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How has recruitment changed in the last 10 years?

By JAMES COAKES Published 3rd Dec 2014
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Recruitment is a fast-paced industry no matter how the economy is doing, but in the last ten years, the UK and global economy have been in a massive state of flux from stable to recession to recovery. It now seems that the economy will be moving back towards recession again. The financial crisis is one driver of change in recruitment, but has anything else really changed in the last decade?

Industry consolidation

One big change that's come about partly in response to the global financial crisis has been the industry consolidation that has seen many companies involved in mergers or acquisitions. There are two reasons for this: first, small and medium companies were struggling to complete in a market that was shrinking rapidly, and this drove many such companies into mergers that perhaps would not otherwise have occurred.

Another factor is the desire for global reach, with many companies either merging with, acquiring, or being acquired by companies located in other countries, or with strong ties to international markets. Merger and acquisition activity in the industry was at a five-year high by 2012, and the effects of the major changes that many companies around the world have made will likely continue to be felt.

Less personal contact, more online recruitment

While the internet has been around for a lot longer than ten years, it's really only in the last decade that it's come to be such a widely-used recruitment and jobseeking tool. This has meant significant changes in the way people look for jobs, and where recruiters go to find candidates. It used to be that jobseekers and recruitment consultants would actually visit or telephone employers to find out whether they had vacant positions, but these days visiting a website or job board is the preferred practice. Instead of submitting CVs by mail or dropping them in to a company or recruitment agency, they're submitted online. Sometimes, and particularly in larger companies, they're scanned electronically for relevant keywords, and the majority discarded, without ever being read by an actual person.

In short, there's a lot less personal contact than there was ten years ago. Most companies consider this a good thing, because it allows them to save a considerable amount of time when screening candidates. The downside is that rare candidate who isn't a stand-out on paper, but who absolutely shines in a personal interview. With the increasing focus on online contact there are fewer chances to make those personal connections.

Overall, the recruitment industry is even more fast-paced than it was a decade ago, primarily due to changes brought about by the internet. Recruiters can work on a larger scale, by posting and managing multiple job advertisements in the same online space, and the entire process is faster and more streamlined. Job advertisements can be posted instantly, candidates can apply within a matter of minutes, and interviews can be scheduled the very next day.

There is much discussion in forums about applying for jobs posted online and many seem to think that it's only worth applying for jobs posted within the last seven days. The timescale has shrunk considerably and this makes it difficult for professional recruiters to leverage their way into the process.

The rise of social media

In jobseeking and recruitment the old maxim that it's not what you know, it's who you know, is still true. It was inevitable that social media would become an important networking and recruitment tool. Social media is now an important part of an effective hiring strategy. It allows candidates to vastly increase their network, and for organisations, it's an easy way of vetting candidates on a much more personal level than a CV or cover letter allows.

It also means that organisations may take a candidate's personal networks into account when hiring. A salesman with a large industry relevant network is perceived to be more valuable, although that assumption is still in the process of being tested and may yet turn out to be questionable.

The two significant influences on recruitment in the last ten years have been the financial crisis and the internet. However, a third is coming into play and that is a change of generation. So called Generation Z are up and coming and they have different values and job requirements. This links to the internet, because many of the values of this generation are influenced by such drivers as social media and lifestyle image.

One of the trends which makes sense and fits with this new generation is the idea that recruitment will be driven by internal PR within companies and brands. These are people who are responsible for promoting their company as the place to work. They will emphasis lifestyle benefits such as working environment and how enjoyable it is to work at the company, as well as presenting the moral case of what a company stands for or how it is making the world a better place.

There has been plenty of change in the recruitment industry, but there is still much to come. Traditional recruitment models are still used in such areas as senior executive recruitment, where it is not appropriate to put jobs online or when applicants may demand discretion. There is also a market for recruiters who consult to companies, helping them to present themselves as a great place to work in order to find the best candidates. The internet has taken some of the unskilled element out of the market, with unskilled recruiters being replaced with data analysts and IT specialists. However, there is still a market for experience and consultancy.

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