Automation, Text Messaging, and Lagging Confidence Showcase Hottest Recruiting Trends for 2018

Hot off the acquisition of TextRecruit by iCIMS, a new recruiting trends report from Bullhorn supports the strength of text messaging to communicate with job seekers over email and phone calls. Of the staffing professionals surveyed by the CRM and operations software solutions provider, 69 percent of firms expecting their usage to increase, especially communicating with millennial and Generation Z candidates.

This tidbit of information was just part of a larger report entitled North American Staffing & Recruiting Trends Report, the company’s eighth-annual survey hoping to shed a light on where recruiting is going in the coming year. In addition to the growing importance of text messaging to reach a younger demographic, Bullhorn tackled a bevy of topics, including the impact of automation on recruiting, the current level of confidence in light of political and macroeconomic pressure, and the rise of digital hiring platforms like Upwork and Shiftgig.

“The year 2018 holds tremendous opportunities for North American staffing and recruiting firms as they look to continue growing their businesses during a period of relatively strong economic growth,” said Gordon Burnes, Bullhorn’s chief marketing officer. “While there are long-term strategic decisions to be made, especially around automation and digital staffing platforms, adoption of these new technologies has been relatively slow, and staffing firms should feel encouraged about the industry outlook for 2018 and prepare for another successful year.”

Perhaps most notable, however, is that fact that 75 percent of staffing and recruiting firms anticipate revenue increases in 2018. Additionally, Bullhorn found a majority of staffing firms expected increases in hiring needs (70 percent), billable hours (62 percent), and temporary placements (59 percent) for next year.

This contradicts some of the findings around confidence levels, however, as 68 percent of respondents said they were “very or somewhat concerned” about the rate of economic growth. Additionally, many polled worried about healthcare policies and regulations (66 percent), inflation (59 percent), restrictive labor policies (57 percent), and the current administration (57 percent). Overall confidence levels for industry performance have slipped, with one-third of respondents (33 percent) feeling more confident about the future heading into 2018, compared to 38 percent last year.

Sticking with the negative, roughly 55 percent of staffing firms predicted that both bill rates and margins would stay flat or decrease in 2018, and about half of respondents ranked pricing pressures and margin compressions as a top three challenge.

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Other key findings include the following:

  • Automation. Twenty-three percent of North American respondents ranked automation as a top priority and 36 percent marked it as a top challenge. Additionally, 40 percent of respondents attributed automation’s greatest value to increased efficiencies and the same percentage to increased engagement. When asked if automation would create more jobs or eliminate them in the staffing industry, respondents were split down the middle — 38 percent on each side and another 24 percent undecided.
  • The rise of hiring platforms like Upwork. Sixty-three percent of respondents said they had no idea how gig platforms like Upwork and Shiftgig would impact business. However, 21 percent of respondents said those platforms could help their business, compared to 16 percent who thought they could hurt their operations. Sales teams were more enthusiastic as 29 percent of respondents expressed positive opinions about digital staffing platforms, seeing them as a potential source of low-cost talent.
  • More tech, less expansion. Expect a boost in technology spending, with 52 percent of firms anticipating an increase, compared to 40 percent in 2017. Forty-nine percent said their operating budgets would increase in 2018, an increase over last year’s 43 percent. Don’t expect expansion into new markets, however. Only 26 percent of firms ranked new market growth as a top priority, while 28 percent expect to increase their number of offices.

While interesting, the information revealed in the Bullhorn report is neither surprising or groundbreaking. The numbers and predictions remain in line with other such surveys; however, getting confirmation of pre-existing research is never a bad thing. Overall, the report showed that the industry remains optimistic going into 2018, just like 2017, despite increasing concerns and emerging challenges related to the issues outlined above.

Bullhorn’s eighth annual North American Staffing & Recruiting Trends Report is the result of a global survey conducted among 1,442 staffing and recruiting professionals from September 17, 2017 to October 7, 2017. The findings spotlight the industry’s take on the current staffing landscape — from financial forecasts and top priorities to persistent challenges and emerging technologies.

Joel Cheesman has over 20 years experience in the online recruitment space. He worked for both international and local job boards in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. In 2005, Cheesman founded HRSEO, a search engine marketing company for HR, as well as launching an award-winning industry blog called Cheezhead. He has been featured in Fast Company and US News and World Report. He sold his company in 2009 to He was employed by EmployeeScreenIQ, a background check company. He is the founder of Ratedly, an app that monitors anonymous employee reviews. He is married and the father of three children. He lives in Indianapolis.