The Origins of Recruitment


Recruitment has, quite frankly, existed for millennia; with Ancient Egyptian and Roman generals recruiting soldiers to create their impressive armies and yet it wasn’t until the mid-17th Century that the first ever recruitment agency was born! 

It’s crazy to think that with today’s millisecond web page loading times and social media stalking abilities, that recruitment must have been tiresome and excruciatingly difficult before the glorious internet. Luckily I’ve spent some time scrolling through endless reports and articles to bring you a nice neat summary of just the interesting and necessary parts that make up the Origins of Recruitment…

From the Dawn of Time to 1945

As mentioned in the introduction, the earliest forms of recruitment that most of us are probably aware of was during the peak of the many impressive empires, be it Roman or Ottoman or even Imperial China, they needed to ensure the appropriate gentlemen applied for their glorious armies (sorry ladies). 

It’s also worth noting, that as impressive as the Romans were, it might come as a surprise that Caesar basically invented employee referrals. In 55 B.C. he signed a decree that offered soldiers a very generous reward of 300 sestertii (silver coins) if they brought another soldier along when joining the army, for context that would have equated to a third of their annual salary.

After that there was very little motion in the evolution of recruiting until 1653 when a talented individual named Henry Robinson came along.

Mr Robinson created what was ultimately the first recruitment office in Great Britain, he named it the ‘Office of Addresses and Encounters’ and for a sixpence you could find out about available jobs, workers or even real estate. Being the humanitarian he was, Robinson also provided this service for free if you were poor.

Altogether, recruitment up until the Second World War, was restricted to hiring within family and friends, word of mouth and mass media propaganda. Therefore, it was during the second half of the 20th Century that we see the first, proper recruitment agencies and the growing usage of CVs come into play.

The Post War BOOM

Ultimately, what we see as recruitment today, originated from the ruins of World War II. As we know when men were called to join the war efforts, gaps in the workplace grew, vacancies boomed and in the end resulted in the birth of staffing agencies. 

Following on the mad scramble for hiring, men and women who were not involved in the military desperately needed to fill the vacancies which were left behind and once the war ended, professional recruiters continued to find work for the returning soldiers.

As businesses expanded and developed, the need to find the best workers grew too. Luckily advertising took a new turn during the 70s and became the next significant development of recruitment. It involved large sections of local and national newspapers dedicating a variety of enticing job adverts.

In less than a decade, the 80s and early 90s saw a fascinating technological advance for the agency and employer. The fax machine became a fast and straightforward way for agencies to communicate with their clients by being able to send a CV with a few buttons, and better still the computer was an excellent way to produce these CVs quickly

The Internet Era

Whilst paper copies of physical adverts were all well and good, the Internet made everything so much easier, even in the recruitment world. Candidates could research their potential employer prior to application, as well as find advice and ask questions to the employers through email - what a newfangled concept this must have been!

By the end of 1994, and had become the sites for job seekers and employers and yet the number of these sites soon multiplied as the popularity of the internet grew and grew over the ensuing years.

While many of us can’t imagine networking without LinkedIn, in 1997 Six Degrees was launched as the OG social networking site. Unfortunately its premise wouldn’t stay unique as the following decade marked its demise with the creations of LinkedIn, MySpace and Facebook, all of which being options available to HR managers.

Similarly, 2006 saw the initial foundations of Twitter and Google+ in 2011. All in all, social media was clearly doing something right and as of today, it is a fundamental part of the recruitment landscape rather than the naive and strange upstart it once was.

One key element of its success was that when companies embraced social media within their recruitment strategies, they found themselves at an advantage over their competition. By engaging more actively with jobseekers, businesses could even target passive candidates.

As of today, one wouldn’t even consider creating a job advertisement without social media or even the internet. Think about it, when was the last time you applied for a job that you saw in a physical newspaper and applied ‘the old-fashioned way’? Probably very few of us. 

This leads to the final segment of the article, what about the future? What could we possibly do to even further perfect recruitment after all this time, surely we’ve done it all by now?


My prediction is that the evolution of recruitment will be accelerated by recruiters who understand how to not only generate but also transition successful processes to technology, in short, improving efficiency, consistency and accuracy. 

I believe that by tackling the following aspects, we can achieve some very extraordinary methods in recruitment.

Pre Recruitment

Forecasting Tools that automatically track and notify leavers, new roles or growth against a programme could simplify and significantly improve the discovery process of vacancies.


As with anything, AI will probably be the single biggest innovation around attraction, as a Bot that works 24/7 365 can reach wider and further much quicker than a human.


Without the need for extensive analysis, we can spit out reports at the push of a button, all of which find the ideal candidates to match job specs and profiles.

On Boarding 

With AI we can generate algorithms that tailor the onboarding to a candidate by role or department rather than a generic corporate one size fits all approach.


Predictive analytics can help us provide trends and insights that align to demographics, diversity, inclusion, discipline, skill set, department etc. Basically being able to see exactly where improvements need to be made depending on whichever feature we want to better.


In conclusion, by exploring our past we can very clearly see what our future holds, and that is automation - being able to do more of what we used to, quicker and digitally rather than slowly and manually.

It’s also worth noting that it’s very difficult for many recruiters and candidates alike to imagine a recruitment landscape that does not have the Internet at its heart

So whilst over the years we’ve had telephones, newspapers and fax machines we now have emails, the internet and social media which gives us the ability to build proper relationships with candidates and clients all of which can certainly create a sustained success.

Yet, for all the innovations we have, we’re no better off than Caesar was with his army vacancies and after all, those who fail to learn the lessons of history are often condemned to repeat them…


RecruitmentOrigins of RecruitmentRecruitment MarketingMarketing Team Forwrd



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