The Recruiter's Soapbox

BMR 16th Anniversary

I was reminded last week that it was Barton Mills Recruitment’s 16th anniversary.


I took some time out of my day to reflect on this milestone (one that I am extremely proud of), over a double shot flat white in my co-working space in Berry, on the beautiful south coast where I now reside. I took a trip down memory lane back to 2004 when my, now husband and I, first had the crazy idea to start our own business. This mostly enjoyable (there have been a few bumps along the way) self-indulgent period of reflection started me thinking about how different rec2rec and the general job of recruitment is now compared to then. The more I started down this path, the more I realised that the industry has changed almost beyond recognition over the last 16 years.



This was the time when names like “Morgan and Banks” dominated the marketplace. Base salaries ranged from $30K – $60K and recruitment was about spending most of the day on the phone talking to people.  There are little things I remember from this time, which now make me chuckle, such as my first ever invoice (BMR 0000001) being paid with a paper cheque.  (No such thing as internet banking back then).


The look and feel of the industry

Back in 2004, I hate to say this, but most of my clients looked and felt the same. It was often hard as a rec2rec to identify and sell their differentiators.  The offering was fairly identical.  Offices were often bland.  Little time, money or thought was put into creating a positive working environment for recruiters.  We all looked the same.  You could spot us immediately – because we all looked like carbon copies of each other:  Dark or pinstripe suits most likely teamed with a “Double Windsor” and a set of cufflinks and of course ……… the mandatory A4 black leather compendium.  Today we fit seamlessly into the streets of the CBD.  Over time, the corporate culture has loosened.  Dress down Friday introduced us to the fact that we could be as productive in a pair of comfy jeans as a 2-piece suit.  This slowly seeped further into the working week.  The tie was the first to go – “oh look at us, how progressive are we”. The girls swapped the suits for beautiful dresses and soon there wasn’t a pinstripe in sight.

Today the look and feel of recruitment agencies are unique to each brand. Thought, time and money have been put into creating amazing working environments, to make them positive, healthy, productive and enticing workspaces.  Many businesses have adopted a casual dress code, with the obligatory suit hanging in the office (usually collecting dust) just in case we have to do a “superman in a telephone box costume change”, should a client spring a surprise visit on us.

There were no such things as EVP’s.  There were no obvious distinguishing marks to separate one agency from another.   The focus was on how much commission could be made and whether the management was prepared to put a credit card behind the bar on a Friday night.  Today if a company doesn’t have a great brand, website, beautiful office space, positive culture, and a strong EVP, they are just not in the running to attract recruitment talent.


Today, flexibility is at the top of wish lists for a lot of our candidates.

In 2004 this was not a word synonymous with our industry. One of the reasons I started my own business was that I watched the first female with children attempt to come back into the company I worked for and was horrified at how she was treated.  There was no such thing as flexibility, there was no working from home, our tech just didn’t support it, you needed to be watched, your phone time needed to be monitored, no one could possibly be productive or trusted sat at home.  There was no such thing as co-working spaces, there were no part-time roles (you can’t do this job part-time was the mantra), long hours 5 days a week were the expectation.  There was no going to the gym at lunchtime, a sandwich at your desk as you worked through was given silent smiles of approval.



Perhaps one of the biggest game-changers for our industry.  In 2004, you might have been one of the lucky ones who had a personal mobile phone but as funny as it seems today, a mobile at that time was not deemed an essential tool of a successful recruiter.  I felt that I was “technically advanced” boasting a blackberry which allowed me to see my emails on the run.  (Do blackberries still exist today?)  There was no such thing as social media; no Facebook (till 2006), no (Australian) LinkedIn (until 2010).  Lots of my clients did not have a website, of if they did, it was a very basic landing page.  Although most of my clients had some form of database, most were quite basic and certainly did not interact with other mediums like email and social media.  Believe it or not. Some of my smaller “old school clients” still operated a roller deck system.  I’ve even worked with candidates who remember, pre email, working to two deadlines a day when couriers would arrive to bike their resumes around town to clients

Fast forward to today and we have every time-saving tech tool at our fingertips.  We can do thorough background checks on the social life of applicants through social media.  A candidate’s profile and contact details are a push of a button away through the likes of LinkedIn.  Our databases track our emails and correspondence.  Our mobiles are always glued to us, and we feel like we’ve lost our right arm if we don’t have them with us at all times.  And let’s face it – the actual phone part of our phone is the tool we probably use the least.



In 2004,  457 business visas and pathway to residency were easily attainable.  I started my Australian recruitment career in 2000.  I was given a 4-year business visa with no previous recruitment experience, within 2 years I was granted residency.  Does anyone remember LAFHA?  Living Away From Home Allowance was a tax break given by the Government to anyone from overseas working in Australia.  The idea was to bring skilled workers into the country.  Back in the early 2000s, I was living the high life, earning good commission and essentially having my rent and food subsidised by the government.  Fast track to today and we have to fight tooth and nail to get today’s 457 visa equivalent; 2 year TSS visas through and for many people we do this knowing there is no pathway to long term residency in sight and certainly no tax breaks.


RPO/MSP/Internal Recruitment

In 2004, these were terms that we loosely understood. We heard these words banded around by recruiters with overseas experience where the industry was more established.  But 16 years ago, the role of a recruiter was essentially a totally different job.  With no such thing as internal recruitment teams, companies needed agencies for the majority if not all of the roles.  We didn’t know it at the time, but our job was relatively easy.  There were heaps of easy to fill jobs for the taking.  All we had to do was list the roles on seek and sort through long lists of candidates.  Today the playing field is totally different.  PSA’s and inhouse recruiters are more prevalent and an integral and established part of the framework of our industry. Initially, agency recruiters had to find a way to work with them which was a difficult transition as internal recruiters were essentially our competition.  Today’s agency recruiter must be a guru of multi-channel sourcing.  If it’s a job that can be advertised on seek with a huge response, then businesses do not need our services.  Gone are the days of agency recruiters facilitating easily sourced candidates.  Today, in-house recruitment teams need agency recruiters for the roles that are very hard to fill or are too time-consuming.  We have, for now, found our new place in this new dynamic.



16 years ago, the large generalist agencies dominated the market. Today you have to be seen as a specialist, as a subject matter expert in a niche area where you can offer your clients something that they can’t get from a generalist internal recruiter.  Today companies are looking to partner with specialist agency recruiters who can help with their “points of pain”.



Today’s recruiter is part digital Marketer / Part Resourcer.  Many agencies recruiters today will have KPI’s around promoting their digital presence.  In 2004, the job was relatively simple:  Marketing meant cold calling.  We worked a process.  You pulled jobs, advertised on seek, worked through a shortlist and closed the deal….repeat.  Today we focus more on promoting ourselves through various digital platforms as a specialist in our chosen area.  We attend meetups, we host specialist subject matter forums, we talk and engage with a passive digital audience.  We integrate ourselves into the industries we recruit in.


Has it all changed?

It’s fair to say that our industry has changed dramatically from when I first started BMR but as one of my colleagues pointed out to me its reassuring to know that some things never seem to change….. Ryans Bar will still be full of recruiters on a Friday afternoon!