Those Were The Days... Or Were They? Pauline Henshall looks at recruitment through the decades

A few weeks ago my colleagues asked if I had any photographs from the 80s, which could feature on our DigiRec Twitter account for #throwbackthursday. I duly obliged and there followed much hilarity and banter around the office! To be fair, all of my colleagues were children when I started out in the recruitment industry so they can be forgiven for being so amused at life as a Recruitment Consultant back in the 80s.

Looking at the photographs brought back so many memories of what working life in the 80s was really like. Imagine for a moment starting out in the world of recruitment without a computer, the Internet, job sites or LinkedIn, not even a mobile phone! This was the recruitment industry I entered back in 1986. Our Internet was a library of outdated directories, and all my industry information and client leads came from The Software Users Year Book! There were filling cabinets everywhere filled with hundreds and hundreds of candidate and client files. The hours were very long. 90% of candidate calls took place in the evening, it wasn’t possible to have sensitive calls during the day, remember there were no mobile phones.

It was a tough environment and it wasn’t unusual for recruitment consultants to quickly come and go, only the good ones tended to survive! All of the work I did back in the 80s was contingency, (I didn’t become a headhunter until 1990). Yet despite the tough environment, I loved the work and was very excited when I got my very own PC on my desk in the late 80s. The first mobile phone also came around that time, just the one, which was the size of a brick. All the consultants had to book it out in advance if they planned to be out of the office. I have a memory of going to an exhibition at the NEC with the brick and the office calling me. I remember everyone looking at me as I walked down the aisle between the stands. I’m sure I thought I must have looked really important holding a huge phone to my ear, but I must have looked ridiculous. It wasn’t just the phones that were big in the 80s; I remember everything being big including my hair and shoulders!

In the early 90s, the brick was made redundant as we entered the era of the car phone, with handheld devices coming in the late 90s. My headhunting career really took off in this decade and as my network grew and I gained market specialisation and knowledge; I regularly ran both headhunting campaigns and advertising campaigns in the Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph on behalf of my clients. As we approached the 00s the landscape I had become used to for almost 15 years was about to change beyond recognition with the introduction of the Internet. By the mid 00s a variety of job boards had hit the scene along with LinkedIn and for the last 10 + years I have seen a range of improving software and apps become available to assist Recruitment Consultants in their work, adding value at all levels, improving productivity, and offering a much more enhanced candidate experience – a very long way from where I started in 1986!

I am very fortunate to have spent over 3 decades working in the recruitment industry in a variety of roles over the years and I am still actively involved both as a headhunter and as a Director of DigiRec. I have witnessed first hand the changes it has been through. It certainly needs to go through further change – but I’ll save my thoughts on that for another blog.

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