Reeling in the Years: Recruitment

Allen Recruitment first opened its doors in the Autumn of 1998, nearly 20-years ago today. Like most industries, Recruitment has seen vast changes over the years, with the last 20-years conveying the industry’s most substantial transformations.

Phil Finane, Recruitment Manager with Allen recruitment took a walk down memory lane, when he first embarked on his recruiting career in 1993. Phil began working as a recruiter not too far away from where he is currently based with Allen Recruitment, working with some “absolute characters”, whom he learnt a lot from.

Looking around your pristine office today, observing the shiny laptops, multi-screens and files all stored in the cloud, it’s hard to image what a recruitment office looked like 20-years ago.

“I remember our sales floor consisted of two lines of desks separated by a bank of filing cabinets, where CV’s were stored. We had two interview rooms and a candidate waiting room, back then, all candidates were met face-to-face. Every desk had a computer terminal and a phone.”

Nowadays when you are job hunting the first and nearly only place you explore is the internet, which has certainly become a pillar of recruitment in the last 20-years. So, how did a recruiter work without a feature many couldn’t live without today.

“Candidates had a heavy reliance on Recruitment Agencies to get access to jobs. However, word of mouth and establishing a good recruiter reputation was all important.”

CVs were all delivered through letter format and phone calls were then made to many a house phone by a recruiter wanting to connect. “To make contact with a candidate these days, you can hit them up on LinkedIn and pop them a text or email.”

Phil recalls the amusing memory when ringing candidates’ home phones regarding a job application. “Many a call would be answered by a candidate’s mother, which was brilliant. The ‘Mammy’s of Ireland’ brigade would always ensure a candidate turned up for an interview!”

Hard to imagine, but EVERYTHING was paper based, not stored in the cloud or online databases. “Every candidate had a folder which was alphabetically stored (A-Z) in a bank of filing cabinets in the center of our sales room. Each file was meticulously curated and looked after, it was your product.”

“If you accessed a candidate folder you’d sign it in and out of the CV bank like you would a book in a public library at the end of each day.”

CVs weren’t the only paper based element of recruitment, pre-internet and job boards, advertising in Newspapers was fundamental to 90’s recruitment. As Phil puts it, “if you didn’t advertise, you had no audience.”

“Thursday and Friday were the prime days for advertising and therefore the most expensive. A coloured advert in the Irish Times on a Friday was the holy grail for any recruiter – It meant you’d enjoy your weekend expecting a trawl of applications the following Monday and Tuesday.”

The cost of these adverts was costly so any opportunity to gain something back from your investment was taken, “we’d always check the published job advert, hunting for even the slightest spelling mistake or grammatical error, as an error in print meant a free advert or rerun.”

Dealing with clients was as important as it is today. However, it wasn’t as simple as an email or phone call with the respective opened jobs, it was a crowded huddle around the fax machine every Friday.

“We’d all stand around waiting for the list to come in. These lists would dictate if a recruiter had jobs to work the following week or if you’d be making new business calls.”

Phil remembers one Friday morning in particular, “our fax line went down and there were commotions in the office trying to get a Telecom Éireann engineer to turn up at short notice – it was touch and go until lunch time!”

The change in recruitment is undeniable in some respects, accessibility to CVs, candidates and jobs has all became easier and quicker.

“Back then the life cycle of an application took longer and there was a much heavier emphasis on developing a personal contact with your panel of candidates.”

The internet is now a recruiters best friend, it assists many areas of the recruiting process, nonetheless, Phil says, “pre-internet recruitment was a lot more personable – you built solid relationships with candidates if you did your job well, many came back to you and referred friends/family etc.”

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