over 86 per cent of candidates use it when searching for a new role. Social media is used by recruiters to share vacancies, inside information on company culture and working practices, and to build the employer brand.

Data from social media can be used for better candidate targeting. By examining patterns of behaviour, recruiters can learn where potential candidates spend their time, what messaging they’d likely respond to and when they are actively looking for roles.

The future of recruitment

Much of recruitment’s evolution is closely linked to technology. So, it goes without saying that the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and data is having a huge impact on the sector. AI can streamline many recruitment processes, such as searching for suitable candidates, booking interviews and aptitude testing. Google has developed a machine learning tool to intelligently match people to vacancies. Hilton Hotels, Five Guys and Proctor and Gamble have all used AI in some form to screen candidates.

As technology makes recruiting simpler, the pressure is on organisations to connect emotionally with their candidates. In the talent economy, companies with a strong employer brand will have a competitive edge. To achieve this, they need to find and engage with the right talent – and to keep updated with these individuals for future positions. The human skills of communication and empathy will become vital for recruiters. As AI does more groundwork, recruitment will shift again towards a strategic and ‘human’ role.