20 Years in Recruiting: I’m Amazed Where We Are — and Where We’re Going

About 20 years ago, I fell into this business wide-eyed, filled with wonderment, and not sure what the new day was going to produce.

I was young, but not too naïve. Yes, I did have a great deal to learn and I’m still learning even now by attending conferences, reading posts from other recruiters, etc. I’m amazed by all the different ways we find people.

As recruiters we are, first and foremost, in the people business. There is no Artificial Intelligence, at least not now, that can rightly predict what a person is going to do 100 percent of the time, and neither can anyone else. Well, except for an FBI profiler. They are scary good with that and I thank God that they are.

Tools are like nothing else, and when put them in the right hands with the proper training they can be very, very, useful. However, unless you are using them they just sit there in your tray hoping they get picked to play (I feel there is a Pixar movie somewhere in all this). There is a symbiotic relationship between you and an app, and by using a tool, something comes from it. Hopefully, it is something useful.

I am all too familiar with the constant conversation that recruiting is dead and that we will be replaced by machines. I shake my head every time I hear that. After 20 years in this business, I’m still going strong, people still hire me, and all the things I have seen from an inventive perspective have made many lives a little bit easier.

My generation has witnessed some of the greatest innovations that any generation has ever seen, and as I sit here writing on a tablet less than one inch thick (having learned to type on a Remington Brand typewriter) I’m still amazed at where we are and where we’re going.

Yes, we used to do things a little differently

So, for the less ancient of you out there reading this, let me show you some of the things we did not have 20 years ago OR that were pretty new back then. We were still placing people but NOT with the tools we have now. For instance:

  • Job board postings — Well, we did have Monster and eventually Dice, but the likes of Indeed, CareerBuilder, craigslist, and others were still to come, and job boards in general were more of a luxury for us and just as expensive back then as they are now.
  • Believe it or not, we actually posted job ads in newspapers — You may have seen newspapers at the grocery store, and most people use them for bird cages, packing paper, and crossword puzzles now.
  • We used fax machines — Many companies didn’t trust them back then, and since the signature on a faxed document was a facsimile, it was not considered legally binding. So, the only thing they were good for was sending and receiving resumes.
  • People would snail mail resumes to companies or fax them to us — We had the worst facsimile paper that would always be overtly glossy and roll up since, well, it came from a roll of paper that would always roll up and you could never write on it. It used to drive me freaking batty!
  • We had email but MS Hotmail was the only free email service — You paid for the others unless you had an office account with Outlook, or subscribed to AOL (Remember YOU GOT MAIL! ?) Also, American Express did not trust receiving emails because they might get a virus. And, most people couldn’t figure out how to open an attachment (like my company’s biggest client at the time).
  • Speaking of viruses, does anyone over the age of 35 remember the “I love you” virus? — Yeah, we all thought that was a real hoot until we realized all of our information was no longer in our system as it was wiped out from clicking on that little icon. Maybe the AMEX staff was not really that stupid after all.
  • Google was just getting started — All of those fantastic Chrome extensions that you may or may not use today were not around back then. I think I hear gasping when you read this one. In fact, Google started out as a search engine that ran on IE until they came up with Chrome a little later.
  • There was no Facebook — We actually, you know, met up somewhere and talked to one another — in person! That’s a shocker to so many people now.
  • I used to receive resumes via the actual U.S. mail carrier — They had a stamp, return address, and everything.
  • We walked to work uphill, in the snow, and braved 40 mile per hour winds both ways getting to work — Sorry, I had to throw something snarky in there — you know me!
  • Headsets were not wireless and had an annoying cord that always seemed to rip your ears off — This happened if you turned your head too fast one way or the other.
  • We had paper everywhere and actually wrote things down with a pen — Yes, we handed written notes to managers instead of emailing them.
  • LinkedIn had just started and none of us knew how to actually use it for recruiting — Back then, you just got excited someone wanted to connect with you online, well, with a few small exceptions (Yes, I’m looking at you Stacy Donovan  Zapar).
  • Facebook did not exist at all — It started in 2004, so before that we just called each other! In fact, texting on a cell phone was not even a thing. It was, in short, a pain in the ass and no one knew you could communicate that way.
  • There were no smartphones — There were dumb phones that worked and we talked on them and paid a boatload of money to use them. OK, that has remained constant I guess.
  • We talked a great deal on the phone — We did not email questions; we asked people questions because there was a need to get a feel for how someone explained things.
  • We took copious amounts of notes — We kept the notes in the computer system so that we could track where we were with the candidate. We call this an ATS now. You’re welcome.

Today’s struggle may all be in your head

There is a LOT more I am sure I’m missing here, and I would love for some of the other kids that have been in this business to add things to the comments that I may have passed by.

So, if you are new to recruiting please realize that if you think the struggle today is real it really is not. It’s all in your head and I’m sure there is an app that can fix it for you. In fact, send me your fax number and I can jot down some notes and send it over to you.

You’re welcome. #zellerout

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Derek Zeller draws from over 16 years in the recruiting industry. The last 11 years he has been involved with federal government recruiting specializing within the cleared Intel space under OFCCP compliance. He currently serves as a Technical Recruiting Lead at Comscore.

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Technical Recruiting Lead at Comscore

Derek Zeller draws from over 16 years in the recruiting industry. The last 11 years he has been involved with federal government recruiting specializing within the cleared Intel space under OFCCP compliance. He currently serves as a Technical Recruiting Lead at Comscore. Find him on LinkedIn or on Twitter @Derdiver .




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Derek Zeller draws from over 16 years in the recruiting industry. The last 11 years he has been involved with federal government recruiting specializing within the cleared Intel space under OFCCP compliance. He currently serves as a Technical Recruiting Lead at Comscore. Find him on LinkedIn or on Twitter @Derdiver .

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