Survey: Two-thirds of global staffing firms to adopt AI-driven ATS by 2021

It looks like 2020 is going to be a major year for artificial intelligence in the recruiting space.

According to a recent global survey, two-thirds of all staffing firms polled will adopt AI-fueled applicant tracking systems (ATS) by the end of the coming year.

The global Artificial Intelligence in the Recruiting Industry benchmark survey, from CEIPAL, an SAAS front- and back-office staffing company operations vendor, found that 79% of enterprise staffing firms (with more than 100 recruiters) will have done the same.

Noting the disruption AI is causing within the ATS world, Sameer Penakalapati, CEIPAL’s founder, says that the reality of AI technology in the recruiting space has actually caught up to its buzz.

“We want to quantify the sea change it’s causing and share that data with our customers and the rest of the staffing world in preparation for the coming new year,” he says of his firm’s survey.

Other key findings include:

  • Large-sized staffing firms (50-100 recruiters) showed relatively low awareness of AI-enabled ATS technology, even when compared to their smaller mid-sized (25-50 recruiters) counterparts.
  • All respondents either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that AI is the future of recruitment, and that its adoption will enable recruiters to build better relationships with candidates.
  • Respondents indicated “marketing requirements” are the biggest driver toward AI adoption, along with productivity, quality and reporting needs. Respondents who reported marketing requirements as a pain point were 23% more inclined to adopt AI in their recruitment practices (80% said they were likely to adopt) than those who did not report marketing as a pain point (65% said they were likely to adopt).
  • The majority of respondents (71%) believe that AI will eliminate human bias from the recruitment process. However, there were 29% who “strongly disagreed” with that sentiment.
  • More than half of today’s recruits span a generation that has famously shunned email and phone calls in favor of texting. Unsurprisingly, 52% of respondents strongly agreed that AI-enabled chatbots, for example, will improve productivity and the recruitment experience of those candidates.

Survey results indicate that AI will help overcome some of the core challenges facing today’s recruiters, as well as close rates by improving the marketing of open job requisitions, productivity and performance, and candidate sourcing and matching, according to Penakalapati.

Geographically speaking, southeast Asia leads the pack in AI adoption for recruitment. Firms in the U.K. followed closely behind with U.S. firms technologically lagging behind both those regions. However, 60 percent of U.S. firms intend to catch up within the year by incorporating AI technologies into their current practices.

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Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at