#TBT: History of the Job Search


Long before LinkedIn, before Facebook, before Indeed, hiring technology existed solely in the newspaper format of classified ads. Job boards of today got their start in the smudgy-inked pages of Sunday papers delivered across the nation. With the help of Monster, Craigslist, and a big shove from LinkedIn, the job search has become a tech service, but before then it had remained unchanged for a couple hundred years.

The first newspapers published with motives other than offering business owners and job seekers a place to find each other. These were mostly political in nature, with some local stories and a few want ads, until closer to 1800. Classified ads, grouped together by subjects or “classes” grew in popularity as one of the main avenues for finding talent. In 1990, an estimated 62.3 million Americans had either daily or Sunday newspaper subscriptions, that’s over a third of the population. Newspapers were a vital element for filling a vacancy and remained as such until the dawn of the internet. 

The first online job board came from the Online Career Center in August 1992. It’s founder, Bill Warren is recognized as the father of online recruiting. A few years later the OCC became Monster.com and Warren was made president in 1998 - the same year Google was incorporated as a private company. 

During that time, Craigslist was born in 1995 from a need to organize the art and tech community in San Francisco, eventually leading to national and then global access on a local scale. Users could post anything, including vacant job openings. And just like that, the internet became THE place for talent searches.

In 2002 LinkedIn came into the scene. They shaped and solidified the online industry of job hunting and talent searches. Facebook paved the way for LinkedIn by first developing an online networking community with schoolmates, friends and eventually family. But it was LinkedIn who took that idea and brought it into the professional realm. Still known today as the leader in professional networking, their mark on the hiring landscape remains unscathed.

In the time of newspapers, the job seeker made phone calls and expressed their interest in the job opening. Perhaps they’d mail or fax their resume. Either way, the entire process was shouldered by the job seeker. With LinkedIn, Twitter, and dozens of others, that now lands on the shoulders of both employer and job seeker. Employers must make their workplace enticing to potential candidates, selling their brand as much to them as the consumer. The job seeker must still show interest in vacancies and submit applications, resumes, or CV’s - but are doing so with an arsenal of information about the company backing them.

Hundreds of years passed without radical changes to job hunting and hiring processes. Before online presence management, corporate social responsibility, and video CV’s, there were smudgy newspaper ads and stacks of resumes in actual mailboxes. That time isn’t far behind us, and yet is light years behind us in technological advancement. We’ve arrived at a place where the youngest in our workforce hasn’t lived without easy access to online resources.

Even still, we haven’t arrived at the ultimate form of hiring tech. Today firms are incorporating AI and chatbots to connect instantly with applicants, getting more information from the applicant and answering questions to weed out candidates before anyone wastes time meeting face-to-face. A quick Google search allows the job seeker to connect with job postings across various sites just by typing a few keywords. With all of these tech advances still happening, we can’t help but wonder how different the industry of talent acquisition will be in the next 20 years. What do we have to look forward to in the future and what lessons can we bring with us from the past? 


This article is part of a Throwback Thursday series on technology in HR. Critical Research is excited to share lessons learned from the past to make a better future for tomorrow. We strive to make background screening a simple and transparent process for our clients and their prospective hires, bridging the gap between interview and orientation.