‘Business is war,’ goes an old Japanese proverb. In the case of the recruitment industry this link to combat is where the profession has its origins. The concept of recruitment dates to the armies of classical antiquity when men were conscripted to fight under the flags of various empires. For example, within the collections of the British Museum, there is a decree signed by Julius Caesar in 55 B.C., promising a reward of 300 sestertii to any soldier who brought another man into the Roman army.
Skip forward two thousand years and the birth of the modern recruiting industry came about as a reaction to the skills shortage in the American workplace created by those who enlisted for military service during the Second World War.
Employment agencies began advertising for workers as a means of filling the void left by those who departed to fight against the Axis Powers. Following the Allied victory, recruitment agencies then shrewdly reversed this process and began finding employment for demobilised veterans with new acquired skills that could be transferred to industry.
From the 1950s onwards, similar agencies were established in other Western countries with the consequent growth of the recruitment industry worldwide. For most of this period recruiters depended extensively on posting job ads, collecting printed CVs, hoarding business cards and cold calling candidates to ascertain their suitability.
The invention of the computer and the linked arrival of digital databases and Applicant Tracking Systems reduced this overreliance on paper archives, making applicant searches more efficient and less time consuming. By the early 1990s, the advent of the internet led to the spread of online job boards and the growth of a phenomenon known as E-recruitment, negating the need for CVs to be printed and posted.
A pioneer of this new technology was Bill Warren, who founded Online Career Centre (OCC) in 1992– the first employment site on the web. As a three-year United States Army veteran, Warren was only too aware of the roots of his industry and saw the benefit of having an online tool for organisations to connect with potential candidates. In 1995 TMP Worldwide bought out OCC, renaming it Monster and retaining Warren as President until 2000.
Since then recruitment industry has changed beyond all recognition and is now a faint echo of a time when Legionnaires stood in the forums of Roman cities, calling men to arms with the promise of glory and the enticement of silver coins rattling in their pockets.
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