• 11/1/2023 9:17:20 AM

The History of Recruitment

Recruitment refers to the process of finding and hiring a suitable candidate for an open position in an organization. Derived from the Latin verb "recruere," the word recruitment means "to renew, strengthen, or reinforce." The word was first used in English in the 16th century, meaning to replenish military personnel, and over time its usage has spread to other areas. In this article, we will examine the historical development of recruitment processes.

Archaic Period

Throughout history, labor and recruitment processes have gone through various phases, depending on the social and economic structures of societies. In local communities where labor was not commodified, the workforce constituted one of the fundamental building blocks of society. However, labor was considered as part of the community’s collective effort and solidarity, rather than as an individual good or service to be bought and sold. In these communities, each family was responsible for its livelihood, engaging in activities such as agriculture, livestock farming, hunting, and gathering.

Local knowledge and skills were passed down from generation to generation, and during this process, the culture of collective labor emerged as an important method of solidarity, bringing together all members of the community to overcome large and challenging tasks. In this context, recruitment processes, as we understand them today in a corporate and structured form, did not exist. Instead, labor needs and skill sharing were shaped through organic relationships and mutual dependencies within the community.

The social and economic integrity of local communities began to be shaken over time due to various external factors. These factors included natural disasters, wars, the formation of states, the expansion of trade, and especially colonialism and technological revolutions. Some of these developments displaced individuals from their lands, pushing them towards new economic orders where labor was commodified, and the labor market dominated. In the process of commodification of labor, the workforce ceased to be a collective effort of a community and began to be an object of trade. With this transformation, individuals started to be evaluated based on their skills and hired by employers. One of the most radical examples of the commodification of labor in colonized communities during this period was slavery, marking a significant turning point in the history of recruitment.

Ancient Period

Spanning from 3000 BC to 500 AD, the ancient periods hosted a variety of different civilizations and cultures, each developing various methods and systems for recruitment processes. Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and Ancient China stand out as the most prominent civilizations of this era, each contributing uniquely to the processes of recruitment. In the Ancient Period, recruitment processes were generally controlled and regulated by the state. This indicates that the management of the labor force aimed to ensure the overall order and stability of society. Additionally, this period represents a time when recruitment processes were shaped not just by economic, but also by social and cultural factors.

The civilization of Mesopotamia, home to some of the world’s oldest civilizations, is known for its innovations in agriculture and irrigation systems. Large labor forces were needed to cultivate the extensive agricultural lands in Mesopotamia. During this period, workers typically came from villages and local communities. However, as large projects and monumental structures began to be built, specialization and division of labor among workers started to emerge. The invention of writing in Mesopotamia represents a significant advancement in recruitment and labor management. The earliest written documents detailing workers’ working hours, wages, and working conditions appeared during this time. These documents helped define workers' rights and employer obligations and also regulated worker-employer relations. Recruitment processes in Mesopotamia were generally organized by local governments and temples, aiming to meet labor needs and complete large projects. Specialization among workers played an important role during this period, necessitating the recruitment of workers with different skills for various jobs and projects.

The Egyptian civilization began to rise around 3100 BC in the fertile valley of the Nile River. Like Mesopotamia, this civilization relied on large labor forces to control water and agricultural activities. Egypt is renowned throughout history for its incredible architectural structures, pyramids, and monuments. The construction of these structures provides noteworthy examples of recruitment and labor force management of the time. In Egypt, the workforce consisted mainly of peasants, slaves, and craftsmen. The large labor force required for the construction of the pyramids was organized and directed by the state, showing that the recruitment processes of the period were managed by a central authority. In the Egyptian civilization, writing was used to keep records of workers, determine their salaries, and regulate working conditions. Documents written on papyrus detailed workers’ working hours, wages, and other rights. These documents are among the early examples that regulated worker-employer relations and defined workers’ rights.

The Chinese civilization, with a rich history extending back to 2000 BC, has hosted grand structural projects, including the Great Wall of China, canals, and roads. Such projects required a massive workforce, usually comprised of peasants, prisoners of war, and sometimes slaves. Recruitment processes were organized and managed by the state, showcasing a central authority that defined the working conditions and rights of the laborers. China had a centralized government and a complex bureaucratic structure, which influenced its recruitment processes. Government officials were selected through a stringent examination system, measuring their knowledge and administrative skills, implying that recruitment processes were based on objective criteria. The Chinese civilization included specialized professional groups in fields such as metallurgy, ceramics, textile production, and agriculture. These professional groups formed communities within themselves, transferring knowledge and skills from one generation to the next. In this context, recruitment processes were shaped considering individuals' talents and skills.

Middle Ages and Craftsmanship

Feudalism dominated the landscape of Medieval Europe, spanning from 500 AD to 1500 AD, establishing reciprocal ties between landowners (nobles) and peasants (serfs). Serfs were bound to live on and work a specific plot of land, receiving protection and other services from the nobles in return. This system deeply influenced the recruitment processes of the time.

Craftsmanship and artisanry played a significant role during the Medieval period. Artisans would start as apprentices, progress to journeymen, and finally become masters. This progression usually took place within the framework of a craft guild, which acted as an institutions regulating recruitment processes and setting standards. To become a master, an individual had to complete apprenticeship and journeyman phases, and also produce a work demonstrating their craftsmanship and knowledge. During this time, artisans and laborers typically found work through word-of-mouth recommendations and guild networks. Artisans specialized in specific fields and found work according to their areas of expertise. Guilds held functions such as quality control, price regulation, and member protection, which were significant factors influencing recruitment processes.

On the other hand, the recruitment processes for serfs working in agriculture were quite different. These individuals were generally bound to work on the lands they were born on and had very limited options regarding finding or changing jobs. However, the agricultural and commercial revolution experienced in Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries contributed to the growth of cities and the expansion of labor markets. In this period, many people migrating to cities found new job opportunities, diversifying the recruitment processes.

While craftsmanship and artisanry held significant importance during the Middle Ages, the feudal system and agricultural society also influenced the labor market. In later periods, with the Industrial Revolution and modernization processes, recruitment processes became even more complex and diverse.

The Industrial Revolution and Beyond

The Industrial Revolution, which started in England in the late 18th century and spread across Europe and North America throughout the 19th century, marked a series of economic, social, and technological changes. This shift led to the use of machinery in production and the transition to the factory system, significantly impacting the labor market and recruitment processes. Before the Industrial Revolution, production largely depended on manual labor, where workers usually worked in their homes or small workshops, finding jobs through word-of-mouth recommendations or family and friend connections.

With the Industrial Revolution, production began moving to factories, further expanding the labor market. Workers seeking employment in factories began finding jobs through job advertisements, published in newspapers, employment agencies, or posted on factory doors. Factory owners started using various methods to assess the physical and mental abilities of the workers they were hiring. These methods included job interviews, personality tests, intelligence tests, and physical examinations.

The Industrial Revolution marked a turning point in recruitment processes, making them more systematic and objective, creating a more transparent and fair process for both employers and workers.

20th Century and World War II

With the onset of the 20th century, the global industrial and economic landscape underwent a radical transformation. This era marked the foundation of recruitment processes and human resources management, witnessing the rise of large corporations and the emergence of professionalism.

The technological advancements and changes in production methods brought about by the Industrial Revolution paved the way for the emergence of large-scale companies. These companies grew at an unprecedented rate, making the recruitment processes more complex. Companies realized the need for employees with diverse skill sets and expertise, requiring more careful and planned management of recruitment processes.

During this period, human resources departments were established to manage recruitment processes and address other employee-related matters. These departments played a critical role in selecting, training, and developing candidates. They also developed various programs and policies to increase employee satisfaction and promote productivity. By the mid-century, recruitment processes had started to become more professional and standardized. They began to utilize tests and interview techniques designed to objectively assess candidates' skills and abilities, helping employers select the most suitable candidates.

World War II marked a significant change in workforce dynamics, as many men joined the armed forces, leading to an increased inclusion of women and minority groups in the workforce. This shift emphasized the importance of diversity and inclusion in recruitment processes, allowing employers to tap into different talent pools. Returning veterans, particularly in the technology and manufacturing sectors, found opportunities to apply their newly acquired skills. In the post-war period, these changes became permanent, and recruitment processes started to adopt a more diverse and inclusive approach.

1980s and 1990s

The 1980s and 1990s were marked by technology transforming the business world and, specifically, recruitment processes. This period witnessed the digitization of recruitment processes, facilitated by the widespread adoption of computers and the internet. In the early 1980s, computers began to be rapidly integrated into the business world. This changed the tools and methods used to manage recruitment processes. Employers started to utilize computer programs to create candidate databases, scan resumes to find suitable candidates, and track recruitment processes. This made recruitment processes faster and more efficient.

With the spread of the internet in the 1990s, a new era began in recruitment processes. Job advertisements and applications moved to online platforms, allowing employers and job seekers to communicate with each other more quickly and effectively. Online job listings provided job seekers with a wider range of job opportunities while increasing employers' access to the candidate pool. Recruitment processes have now become more competitive.

The 1980s and 1990s were also a period when the role of software in recruitment processes increased. Employers began to manage recruitment processes more effectively using applicant tracking systems, talent management software, and other digital tools. These tools were used to create candidate databases, track recruitment processes, and communicate with candidates. The rise of the Internet also contributed to the globalization of recruitment processes.


The 2000s was a period when recruitment processes became even more integrated with social media and digital technologies. During this period, interactions between employers and job seekers shifted from traditional methods to online platforms.

Founded in 2003, LinkedIn rapidly emerged as a platform that enabled professionals to connect, exchange information about job opportunities, and expand their career networks. For employers, LinkedIn became a valuable tool to find potential candidates, communicate with them, and promote job opportunities. At the same time, it became a platform for job seekers to explore career opportunities and establish professional connections.

In addition to LinkedIn, other social media platforms also began to be used as effective tools in recruitment processes. Employers explored new ways to use these platforms to promote company culture, share job postings, and interact with candidates. Social media made recruitment processes more transparent and accessible, breaking down the walls between employers and candidates.

In the early 2000s, the digitalization of recruitment processes enabled employers and job seekers to communicate with each other more quickly and effectively. Online applications, video interviews, and other digital tools made recruitment processes faster and more efficient. During this period, the automation of recruitment processes and efforts to increase efficiency came to the forefront. Social media and digital technologies provide employers with access to talent pools around the world.

Today and Beyond

Today, artificial intelligence and algorithm-based assessments are used to make recruitment processes faster, more efficient, and more objective. Automatic scanning systems help employers quickly and effectively assess large pools of candidates, while AI-based tools allow for a more objective evaluation of candidates' skills and abilities. These technological tools optimize recruitment processes while also helping employers find the most suitable candidates.

Diversity and inclusion-focused recruitment strategies help employers attract candidates from different backgrounds and increase workplace diversity. These strategies enrich workplace culture and strengthen the employer brand. Additionally, diversity promotes innovation and provides the different perspectives necessary for companies to compete in global markets.

This rapid change in recruitment processes heralds the emergence of even more advanced technologies and approaches in the future. With the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, recruitment processes will become even more automated, and candidate evaluations will become more objective. This will enable employers to find the most suitable talents more quickly and effectively, while also improving the candidate experience.