In each edition, we profile pioneers of the recruitment industry and look at how the sector has changed – for the good and bad. In the first of the series we speak to Joan Page (nee May) who shares her reflections of recruitment in the 1960s and 70s and the battles she took on.
If there was any doubt about how much society and the recruitment sector have changed in the past 50 years, you need only look at what was very much an informal and unspoken hiring practice through the 1960s and into the ’70s – hiring in your own image.
Joan Page – known to many in recruitment as Joan May – said the practice of employers showing overt bias towards people who went to the same university as they did, who were from the same ethnic and socio-economic background, right down to similar haircuts, was pretty standard back then.
“Hiring people who looked like you, who were like you, was very common in the 1960s and 1970s,” she said. “So if you looked like the recruiter you had a good chance of getting the job.
“My agency was Premier and I remember one of my very first conferences in Melbourne where Geoff Slade pointed to some of my staff and said ‘you can always pick a Premier girl’ because they all looked like me. They all had the same look, same ethnic background and probably the same education.
“It’s just how business was done. You could almost pick who someone’s employees were simply by looking at the reflection they were of their boss.”
When Page started in the recruitment sector in Australia in 1966, society was different, the sector was different and the ways business was done were different. Page, who was the founding President of the Institute of Personnel Consultants from 1978 to 1981 and founded and managed Premier Staff Selection in Sydney for almost 30 years from 1968, said fundamental to the job then, as now, was the relationship developed between the consultant and the client.