Pathfinder celebrated thirty years in publishing recently and Giles O’ Halloran too celebrated thirteen years writing as a columnist for the publication. Here Giles’ monthly column looks at how finding that dream role has changed over three decades…

I have thoroughly enjoyed writing for the magazine, and it has definitely been lucky for me despite it being thirteen years. I have written over 150 articles and so after pondering options, I thought this particular article should look at how much applying for a job has changed over the last thirty years that Pathfinder has been about.

So, let’s see how things have changed …

Finding a job:

The classic way we used to find a job was via a newspaper, maybe CEEFAX or Oracle if we were snazzy, via a job sheet, pinned to the wall of an office window or via a family member or friend. It was far more physical and often more local too. Nowadays that has all changed. We have seen the evolution of online job boards, company websites and social media have taken job advertising to new levels, with apps allowing us to interact in real time with potential employers. This has all happened in the last three decades.

Applying for a job:

Who remembers the old way you used to apply? Once you had found the job advert or opening, you used to type up your CV but not always on a computer. Many a CV was typed on an old typewriter, an electronic typewriter or via a word processor. This was then printed off on paper (ideally via a printer in your possession or somewhere that would print from a floppy disc or CDROM) and then sent with a cover letter (similarly typed out but signed with a black ink pen) via an addressed envelope or jiffy bag to your potential employer. If you were close by, you might even hand it in in person (smartly dressed of course to make a good first impression!) or pop it through their letterbox.

How things have changed! We first moved away from discs to mem sticks, or stored copies of CVs on job boards and via PCs. We also started using free email services like Yahoo and Hotmail to email a copy of our CV to potential employers or recruitment consultants. That has since developed into our LinkedIn profile being our global CV, accessible online and able to be attached to applications or referred to by employers. There are also apps that download your LinkedIn profile and create a CV or resume with the swipe of a finger. Things have changed immensely.

The CV and cover letter:

The CV used to have to be two sides max and always accompanied by a cover letter. Some companies or organisations used application forms and refused to accept CVs. This was ironic as most involved you then physically writing out all the things on your CV onto a document that you never quite knew would be fit for purpose. You also had to sign and date them! The CV had a specific format, as did the cover letter, and became regarded as a reflection of you as a professional.

We still use the CV thirty years on, but there are many different models and types of CV available. Some people like the skills based CV whereas others prefer the chronological CV. The cover letter has become a thing of the past and is usually shortened to be the summary at the top of your CV. Application forms went online and used to involve you having to type out your CV instead of re-writing it, but more organisations now allow you to attach a CV as a Word or PDF document or allow you to simply put a LinkedIn address for reference. Perhaps the people who had to write out and type out those applications many years ago have smiled on the following generations to make it easier. Let’s hope so!

The dreaded interview:

The interview has largely remained unchanged, or has it? Well, even though the interview might follow a similar format and structure it is not always done the same way as it was, and you cannot ask some of the questions you did 30 years ago. For instance, very few employers use panel interviews these days and you may now have to have more than simply one or two interviews to secure a role. In the same light, interviewers could ask a whole raft of questions back then that they cannot do now, such as asking about family circumstances or marital plans. Even back then, some employers frowned upon asking these, but most did not and especially of women.

So, in three decades we have seen interviews become more user friendly and often more engaging if done well, because there is nothing stopping you putting your thoughts on platforms like Glassdoor. Interviews have become a conversation with both sides discussing options rather than it being purely one sided. We have also now moved to the virtual interview world, where your interview can be recorded via an automated software. This has had to be the case or using video sharing software due to Covid 19 over the last year, but again shows how much has changed. We can even interview via the camera on our mobile phone!

Landing the job:

Once you had been offered the job and accepted, you might receive a big pack through the post with all the relevant forms you had to fill out for insurances, pensions and HR files. You then had to send them all back. If you were lucky, you might have had a health and safety brief and a bit of orientation to help you settle in, but that was probably it.

We may still get those big packs with some employers, but we have seen more of the admin turn virtual, firstly with documents and then finally with HR systems that allow you to log in, process your information, provide a copy of your passport as proof of eligibility, and even provide virtual learning and e-learning modules to help you settle in.  We have seen the evolution of new starter orientation into first onboarding and buddy systems, to then even virtual onboarding, remote learning and AI buddies helping you find your feet. Things continue to evolve and will do so over the next decade as well.

The good old days:

Despite how far things have come and how it might well be easier and more engaging in the modern world of work, there are some old school practices that have been lost over the years. The big one relates to connection. The relationship was not remote, but it was real and physical. You met your boss, they welcomed you on your first day and were there through those first few weeks. Whilst the virtual way of working is a positive step forward, we may have lost some of the human ways of working that help us connect as people.

The same can be said when it comes to feedback. Today, if you apply for a job, you are very lucky if you receive any feedback or confirmation that your application has been received. Some employers might use recruitment systems that send automated responses, but these are very generic and impersonal. In the good old days, you might receive a letter or a call to say whether you had or had not been successful. Reasons were often provided as to why, and it was just a common professional courtesy. Those days are very much gone.

So, whilst we have moved forward with technology and made life easier when applying for jobs, it doesn’t mean this progress does not have a downside. We have lost some of the human side if we use automated interview software, automated applicant management systems and virtual onboarding. There is no doubt they work and especially over the last year with more remote working and recruitment being needed, but by being remote we lose that human connection we once enjoyed by working closer to others. It will be very interesting to see what happens over the next 30 years … but that is another article and another time.