Like everything, recruitment has changed over time, and today I’ll be giving you a brief history of these changes – I did A-Level History so I’m fully qualified to do this, trust me.

Recruitment has actually existed since the time of the Romans/Egyptians, and began in the UK in the Middle Ages, where candidates were mainly farm labourers.

So we’re flying back to many moons ago and my favourite time period, the Victorian era, and we’re focussing on how the British Army recruited. In 1859, due to a shortage of servicemen, the War Office decided to supplement the force with volunteers, and each county had to put forward their own men – this led to a volunteer force of over 160,000. The Government then passed an act in 1907, changing the name of these volunteers to the Territorial Army. As well as this, the 1870 Parliament passed a law allowing short-term enlistments to the army (up to 12 years) which made the recruitment more attractive to potential recruits.

Employment agencies were born as a result of WW2, in order to fill the gaps in the workplace left by soldiers being called to war. Then, after the war, these agencies were used to find returning war veterans work, and used the skills that they had gained while they were away.

The most common methods of recruiting, for both companies and agencies, were bulletin boards and newspapers – the old-age job boards. Companies paid for these advertisements, which were kept sweet and simple, and drawing candidates in was dependent on word of mouth.

When the computer was invented and Applicant Tracking Systems arrived, recruiting was made easier, as applications could be stored and assessed much more easily. As well as this, when the internet flew onto our screens during 1991, recruiters could start moving away from traditional advertising using bulletin boards and newspapers, and use this new resource for all of their advertising needs.

Job boards and websites like LinkedIn made it easier for candidates to be “head hunted”, finding the perfect match for a job with hardly any effort. This new form of recruitment kicked off pretty quickly, with a 40% rise in candidates using the internet to search for a new job from 2002 to 2003 – which has now moved up to around 97%.


So, now we’ve all got a better understanding of how this service has evolved over time, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief history of recruitment. If you are looking for more information about recruitment, we are now offering free 15 minute consultations to let you know which recruitment method is best for your business.