Recruitment trends: 10 experts share what’s in store for 2020

Bianca Compagnoni
10 Jan
Reading time: 12 minutes
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Recruitment trends: 10 experts share what’s in store for 2020

Before the end of any event or year for that matter, we mentally prepare for what’s to come. “Will I land that client?” “Which candidates will I meet this year?” Or, “What will the year 2020 bring for my industry?”

We recently spoke with industry experts on what they think 2020 has in store. We asked them the following question:


“What do you think is the biggest trend likely to impact the recruitment industry in 2020, and how should recruiters prepare for this?”



Here’s what they had to say.

“In 2020 I think we will continue to see the level of social, technological and economic changes which the industry will need to continue to be able to respond to.

Interestingly, that is where the privately-owned have an opportunity to get greater returns than their international competitors. This is due to their natural agility to respond to sourcing and retention challenges, legislative changes, uncertainty and finally, client expectations and margin pressures.

Those that are the most agile in how they respond and adapt, will continue to flourish.”

“I fully appreciate that there are many trends that are data and tech-related that are truly impacting our market at the moment, whether they be enhanced AI to improve search functionality or other tech advancements that are altering the way in which we engage with both candidates and clients.

But I genuinely believe that the biggest trend for next year will definitely be candidate-led. I truly believe that we are about to see a level of skills shortage in the professional disciplines, the likes of which we have not experienced for about a decade.

Therefore, a highly evolved candidate experience and engagement strategy will be critical for all recruiters to ensure that once they find these elusive candidates, they can retain them and work with them to a successful outcome.

Candidates (just like any other consumer) have a right to expect a high degree of professionalism from their trusted recruitment partners. Those who step up and continue to improve on their candidate experience journey will win the day!”

“I advise recruiters that they need to be more careful about the business they take on, so they are not wasting time on unprofitable work. I believe this move towards rejecting “bad business” in favour of commercially sustainable business will be the biggest trend to impact the recruitment industry in 2020.

I’ve enjoyed seeing more “commercial maturity” in the recruitment industry but there needs to be even more. When I first worked within a recruitment and staffing firm in the early noughties, the co-owner of the firm said we must be very careful about becoming ‘busy fools’. Busy fools are those in recruitment and staffing that have a large amount of business but do not make a net profit. They fail to understand that gross profit doesn’t become net profit, especially in circumstances where the business is high risk and costly to sustain. The talk among recruitment and staffing professionals at my leaders’ lunches across Australia and New Zealand was that more of them were rejecting bad business.

Adecco and Manpower are examples of multinational businesses that are being far more strategic around the markets they operate within and this is being reflected across the board.
Our responsible procurement working group is designed to equip RCSA members to make smarter decisions and do more sustainable business and this means accepting that not all business is good business.

The future is in our hands and our hands no longer grab whatever comes our way.”

“Everyone is talking about AI and automation, and yes, that is inevitable. However, the underlying trend is that recruiters will need to find ways to prove their value. After all, if all you can do is screen resumes and attach them to an email, what do you do that machines can’t?

So, the trend is the move back to the ‘craft of recruitment’. The need for recruiters to develop sophisticated influencing skills, to be real advisors and consultants, and to act as the agent for the best talent in the job search process.

Ironically, most recruiters lack these skills, so it’s imperative for those who want to thrive, to act now.”

“Looking ahead into 2020 and beyond I can see a few signs on the horizon which can’t be ignored. In Australia, we have enjoyed the best long-term run on record and this record run is starting to slow down due in part to the holiday and festive season slump, but also through a fall in vacancy rates and lack of demand for temps and contractors. Nothing new there, it’s a seasonal thing, but concerning underlying facts reveal that despite the best of times, for many recruitment agencies, profits have been in decline.

Fee and margin pressure remain a constant issue and client and candidate expectations continue to rise, consultant and staff remuneration packages are rising and so are general operating costs. Business is being squeezed from all directions.I suggest that recruitment agencies will, as they head into 2020, have little option but to focus on getting better, not bigger. Market volumes will be lower for perm and temp contract recruiters, growing top-line sales will be harder and so planning to rise with the tide again isn’t likely to work. The essence and challenge lie with productivity, not just the consulting staff, but everyone working within the organisation.

The rise of automation and AI can, when adopted and deployed effectively, eliminate much of the double handling and the stuff that drives your staff mad. The true benefits are only seen when staff understand and see the clear reason for the change, that is “we want to get better” and they are involved in that process improvement journey.

Our industry has been under fee and margin pressure for as long as I can remember and this will not be going away. To stay alive, recruitment agencies must be searching for a way to deliver more for less and learning to leverage technology and people together to drive slicker processes and engagement! Ross Clennett provides some great and easy to implement tips on getting better before you get bigger in this blog.

How do recruiters and owners prepare for 2020? Firstly, enjoy a well-deserved break over the festive season and by taking the time to reflect on what has been, recognise it is in the past then take the time to think and ask yourself this question. How do I do this more efficiently and improve my customer’s (internal and external) experience? You need to return to work in 2020 and be in the frame of mind that’s ready for change and yearning for improvement, that’s the best way forward. Then, regardless of my predictions, you will come out the winner.”

“Candidate ghosting! As ghosting has become such a part of this modern world, candidates who are confident that their skills are in-demand will ghost recruiters and talent acquisition who don’t treat them well during the recruitment life cycle.

I expect to see a sharp increase as people become even more confident in researching companies and recruiters online before deciding to reply to an email or make a job application. Companies who continue to ignore review sites and their social media footprints, their hiring manager’s behaviour, and those who continue to place process and technology in the way of the human experience, will suffer the most.

To reduce the likelihood of candidate ghosting, recruiters could read The Robot-Proof Recruiter, which outlines how to keep candidates engaged through the entire lifecycle. Companies who invest in developing the irreplaceable human skills of their recruiters, clear the roadblocks in their hiring, and place candidate-centric technology firmly at the heart of what they do, will put themselves in the best position to reduce candidate ghosting in 2020 and beyond.”

Note: The royalties from The Robot-Proof Recruiter go to the Hope for Justice charity.

“Internal mobility, or more specifically, an organisation’s ability to do internal mobility well, is the single biggest trend organisations, especially those of enterprise size, need to figure out in 2020.

Part of the issue is whether this a TA problem or an HR problem? The truth is, it’s an organisational talent problem! Your best talent wants the freedom to move within your company to better their career. You have hiring managers and rules that are stopping this from happening, so they just leave you and go someplace else.

Organisations that figure out internal mobility will have a competitive advantage within their talent marketplace. Younger generations aren’t going to put up with your traditional saying around ‘putting in your time’ and ‘wait your turn’. They’ll just leave you!

If they are good enough to hire, and they are performing, you need to let them move to positions internally that they fit into.”

“Recruiting is in a refinement period. I predict 2020 will bring increased focus on providing an extraordinary experience for all; candidates, employees, leaders and customers.

Organisations will start to think beyond candidate identification and onboarding, to how the work that is done in that critical time frame impacts the employee’s entire life cycle with the organisation.

Successful companies will focus on an overall extraordinary experience, made up of candidates participating in a fully immersive experience. I also predict a refocus on recruiting within the organisation. As technology makes skill identification easier, leaders will look inward before filling positions outside the company.

For recruiters, being actively engaged in the handoff from candidate to employee remains key. As I speak with CHROs and VPs of Talent Acquisition, I am hearing stories of greater partnership and communication. This is what will drive greater success in the decade we’re entering.”

“Firstly, I wish I had a crystal ball, I don’t know what 2020 will be with any certainty. What I do know is that the recruitment industry is quite diverse in many respects, so what impacts one recruitment business may have little impact on another. There is no simple answer, except it depends.

For example, if there is a downturn, some industries thrive and some don’t. I really hope there isn’t a downturn but if there is, the impact is likely to be a significant decline in job flow as companies reduce hiring permanent employees, but that can be balanced with an upswing in casuals as a short term measure to fill gaps, or test the water before hiring. So it depends on what industries you focus on, and whether you are able to offer both temporary and permanent recruitment services, as well as how quickly you can adapt.

Technology will continue to evolve; I can’t say it will be the biggest trend but it will continue to change the way we do things, providing efficiencies and changing the way we communicate and access data. We’ve started using a variety of new tech solutions this year, so I see us continuing that investment next year and most likely implementing solutions to problems we didn’t even know needed solving!

Of course, for all recruitment firms, finding candidates and maintaining relationships with candidates is critical to your success and I don’t see that changing. I do believe that we all need to get a lot better at that and it is certainly part of our continued focus. This is where technology can be a help and a hindrance. Relationships are built and maintained face to face and over the phone; technology shouldn’t replace that, just support it.”

“The next big thing in 2020 is without a doubt, 360-degree candidate data. Today, billions of dollars are pumped into startups to hire and scale teams. Ultimately, these smaller companies experience quick attrition because they aren’t aware of the type of “human” they hired.

Here at TalentRobot®, our first objective is to provide as much of a 360-degree view of who a candidate is, what they have accomplished, where they are in their career and detailed personality arrays that help companies understand who they are getting. TalentRobot® employs a litany of tools to accomplish this. Recruiters need to be prepared to make the shift from the more traditional “spinning all the plates” role they are in now, to be a data analyst that can provide data points to drive and influence hiring decisions instead of relying on a fancy sales pitch.

Our company was founded on three principals. Speed, accuracy and data. The faster we can present clean, unbiased data, the better off our clients are. We are not only able to show them high-level talent but how they will fit on their team, how they motivate them and how they like to be treated.”

It’s interesting to hear first-hand what the above market leaders believe will impact the recruitment industry in 2020. From candidate experience, internal mobility, rejecting bad business and ghosting, the possibilities are endless. 

This year has just started, and who knows what could happen in the next 6 to 12 months. Until then, here’s to the next decade of making career dreams come true.

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