In a former life I was a recruiter. Before I began my entrepreneurial journey in 2007, I used to be a headhunter in Long Island and New York City. It lasted around 6 years in and that time I worked for 4 different companies. The experiences at each were incredibly different but the goal was always the same: to tend to the need of the client. And that need was always to help them fill a position they were looking to fill. It didn’t necessarily matter how the position was filled, just that it was filled. It could have been through the sending of a resume. It could have been through a series of interviews. Actually it was all of the above. But our job was to screen the candidate and not make the client do the “dirty work” of all that. They just wanted qualified candidates and it was our job to find them. That’s all recruiting really is. But what makes an amazing recruiter is their ability to not only do it quickly but also precisely. To be able to know exactly what kind of person the client wants and to deliver that person is what it’s all about.
The Evolution of Recruiting
According to AESC, Executive search evolved from the recurring need of management consulting firms like McKinsey & Company and Booz, Allen & Hamilton to recruit the right executives who could implement a recommended strategy and solve a client’s problem. Indeed, back in 1914 Edwin G. Booz said, “Often the best solution to a management problem is the right person. Even before World War II and through the 1940s, a handful of firms were in the business of recruiting executives. Executive Manpower, run by William Hertan, and eponymous firms established by McKinsey & Company veterans Jack Handy and Ward Howell, and by Booz, Allen & Hamilton alumnus Sid Boyden, all recruited executives for client companies. In fact, Thorndike Deland arguably formulated the concept of executive search back in 1926, when he founded the first retained executive recruiting firm.
Even as far back as 1926 companies saw the value in hiring someone to find them talent. But what did that even look like in 1926? I’m guessing mostly by talking. One guy would approach another. Perhaps he heard of someone’s reputation and decided to seek him out or “qualify” him for the position he was trying to fill. I’m guessing there weren’t resumes back then, or maybe there were. Let’s just say that I’m certain the channels by which recruiting was done were quite limited. But let’s fast forward to the 70s and 80s. This is where recruiting got fun.
- The Messenger – If you’re a recruiter today you likely have no idea that 40 years ago resumes were sent by messenger. That’s right. In recruiting, what’s the first thing you do if you have what you think is a qualified candidate? Well, you validate it, interview the candidate and make sure they are who they say they are. But if all that checks out, what do you do? You send the client their resume. Today that’s instantaneously is it not? All you have to do is send an email. But not 40 years ago. 40 years ago in the hustle and bustle of New York City, candidate resumes were sent by messenger. Yup. Literally, on foot.
- Faxing – When the amazing invention of the fax machine became popular, no longer did recruiters need to send resumes by messenger. They were able to fax them over to the client thus making their jobs way more efficient. Recruiters could now spend more time doing what they did best, identifying and qualifying candidates.
- Email – Once email hit the scene, recruiting became a different game altogether. We’re no longer just talking about sending resumes. We’re talking about communication. What was once phone calls became emails. Prior to email, cold calling was a massive part of a recruiter’s job. Email made that less of a necessary evil than before. Not only could resumes be send faster, but both sides could minimize non necessary chatter the might take place over the phone.
- Linkedin, Job Sites, etc etc – The advent of job websites like Monster, Indeed, Career Builder (the lists goes on) made recruiting way more difficult for recruiters…..initially. It seemed as though clients could take the middle man (recruiters) out of the equation and do this all themselves. But very quickly they found themselves rummaging through countless resumes and emails with candidates who wanted job. And then came Linkedin. These days if you’re not on Linkedin as a recruiter, you’re pretty much dead in the water (unless you have a referral network so big you don’t need a Linkedin account). Bottom line, the internet completely changes the game for recruiting.
- Zoom – And then in the last year or two? Now interviews and even jobs don’t have to be done in person. With Zoom, we’ve reached an entirely new era in the recruiting process. Recruiters can qualify candidates “face to face” without having to meet in person, clients can interview candidates via Zoom. It’s pretty amazing that thousands of people are getting hired every day without even meeting their new employers. Amazing and scary.
While this is a very crude model of the evolution of some of the facets of the recruiting game, I think you get the picture.
The game can change but some things shouldn’t
So why did I even educate you on the evolution of recruiting in the first place? Simple. Because it’s a perfect illustration of how the recruiting process has evolved, but the goal has always remained the same. At first recruiting took a very long time process wise. Think about if today you actually had to use messengers to get resumes over to clients. It would be comical. Better yet, imagine there was still a recruiting firm that practiced this. Do you think they’d be doing well against the competition? Of course not. And that’s why those recruiting firms who are not only still standing but who are thriving, are the ones who not only stick to recruiting’s main goal (attracting and providing the best talent), but also have the foresight and quick turnaround time to adjust to the changing landscapes. Recruiting will always be about getting companies the best talent available. That itself will never, ever change. But the ways in which it’s done will evolve forever.
Falling behind is your fault, no one else’s
But that’s the way it goes for all businesses. You’re either going to eat the bar, or the bar is going to eat you. In some businesses, if you don’t have a social presence you’re dead in the water. In some businesses, if you don’t have a web page you’re dead in the water. In some businesses, if you don’t have an in house psychiatrist you’re dead in the water. Honestly it doesn’t matter. The point is that as soon as a facet of a business becomes essential for its growth and survival, it’s those who adapt who will keep growing and surviving. And it’s those that don’t who will be left behind. Hence why I titled this piece “I have no sympathy if you get left behind.” Because in the end, if you do get left behind, it’s you’re own damned fault.