Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

5 bits of recruitment technology that changed everything

By Anthony Hughes | Sep 5, 2014 | Friday Funnies

I was trying to explain to a bewildered young member of staff the other day how I studied at Uni without the option of the internet.  I explained that back in the early Nineties I conducted all my research at the library and not via Google which didn’t arrive until 1998.

And even by the time I started my job searching effort in 1996, I was still reliant on trade magazines and the local press to find my first place of work.

Of course things are vastly different now.  The days of waiting for Thursday’s local paper armed with a highlighter are long gone.  The job board is now where the majority of candidates will find their next role, making it easier and far more convenient to source and apply for jobs.

So what impact has technology had on the recruitment industry over the last 30 years or so?  A lot of these technological changes have been more recent than you perhaps realise.  And what is next?  What are the experts predicting will be the next change to take the recruitment world by storm?

Read my look back at the changes in technology below to find out more:

Recruitment Technology: The Fax Machine (Mid 1980s)


The fax machine improved the speed of not just the recruitment industry, but also business in general.  Although machines where the user could telex or telegram messages had been around for years, the fax machine gave candidates the ability to quickly send through a copy of their CV, rather than relying on the post.

The humble fax machine also created urgency.  It gave recruiters the ability to sell in contractors and candidates with much more immediacy and deals were closed much quicker than before.

Just like pagers and floppy disks, the majority of these machines are gathering dust in offices, unused and unloved.  However, there are still businesses out there who still fax and amazingly some even use it to spam, which always raises a laugh.

Recruitment Technology: The Mobile Phone (End of the 1980s)


As ubiquitous as the mobile phone is now, imagine the excitement when they were first introduced back in the Eighties.  I didn’t get my first model, the Panasonic Brick, till around 1991.  But even though I was paying silly money for a bit of airtime and texts, it did give me an incredible sense of freedom.

And when 2G technology was introduced, it meant consultants could get better access to candidates and clients.  Interviews could be now  arranged in working hours, rather than contacted candidates in the evening or awkward calls to work numbers.

Although mobile phones mean a lot of us can never fully switch off, even when we are away from the office, they have improved communication and have at least made us more efficient,  in theory anyway.

Recruitment Technology: Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) (1990)


Making recruiters lives easier from around 1990.  To the uninitiated, an ATS system is very similar to a CMS set-up.  It allows you to track candidates through the recruitment process and extract info from CVs and other sources and puts it into a searchable database of available talent.

As with the fax machine and the mobile phone, speed was the big advantage when the ATS system was introduced.    Candidate canvassing hasn’t really changed with the advent of an ATS, but it has meant that recruiters can do keyword searches on CVs and get to the better talent quicker.

Unfortunately, you will often find that the lazier recruiters will simply do a quick keyword search to match up a job brief with a CV and send the candidates details to the client without ever reading the CV.  This practice results in the client receiving a bunch or unqualified CVs, leaving them disgruntled and disillusioned with the recruitment process.

However, many recruitment businesses have now introduced a series of KPIs to counteract this, which subsequently prevents their staff sending over  a CV that just happens to mention a selected keyword a dozen times.

Recruitment Technology: Email (1993)


Social networking has almost made Email seem old hat these days.  But imagine how revolutionary having mail delivered electronically was back in the early days of the web.

The ability to be able to send a client a CV and have proof of delivery was, and still is, a big help when it comes to disputing who sourced a client first.

One of the problems that still exists with email is the amount of poor CVs clients receive from agents desperate for a fee.

Good recruiters who fully understand the brief will work harder in order to sort the wheat from the chaff.

It also became to easy for candidates to fire their CV indiscriminately at every vacancy, which meant that recruiters had to wade through a stack of emails to find a decent match, that was until the next bit of technology was introduced….

Recruitment Technology: Online Job Boards (Late 1990s)


The days of hunting through the printed press for jobs seems so twee when we look back.

But just before the Millennium, there was a massive revolution in recruitment as Monster, Jobserve and Stepstone (still big on the continent) arrived to change the scene forever.  It also spelt the start of the decline for advertising roles in the off-line press.

As with the advent of email, the introduction of job boards did unfortunately mean that the lazier recruiter could put very little work into getting their fee.

It became the norm to post a job on Monster, go home and come back to a load of CVs in their inbox.  There was then a minimal amount of CV sifting done and an email with the winning few candidates to their clients.  Job done!

And then in 2008, the recession hit hard and lazy consultants working for lazy recruitment businesses soon began to fall by the way side.

Good recruiters now have to work harder and smarter to find the talent that is on the market and too ultimately earn their fee.

Recruitment Technology: Social Recruiting (2012)


Still in its infancy and finding its feet, social sourcing (the sourcing of candidates via social media) is predicted to be the dominate force in recruitment in years to come.

A lot of blue-chip brands such as Pepsi and Virgin are increasingly using social recruiting to source candidates for employment.

They position themselves as thought leaders in their sector, through a combination of Facebook, Google, Twitter and LinkedIn, where businesses create communities to share knowledge and discuss sector specific topics.

They will also investigate applicant’s social network profiles and will take somebody out of the running for a position if they deem their output unacceptable.

Switched on candidates have also been smart enough to embrace this and have positioned themselves as thought leaders in their sector by contributing to these forums and blogs.

However, I don’t think we should see social recruiting as a direct replacement for job boards, more of an enhancement, like a good Béarnaise sauce.

LinkedIn have tried and failed in their attempt to become a serious player in the recruitment market and it will be interesting to see whether any other social networks will tread the same path.

Recruitment Technology: Summary

There is little doubt that technological advances have completely revolutionised recruitment.  And although the web has sped up the process, it has also seen the recruitment market has become saturated with a number of agencies who survive despite a poor quality of service.

It is incredible to think that back in 1998, many recruitment agencies didn’t believe that online presence was essential for success.  Fast forward to the present day and the importance of having a digital marketing strategy can be the difference between success and failure.

- Anthony Hughes

Anthony Hughes

Anthony is a recruitment veteran of 18 years and is also one of the original founders of Coburg Banks. He now trains recruitment consultants on the best methods to utilise when sourcing and assessing applicants for their clients. 


> More blog posts by Anthony Hughes

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