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Updated: April 29, 2024 30th Anniversary

Commentary: Recruiting has come a long way in 30 years

When I founded ProSearch in 1994, the business of finding talent to fill job vacancies at Maine companies was a hands-on effort.

Recruiters like us did not have any of the online tools we take for granted today — no online job boards, no Google to research companies, no LinkedIn to find people to connect with. Our work was all based on cold calling and referrals.

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Ed McKersie

Thirty years ago, there were relatively few Maine companies with more than 100 employees, which meant most employers did not have in-house marketing departments or dedicated recruiters.

Print ads in the Sunday newspaper were the primary vehicle for promoting open positions — meaning we needed to plan in order to make the Thursday noon deadlines. Then we had to wait a week or two for a response.

Those were the days when resumes were delivered by mail, which meant hand-processing each one and sorting through individual resumes each time we performed a new search. Tedious, to say the least.

The internet revolutionized the hiring process through the introduction of real-time, on-demand hiring tools, including:

Online job boards. Companies like Monster rolled out massive job boards that allowed companies to advertise open positions in real time, and update postings frequently as new opportunities became available. Key-word searches condensed the time it took for the hiring manager and employee to find each other to days instead of weeks.

Resume databases. Another game-changer that enabled hiring managers to be proactive about searching for and finding candidates, rather than waiting for them to find us, and allowed us to be much more efficient and expansive in our searches for the right talent for the job.

Of course, converting to these amazing new tools created new challenges. Human resource departments were inundated with responses and could not always keep up with the volume of inquiries they received. Nevertheless, the move from paper to online enabled hiring managers and recruiting firms to create our own databases and expand our searches outside of the local market.

In those days, many hiring managers were wary about hiring people “from away,” fearing they would not make it through one Maine winter. I later realized that because most of the hiring managers were Maine natives, they assumed people who relocated here would not stay.

Today, Maine is revered for its quality of life, four-season beauty and career opportunities in a variety of fields, and Maine employers are enthusiastically looking beyond the state’s borders to attract the best and brightest candidates to fill positions at all levels — which is important as the state continues to grapple with its shrinking workforce.

While the original national job boards instantly put a job posting out to the world, the responses to those postings often came from people with no interest in relocating to Maine, and many job boards developed a “pushing” function that sent resumes out to job postings without the candidate even knowing. This led to a great deal of useless resumes ending up in recruiters’ inboxes.

As job boards evolved and LinkedIn became more common, access to active and passive job seekers has become more efficient, and a much higher response from job postings are from people actually interested in the position, the employer and Maine.

These tools have made recruiting firms much more effective in locating and evaluating talent.

I have never been more optimistic about Maine’s future growth. We have a diversity of world class multinational corporations along with the many startups and long-standing employers who have long made Maine a great place to start or accelerate one’s career.

Ed McKersie is founder and president of Portland-based ProSearch Inc., a staffing and recruiting firm founded in 1994 in Portland. He moved to Maine in 1989.

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