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Fifty Years Later

Last month marked 50 years since President Kennedy was assassinated during a Presidential motorcade through the Dallas streets. The Kennedy era and family have always intrigued me so while perusing the newsstand at a local bookstore recently, I couldn’t help noticing a must read. An exact reproduction of The Dallas Morning News from November 23, 1963 caught my eye and landed in my basket for purchase.

I have read a variety of literature on the Kennedy assassination with much curiosity and the “day after” newspaper from Dallas was no different for me. I devoured every word. I felt like I was thrown back in time. And when I finished the articles, I couldn’t help but take a look at the Help Wanted Section. Most people would have ignored this section; however, any of us in the recruitment industry would at least want to take a peek at recruitment adverts from 1963.

The content of the Help Wanted section didn’t include anything I didn’t already know about hiring in the 1960’s but was still shocking for me to read. Right there in black and white print was age discrimination, race discrimination, sex discrimination, religious discrimination, and so many other insights into how we have evolved for the better in the recruiting industry over the past 50 years.

Let’s start with technology. So much of our success today in finding talent is driven by technology. We have the internet, Boolean search strings, social media, and job boards. In 1963, there were only paper advertisements and perhaps radio and television advertisements. The Help Wanted section for the Dallas paper was only a little over 1 page in a city of close to 700,000 people and heralded for its booming business establishments and entrepreneurial acumen. It makes one question how did any company successfully find the skillset they needed with such limiting opportunities for branding and advertising.

It would not be for nearly another 20 years before the world-wide-web was introduced and another 10 – 15 years after that before home internet access was readily available to the average household. Can you imagine the challenges company’s faced finding a Metallurgical Engineer, Chemical Engineer, Structural Engineer or a Research Chemist in Fluorine with only a paper ad? All 5 of these jobs are real adverts in The Dallas Morning News by the same company. Mr. F.A. Barr was tasked with finding local talent with specialized and advanced degrees and 10 years’ experience through a newspaper ad and scheduling personal appointments. My head hurts just thinking about the task ahead of him every day he walked into work.

Or let’s talk about equal opportunity employment. Some of the bigger ads have the tagline “An equal opportunity employer”; however, a larger portion of the ads blatantly ignore equal opportunity employment. To be fair the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) responsible for enforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was not established until 1964. The few companies who bolster “An equal opportunity employer” tagline were ahead of their time in 1963. But there are more ads than I am willing to count that specify male or female, Christian, white, black, Latin American, European, attractive, and age ranges required. In fact, there are even separate sections for male opportunities and female opportunities. While I have known the history of employment and the discrimination that took place in hiring practices, it didn’t make it any less shocking to see “Permanent job for colored boy, age 18 – 25…” or “Attractive white woman…” or “Age 21 – 40…” or “Christian men…” in writing. It brought so much realism to the impact EEOC has had on recruitment.

So as we enter the Holiday season and reflect on the things we are thankful for, I offer you two items to reflect upon. The first being EEOC and the opportunities it has afforded all Americans and the second being the developments in technology and how it has made our jobs so much easier.

This post was written by Robin Shartzer. Robin has over 14 years of diverse experience in the talent acquisition community, and is currently an Operations Manager with Yoh’s RPO Division. Robin holds a B.S. in Psychology from University of Louisville, a M.A. in Leadership from Ohio State University, and resides in Louisville, KY with her husband and 2 children.

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