History of Recruiting

Foreward: Read This First

This document is the brainstorm of Adela Schoolderman. Like many professionals with recruiting experience, Adela joined the ranks of recruiters as an adult and honed her craft on the job. The more she learned the more questions she found she had. In particular, two questions stood out:

For the recruiter and employer- “Just how did we get here?” How, When and Why did our practices, policies and tools evolve the way they did? Were they really thought up to meet the needs of all the stakeholders- the employers we work for and the candidates whose lives we touch? They couldn’t have sprung out of nowhere or, could they?

For the candidate- “Is the job seeker’s journey an experience that has improved over the years?” What drove (and continues to drive) how we expand our pool of prospects to find and consider all those who can do the job instead of being limited by our biases.

The answers to these questions are still hotly debated but what follows in this document is a journey Adela quickly enticed me to join. We both hope you, the reader, will join us along with the many contributing authors noted above and help us add to this reflection of the past in the coming months.

We’ve included hundreds of events that have influenced in some way how we hire, who we hire and even how we think about hiring.

We are just scratching the surface. More regional and global milestones are needed to add more light… as will become evident as you read on.

Where to start?

There are anecdotes and back stories in this document. No need to start at the beginning.

Just choose a decade, scan the milestones, and enjoy the color commentary.

For our part, we didn’t want to start prior to the late 1800’s as the acquisition of candidates was not at all in keeping with today’s standards. From the beginning of recorded history through the 1st industrial revolution in the early 1800s the focus on what was to eventually become “Personnel” and “Human Resources” with its responsibility for hiring and managing a workforce, at its best was known as “Industrial Welfare”.

Consider, for example, the “Factory Act of 1833”. It was passed in the US to improve the working conditions of women and children. Employers were required by the law to have an age certificate for child workers. Children 9-13 years of age were limited to nine hours a day, six days a week! Children 13-18 years old worked 12 hours days. Legislation as late as 1878 set 60-hour work weeks as standard for children.

Neither Adela nor I have little interest in highlighting centuries of hiring practices that involved finding, engaging and paying parents for their child’s labor let alone even more brutal approaches – practices like indenture and slavery whose vestiges we are still struggling to eliminate on a local, national, and global scale.

We chose instead to begin with the Second Industrial Revolution:

  • a time where the need for skilled labor was growing and the need to invest in training employees, managers and leaders emerged as a business necessity.
  • a time when the pressure to hire without regard to gender, race, class, national origin etc. etc. was just beginning to be glimpsed, a modern era of hiring…and a society becoming more concerned with the practices, policies and laws to improve itself.
  • a time where technologies drove exponential growth in the size and number of industries.

We asked industry professionals (whose names are at the bottom of this page) to weigh in with dates and stories (with independent confirmation of supporting evidence or direct observations) on milestones that mark the evolution of recruiting pre and post internet. We want to emphasize firsts, early adopters, pioneers as well as legislation, policies, practices and laws that impact our industry or profession. One of them- Jim Stroud’s History of Sourcing comes to mind as having made a serious effort in the past to publicize many key events and people and we want to acknowledge his work.

We will continue to add all milestones we add to the history by adding another name as a contributing author.

It was a labor of love to research, edit and expand on the inputs of our volunteer peers and colleagues.

Our mission is to contribute to the education of recruiters who can learn where so many of their tools, specialties, practices and opportunities got their start. Our hope is that you will note something we missed and share your thoughts (and references) about ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘why’ with us. We’ll continue to add to the timeline of this growing history of our profession and your name to the list of contributing authors. We also hope to include many more global events in future iterations, as this history is primarily but not completely US-focused.

Send us your milestones, date and supportive links with color commentary.

Thank you for your interest in sharing the history of recruiting.


Adela Schoolderman & Gerry Crispin, Editors

The History and Evolution of Recruiting: 1900-Present

Adela.schoolderman@gmail.com – Gerry@cxr.works

Contributing Authors & Editors