Recruitment agencies that adopted AI and automation were more likely to grow in 2023

58% of recruitment agencies are experimenting with AI, according to Bullhorn research

LONDON — 29 February 2024 —  Although 2023 was a challenging economic climate for the recruitment industry, agencies that adopted AI and automation technologies and improved productivity were more likely to see revenue gains, according to Bullhorn’s Global Recruitment Insights and Data (GRID) 2024 Industry Trends Report.

In 2023, the number of recruitment agencies reporting revenue growth declined for the first time in three years. Despite market headwinds, 58% of survey respondents still saw revenue increase. These high-performing recruitment agencies had something in common: they were further in their digital transformation journeys and shared a focus on increasing productivity and efficiency. 

High performers are experimenting with AI

Across the UK and Ireland, 58% of agencies began experimenting with AI in 2023. Agencies that saw revenue growth had higher adoption rates of AI tools. They were more than eight times as likely to be using AI to gather client requirements and more than three times as likely to be using it for shift scheduling and time tracking. Agencies that saw revenue growth were also more likely to be experimenting with AI to prepare candidates for assignments and keep in touch with them after they are placed. 

High performers used more advanced automations

Agencies that used automation for key activities were at least twice as likely to have seen revenue growth in 2023. These high-performing agencies used automation for tasks such as next job matching and tailored recruiter engagement, creating a smoother experience for all. Respondents who reported “excellent” success at winning new business were six times as likely to heavily leverage automation and were over 75% more likely to have automated tools for nurturing client relationships.

High performers drove more top-of-funnel activity

Agencies that saw the highest revenue gains used technology to move candidates through the recruitment process faster and ultimately make more placements. They did so in part by enhancing talent engagement and job classification to more quickly match candidates with the right roles. The highest-performing agencies placed candidates in less than 20 days and were also nearly three times more likely to improve their conversion rates.  

Getting ahead of the competition remains a priority in 2024

The top challenge for 2024 reported by survey respondents is uncertainty over the economy and future growth (cited by 63% of respondents), although 73% of agencies expect the economy to improve in 2024 and 56% expect their revenue to increase this year. Aligned with this outlook, the top priority of recruitment agencies this year is winning new business (cited by 44% of respondents), followed by improving the candidate experience (42%) and digital transformation (36%). Another challenge that gained increased importance this year was competition from online freelance/gig platforms, with 38% of respondents citing this as a top challenge, compared with just 11% in 2022.

“Last year was a challenging one for many agencies, but as we look ahead to a brighter future, there are some lessons that the entire recruitment industry should pay attention to,” said Gretchen Keefner, SVP, Global Enterprise Business at Bullhorn. “Recruitment agencies that make the most of technologies such as AI and automation are, and will be, in a better position to lower margins, increase productivity, and differentiate their businesses from the competition. Forward-thinking agencies are looking at technology to help candidates find the best-fitting roles, help clients get workers on the job faster, and win more clients.”

Read the full report here.

About the GRID Industry Trends Report

The 14th annual GRID Industry Trends Report is based on a multiple-choice, online survey of more than 1,400 staffing and recruitment professionals working across a variety of industries and around the globe, including North America, the UK and Ireland, Benelux, DACH, and APAC. The survey was conducted in late 2023.

About Bullhorn

For the past 25 years, Bullhorn has dedicated itself to building industry-leading, cloud-based software for the staffing and recruitment industry. Through partnerships with 10,000 customers globally, Bullhorn has built a vast knowledge base of recruitment best practices and deep domain expertise to help firms scale their businesses. Founder-led and headquartered in Boston, Bullhorn employs 1,400 people across 14 countries focused on delivering an incredible customer experience – its core mission. To learn more, visit or follow Bullhorn on Linkedin or X.

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Kara Prone
Director, Global Content and Communications