Welcome to the GRID!

Bullhorn is pleased to share the opinions, insights, and concerns of more than 2,000 recruitment industry professionals here on the Global Recruitment Insights and Data (GRID) site.

What does 2020 like for North American staffing professionals? Respondents are excited about the possibilities provided by technology, anxious about the economy, and (still) struggling with the talent shortage. Read on to discover how your peers feel about digital transformation, diversity and inclusion, candidate engagement, and more.

Recruitment Industry Outlook

Expectations for 2020 are largely positive but are more modest than in years past. This is likely connected to economic uncertainty: 43 percent expect a recession in 2020, compared to just 30 percent heading into 2019.

How do you expect revenue to change in 2020?

Respondents are cautiously optimistic about what 2020 holds: 74 percent expect to increase revenue in the year ahead—a five percent drop from last year’s revenue expectations.

2020 Global Recruitment Trends [Slide Deck]
Share the top trends for 2020 in your next presentation with this free slide deck.

Will agencies ramp up their investments in 2020? More than half of businesses plan to bolster their tech and operating budgets in 2020. Even if you aren’t planning to invest in the year ahead, your competitors might be. 

How do you expect the following to change in 2020?

Forty-six percent of respondents expect to increase workforce reskilling efforts, yet only three percent cited reskilling as a top priority.

2020 Global Recruitment Trends [Slide Deck]
Share the top trends for 2020 in your next presentation with this free slide deck.

Top Priorities

2020 is primed to be the year of the candidate (again), with respondents citing candidate acquisition and candidate engagement as their number one and number three priorities for the year. Client relationship management took the biggest jump this year, coming in as the second-highest priority overall (up from number five last year). Reskilling, VMS business, and outsourcing were the three least prioritized of the 16 options.

What are your top priorities for 2020? (Top 10)

Candidates and clients are top of mind for 2020, with sourcing (43 percent) leading the pack. Take a look at some other notable priorities.

Top Priorities
Take an in-depth look at the top priorities facing staffing and recruitment businesses in 2020.

Top Challenges

What are the obstacles firms will face in 2020? Some challenges are a reflection of respondents’ top goals for the year ahead (embracing digital transformation), some are a continuation of years-long trends (the talent shortage), and some reflect concern about what the future holds (economic uncertainty). Read on for a deep dive of the many challenges firms anticipate for the year ahead.

What are your top hiring challenges for 2020?

Beyond the perennial skills shortage, recruitment leaders grapple with how to get employers to increase candidate pay rates and how to mitigate attrition and turnover.

What are your top operational challenges for 2020?

Pricing pressure and margin compression are always big challenges, but respondents say the top operational challenge they’ll face is how to embrace digital transformation to improve operations.

What are your top macroeconomic and political challenges for 2020?

Respondents were far more likely to cite economic uncertainty as a challenge for 2020 than they were for 2019 (62 percent to 49 percent). Respondents from all regions and all sizes cited it at their top macroeconomic challenge for the year.

What are your top overall challenges for 2020?

Finally, respondents were asked to cite their top challenges overall. From a pool of 25 choices, half cited the talent shortage as a top-three challenge for 2020.

A lot goes into a single placement of a candidate: gathering client requirements, sourcing, screening, onboarding, back office administration, and more. But which processes could use an overhaul?

Which part of the recruitment lifecycle is most challenging?

Respondents say sourcing is the most challenging part of the recruitment lifecycle, yet only 39 percent currently automate any part of their sourcing efforts.

For years, we’ve been hearing about talent shortages and how they’re a top challenge for the industry. In many sectors, it seems like there simply aren’t enough qualified people with the right skills to fill existing job openings. But just how troublesome are talent shortages? Are they getting any better or worse? 

Skills shortage woes continue

When asked if they think skills shortages are better or worse now compared to 5 years ago, half (50) said they’re getting worse.

The recruitment industry is rife with challenges, but what’s the single biggest issue impacting an agency’s ability to achieve its future growth goals? Overwhelmingly, responses centered on one thing: people. Respondents say finding quality candidates, working with the right clients, and hiring quality staff matter most in running a successful business. Increased competition also emerged as a recurring challenge.  

What is the single biggest issue impacting your ability to meet goals?

People are the heart of recruitment and they’re at the center of the challenges respondents say they face when it comes to meeting their goals: managing candidates, clients, and internal staff.

The availability of knowledgeable skilled trades people, along with the lack of a unified messaging from the industry to young people that an alternative career path that doesn't require a college degree.

survey respondent

A shortage of great candidates and the unwillingness of clients to move quickly once great candidates are found.

survey respondent

Thinning profit margins and clients expanding their talent acquisition teams and recruiting sourcing specialists from agencies.

survey respondent

Opportunities or Obstacles?

Digital transformation. The globalization of business. The increased mobility of talent. Online talent platforms. Disruptive forces are impacting the global recruitment industry, but are they for better or for worse? Opportunity is everywhere, according to respondents.

Digital Transformation

Historically, the recruitment industry hasn’t always been known for embracing technology, but that no longer appears to be the case. How do respondents feel about digital transformation—the integration of innovative technology into all areas of the business for the purposes of improving operations and delivering more value to clients and candidates? The results are clear: the digital transformation of the industry is both a positive development and an essential one.

Will digital transformation help or hurt your business?

Recruitment professionals are nearly unanimous in their excitement for the applications of innovative technology. Just three percent of respondents think digital transformation is bad for their business.

Staffing/recruitment businesses must embrace digital transformation to remain competitive

The digital transformation of the industry isn’t just an opportunity for businesses; firms that fail to leverage the power of process automation risk falling behind the competition.


Thanks to the globalization of business and advancements in technology, workers are more mobile than ever. The industry is increasingly global in nature—more than 80 percent of the 100 largest recruitment companies operate in multiple countries. Is the increased globalization of the industry a good thing or does it just create more hurdles?

Do globalization and the increased mobility of talent pose a challenge or an opportunity?

Most respondents say globalization and the increased mobility of talent is an opportunity for their business. Perhaps unsurprisingly, C-suite executives and respondents at enterprise companies are the most bullish on globalization.

With the emergence of online talent platforms, questions have swirled in the global recruitment sector. Do these platforms pose an existential threat to the industry? While their impact can’t be denied, recruitment professionals aren’t feeling the heat yet: 28 percent say online talent platforms have made recruiting easier, compared to 13 percent who say they’ve made the process harder.

Are online talent platforms making recruiting for sought-after roles easier or harder?

Online talent platforms continue to leave an indelible mark on the workforce, but the majority of recruitment professionals are still undecided on their impact on the industry.

Digital Transformation
Learn how businesses are (and aren’t) using technology to transform their business.

United or Divided?

How do recruitment professionals feel about some of the most divisive hot topics in the industry? They’re all for AI, reskilling, and candidate pay increases.

Do you agree or disagree with the following topics?

Are we headed for a recession in 2020? Respondents are split on the subject, but they’re substantially more concerned about the economy than they were heading into 2019. Last year, just 30 percent predicted a recession.

Diversity and Inclusion

The recruitment industry is uniquely positioned to contribute to the conversation on diversity and inclusion in the workforce. Recruitment professionals face questions surrounding D&I internally in their own businesses and through the needs of their candidates and clients. This year, we asked our respondents a variety of questions about representation and inclusion within the industry as well as the D&I demands of their client base.

Are diverse organizations more effective than others?

Two-thirds of respondents believe diverse organizations are more effective, representing a six percent uptick from last year. Women (72 percent) were more likely than men (61 percent) to answer affirmatively.

Representation in recruitment

All respondents were asked to disclose their identified gender, ethnicity, and role within the industry. The findings reveal a large discrepancy in gender representation in C-suite roles and practitioner roles (recruiters, salespeople, sourcers, etc.). Women make up 60 percent of recruiters and salespeople but only 32 percent of senior executive roles. People of color represent 30 percent of all practitioners but just 16 percent of leadership.

Representation by gender

Representation by ethnicity

Discrimination in recruitment

Twenty-seven percent of respondents say they’ve experienced discrimination in their career in recruitment. Surprisingly, ethnicity and gender didn’t have a significant impact on a respondent’s likelihood to report discrimination. This may be a reflection of the nebulous nature of perception. It is worth noting that those who didn’t disclose their ethnicity were the most likely to report discrimination, which undeniably skews the results and may explain why these results do not reflect the external analysis that we have done.

Have you ever experienced discrimination in your staffing/recruitment career?

One-quarter of respondents say they’ve faced discrimination in their career. (The definition of discrimination was left to their intepretation.)


Overall 27%
Person of color 23%
White 24%
(didn't disclose ethnicity) 55%
Female 28%
Male 25%
APAC 22%
Benelux 44%
DACH 27%
UK&I 27%
NA 23%

Diversity in the Talent Pool

What about candidate diversity? Are clients requesting diverse candidates and is there a shortage of diverse candidates in the talent pool? Here’s what respondents have to say.

Do your clients require diverse shortlists?

The majority of recruitment professionals have at least some clients that require diverse shortlists of candidates. Depending on the vertical market served, the likelihood of a shortlist request varied dramatically: recruitment businesses specializing in sales and marketing, for example, were considerably more likely (65 percent) to receive these requests than those in healthcare (37 percent).

Is there a diversity shortage in the talent pools from which you find candidates for your clients?

Most respondents say there’s a shortage of diverse candidates in the talent pool. Respondents at large companies were the most likely to claim a shortage of diverse candidates (59 percent).

Diversity and Inclusion
We asked respondents about representation, discrimination, and diversity in the talent pool. Discover what they had to say.

Staffing/Recruitment Technology Adoption

Staffing technology is a substantial investment, but the majority of businesses express adoption woes. While many of the obstacles that prevent adoption are internal (lack of time and high turnover), the most common explanation falls on the vendor: limited training. Look for a provider with robust learning resources to ensure you get the most out of your investment.

How would you evaluate your team's adoption of your staffing technology?

One-fifth of respondents (21 percent) have adoption figured out; 15 percent are barely using their technology at all (little or no adoption).

What is the top obstacle preventing internal adoption of your staffing technology?

Why aren’t businesses making better use of their staffing technology? It depends on who you ask; respondents supplied a variety of reasons that stand in the way of adoption. Interestingly, while C-suite leadership were likely to say their technology was too hard to use (16 percent), practitioners (recruiters, sourcers, and salespeople) seldom cited ease of use as a concern.


Limited training resources 31%
Staff turnover 19%
Team doesn't see the value 17%
No time 12%
Cost of training 12%
Too hard to use 10%

If limitations are preventing adoption it might be time to consider a change in technology. However, one-quarter of respondents have either never changed staffing technology providers or haven’t changed in a decade.

When was the last time you changed your core staffing technology to a new provider?

One-fifth of respondents have changed their core technology in the last year. The largest companies are the least likely to have made a recent change, but they’re also the most likely to be happy with their provider.

What prevents you from switching to a new core staffing technology provider?

The number one reason unhappy businesses stick with a solution that isn’t working for them? Fear of disruption.

We have so much more to share with you. Learn more about the trends recruitment professionals say will influence the industry in 2020. Visit the spotlights section here on the GRID site to take a deep dive into some of this year’s top trends like D&I and digital transformation.