100-Year Recruiting Flashback: What’s Changed and What Hasn’t

March 18, 2015

It’s funny how 100+ years can go by and we still do some things basically the same way. Like job searching.

Scott Uhrig, Managing Partner at boutique executive search firm, Whiterock Partners, and founder of career coaching firm Career Artisan, offers his insights about the modern job search in this video on the Talent Management website. It got me thinking about how things change – or don’t – and what it all means for recruiters.

1. What’s stayed the same: Recruiting is all about networking.

Uhrig’s research for his career guidance business took him back in time to the turn of the 20th century, to see how people conducted job searches then. The funny thing is, the basic principle is the same. It still comes down to networking and 80-90% of people find jobs that way, he says.

The difference is that, thanks to developments like the telephone, the Internet and social media, connecting and networking are far easier in 2015 than they were in 1899.

That rings true for recruiters as well. Hundreds of millions of people post information about themselves, their skills, projects, accomplishments and more online, creating a rich talent pool. That’s good news. The problem, according to Uhrig, is that the proliferation of technology, online job sites, resume recognition software, etc., clutters the ecosystem. It’s become easier to look for a job online, he says, but more difficult to find the right job.

That sounds familiar. It’s the same for recruiters: posting jobs all over the place in hopes that the right candidate will respond is easy. Actually finding the right person for the job is another prospect.

What this means for you:

Uhrig’s answer? Embrace technology to help you network smarter. I’d add: and take the time to maintain your ecosystem. Just like job seekers, recruiters today have myriad ways to connect, communicate and engage. You can share articles. Post your own content. Comment on content others are posting.

Every time you share or post on one of your social sites, you pop up in your network’s news feed. You’re staying top of mind and building your brand, yes, but you’re also creating value. You’re ensuring networking remains a two-way street by giving people something they may be able to use in their workday.

2. What’s changed: Single-employer careers give way to boomerang hires and tours of duty.

Uhrig did note that, although we go about the job search much as we did 100 years ago, the way we approach our careers has undergone quite a bit of change. Even so, the response here still comes down to networking. It’s clearly no longer the norm to spend 20, 30, 40 years at a company. Today the average person will change jobs multiple times and may even have multiple careers. Uhrig himself has been an executive recruiter, a teacher, and now an entrepreneur.

What this means for you:

For recruiters and hiring managers, this translates into being open to things like “tours of duty,” which allow employees to regularly change roles at their company within the context of a long-term relationship, as LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman explains. This approach enables professionals to build and broaden their experience while continuing to contribute to their company in meaningful ways.

Another modern term that would raise early 20th-century eyebrows is “boomerang” hires, or people who leave a company but may come back eventually after picking up new skills and experience. Personnel Psychology published a study showing that boomerang employees actually can make up 10-20% of an organization’s new hires. What’s more, the Globe and Mail reports that by some estimates “the average Fortune 500 company could save $12-million (U.S.) a year if former employees were actively recruited.”

Again, both tours of duty and boomerang hires link back to the concept of networking. When you do find and connect with top talent, do what it takes to keep them in your network, even if that means letting them try out different positions in the company – or, letting them go.

Fortunately for us, today’s version of networking makes former employees that much easier to stay in touch with, so there’s a great chance you could reconnect someday. Now that’s what I call progress.

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*Image by Chase Elliott Clark

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