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How recruitment has evolved

Published 05 August 2019

From keeping it in the family to the click of a mouse, the changing world of recruitment

The advent of the internet had a huge impact on all aspects of work and the effect is certainly evident in the recruitment process.

Where hiring once contained an element of nepotism and was a slow process, it is now much quicker and far more efficient.

We could go back further, but if we focus on the last 50 years the dramatic evolution of the way in which recruitment is carried out is startling.

There was a time when hiring the right person for a job meant looking no further than outside of the family or circle of friends. It changed after the war with the growth of white-collar workers during the 1950s and 60s.

In the 1970s there was a boom in advertising job vacancies in both local and national newspapers. It was at a time when sources to reach job seekers were limited and newspaper circulation was high.

The first newspaper job adverts can be traced back hundreds of years. John Houghton, a dealer in coffee, chocolate and tea who was said to be near the end of his life, is reported to have placed the following advert in 1681: “I want a complete young man that will wear a livery, to wait on a very valuable gentleman” (1)

While the wording of the adverts may have changed significantly, the process of recruitment was a slow one during the 1970s. Typically applications were in writing and sent via post and the responses were also in writing.

A key part of recruitment during that decade was the Job Centre, which first opened in the 1970s. It was formerly known as the Labour Exchange (2). The high street centres advertised vacancies on standing boards, which jobseekers could browse and apply for with the help of staff.

During the 1980s and early 1990s employers were more aware of the usefulness of a recruitment agency (3) .Technology in the shape of the fax machine also played a key role in helping this working relationship to develop as information and documents could be exchanged quickly using a phone line.

An invention by Tim Berners Lee, a US-based British computer scientist, helped to radically change the way in which recruitment took place, currently takes place and is likely to take place (4). He invented the World Wide Web.

The internet helped to speed up the whole recruitment process. Jobs could be advertised quickly and applications submitted much faster with the use of online job boards and email, which could be used to send CVs and completed application forms.

It is reported that 22 per cent of job applications were submitted online or by email between 1990 and 2000. Technological innovations saw that number reportedly increase to 90 per cent by 2014.

Currently social media is proving to be a significant tool in the recruitment process. Recruiters are using LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to find the best talent quickly. Even MI6 whose recruitment was once shrouded in mystery is using social media to recruit the next generation of spies. It posted a number of adverts on Facebook (5)

The online platform is also being increasingly used by employers to gain a better insight into candidates and to discover the detail and background that is not always revealed on a CV or during a job interview.

Social media can reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly side of job applicants. It is reported that 43 per cent of recruiters check digital profiles often. While other surveys have revealed that the vast majority, upwards of 80 per cent, look at least once at a candidate’s online presence. (6)

Throughout the ever changing recruitment process in the last half century there has been one constant, the face-to-face interview – although many interviews are now being conducted via Skype.


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  1. Newspaper article [Internet] [accessed on 29.7.19]
  2. Job Centre [Internet] [Accessed on 29.7.19]
  3. Recruitment agency [Internet] https:/ [Accessed on 29.7.19]
  4.  World Wide Web [Internet] [Accessed on 29.7.19]
  5. Pros of technology [Internet] [Accessed on 29.7.19]
  6. Social media surveys [Internet] [Accessed on 29.7.19]


A reputation built on success

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