Back in the Day… Running an IT Recruitment Agency in the 1990s

( Post 12 of 25 )

Earlier in the month, David Jones contributed a post talking about his experiences dealing with IT over the past 25 years and how it’s changed over that time. With CR 25 celebrating 25 years of Computer Recruiter as a recruitment agency, I decided to ask the owners – Bernard and Marilyn Morgan – what it was like running an IT recruitment agency back in the 1990s. Remember: this was before the days of the Internet (as we know it), the Web and email – things that we take very much for granted now…

In 1990, there was no World Wide Web to advertise vacancies or search jobs databases. Things had to be done ‘the old fashioned way’…

Advertising vacancies in print media

Computer Weekly - print version

An example of a print edition issue of Computer Weekly from 2010

Advertising IT vacancies meant placing adverts in computer magazines. The two main ones were Computing and Computer Weekly, both of which were weekly publications, available in printed form on Thursdays. If you wanted to place an advert with them, then you had to send your ‘copy’ to them by 11am on a Monday, typically by fax, to have it displayed in that Thursday’s run. If you missed this deadline then you had to wait another week.

So if you received a new job requirement on a Tuesday and got your copy through by the following Monday then your adverts would be seen on the Thursday – 9 days after you received your requirement. Then you had to wait for potential candidates to digest the magazines’ contents and (hopefully) respond to your advert. A response was typically a paper copy of their CV in the post, which usually arrived on the following Tuesday – two weeks since you received the job requirement. Sometimes you’d receive a CV by fax and occasionally you’d receive a floppy disk in the post with the CV on it, but mainly it was in paper form.

Compare that to today: you receive a job requirement and within a few minutes, it can be live on several job boards and candidate CVs can be flowing in via email! You may also perform some job board database searches and download some more CVs. Fresh candidate CVs can be with the client soon afterwards.

Broken fax machines

Fax machine imageWe had a fax machine, but sometimes it (or the phone line) would break down… Our back-up “business as usual” strategy involved borrowing the use of another company’s fax machine temporarily. Luckily we were located near a local estate agents’ offices, so we would use theirs – and we offered to return the favour if they were in the same situation. Luckily it didn’t happen too often over the years.

Lack of mobiles

Nowadays we treat mobile phones and smartphones as a standard piece of kit, but back in the early 1990s they weren’t so readily available. If you were out and about, you had to make sure that you had a pocket full of 10p coins with you, so that you could keep in touch by public phone. This could be very frustrating if you had agreed to call a client at a specific time, only to find a queue at the nearest public phone box. I guess today’s equivalent would be like being in a weak mobile signal area.

Lack of mobile phones also caused delays in contacting candidates. If you had a work phone number for a candidate, maybe you could get hold of him/her during the working day, but if they hadn’t given a work number, you would have to wait until the evening to speak to them. If you were desperate to contact them, you could try their home number in the hope that a relative would be at home, who could relay a message to them, asking them to call you. Everything’s so much easier with mobiles!

[Image credits – Computer Weekly print edition: Mark Hillary; fax machine: Michelle Kinsey Bruns]