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​The recruitment industry has long been a profitable contribution to the UK’s economy. To celebrate Search’s 30th anniversary, we take a look at how recruitment has grown, evolved and improved from the late 1980s all the way up to 2017!

Once upon a time, there was no internet...

In the early 1980s up until the late 1990s, the best way to attract and hire candidates was to post an announcement in the newspapers. Nearly every newspaper had a job section, and because companies had to pay for the surfaces of their announcements, the job descriptions were kept simple and straightforward. There were no search engines like Google to help candidates find out more about the position or the company.

In terms of engaging with clients and candidates, Philip Piper, Director and Head of Search IT, Digital & Change in England recalls how vastly different the recruitment process was back in the day, saying, “When I began my career in recruitment we did not even have access to email, let alone the vast range of digital tools that many organisations benefit from today. While this left us with not much to do but build relationships on a face-to-face basis, we did not have the instant access to a broad range of talent that technology provides.

“Although one could argue that we weren’t distracted by the lure of comical YouTube videos and memes on social media, our response rate was slower, our scope more narrow and our capacity to deliver value significantly restricted,” he continues.

The rise of modern mass recruitment

The rise in popularity of the internet saw job boards make their apparition on the web. Many of them still exist today and Monster.com, created in 1999, is probably the best example of how the business has grown since then. However, thousands of online recruitment websites were born and died during the last 15 years, as it is a very competitive and aggressive market.

Although job announcements had become accessible online in 1999, not much had changed in terms of advertorial. This means that when candidates searched for a job, they were proposed a list of offers, written in the same style as those in the newspapers, and with a poor interface. Innovation was brought about when the financial crisis bred a new generation of innovative entrepreneurs who addressed the market and leveraged the new technologies to disrupt the existing models.

How technology continues to innovate the industry

Although recruitment is largely based on human interaction and building relationships, there is no denying that technology has and continues to disrupt the industry. This doesn’t necessarily signal an impending end to the human recruiter, but rather the birth of the efficient and proactive business advisor in the job market.

Although the growing adoption of artificial intelligence software may have a significant impact on the recruitment industry, causing some jobs to be lost as a result, history shows us that new opportunities spring forth from industrial revolutions and technological innovation in business.

Peter Preston, Managing Director for Search Professional Services, notes: “While the recruitment industry has historically been unsophisticated in terms of utilising technology to elevate service delivery, many businesses are adopting software to access candidates, improve efficiency and to enhance the overall quality of the client’s experience.” This means that the gruelling and costly task of having 10 people review and evaluate CVs is now being left to the hands of screening tools – thus increasing efficiency and reducing costs.

“Automation of mundane tasks should not be perceived as a cruel theft of the recruiter’s livelihood, but rather as a complementary asset to both improve the experience of the candidates and clients, and also make internal processes more effective - thus resulting in more productive and motivated employees,” says Phil. Peter agrees, saying, “We have already seen how automation of repetitive or administrative tasks frees consultants up to do more interesting and interactive work, with increased focus on recruiting and engaging people on a deeper level.”

An economic outlook

At the end of 2016, the Recruitment & Employment confederation (REC) reported that value of the recruitment industry to the UK economy is £35.1 billion per year.

Kevin Green, REC’s Chief Executive said: “The recruitment industry is bigger than ever before and contributes more to the UK economy than advertising, arts and recreation, and the food and beverage industry. Our industry is the engine that drives the UK jobs market, enabling people to find the right job and businesses to find the talent they need to succeed.”