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The staffing industry is more competitive than it has ever been, and these days it takes a lot more than just hard work to become a high-growth staffing firm.

With the recent coronavirus outbreak, we are poised to see some dramatic changes in the recruiting landscape at all levels and in all verticals. Staffing firms will have to respond to both unprecedented slowdowns and explosive hiring surges. Once the pandemic is over, things won’t necessarily get easier: As firms rush to get back to normal, we could see further hiring surges across all sectors.

In order to navigate the rocky landscape ahead, staffing firms will need to get strategic. They’ll need the right teams of dedicated workers, of course, but they’ll also need to implement the right technology in the right way.

That’s where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in. AI affords businesses the opportunity to be adaptable in times of uncertainty and uncharted territory. AI’s ability to source and onboard thousands of candidates at the same time is unmatched by any recruiting team in the world. For that reason, it will play an integral role in the success of staffing teams in 2020.

That said, AI won’t be a magic bullet, and staffing teams will need to do more than implement AI to meet the challenges this year is sure to bring. Here are four critical steps staffing firms will have to take — starting today:

1. Implement Conversational AI

While the world undergoes continuous change — technological and otherwise — a staffing firm’s objective remains the same: recruit as efficiently and effectively as possible. Any firm that fails to adapt to the new realities of the recruiting landscape will fail to meet this objective.

Conversational AI (CAI) — that is, AI that can handle communications via text, chat, and other media — is a powerful tool in helping staffing firms adapt as quickly as possible. In particular, conversational AI allows firms to maintain personalized, high-touch experiences for candidates and clients regardless of demand volume.

While not a complete replacement for the human element of recruiting, CAI can handle the early stages of the process, bringing candidates into the pipeline with greater efficiency than a team of human recruiters could. This gives your team members more time to focus on the human side of things: building connections, engaging candidates and clients, and making placements.

2. Improve the Candidate Experience

The coronavirus outbreak is likely to make staffing even more competitive, especially as some of the nation’s largest companies look to increase their staff sizes to meet unparalleled levels of demand. If staffing firms want to succeed in this environment, they’ll need to provide better candidate experiences than their competitors.

Many candidates drop out of the hiring process before even finishing an application — and with so many staffing firms vying for these candidates right now, you can bet your competitors will move to pick up any candidates you miss out on. For that reason, you need to be sure that every step of your recruiting process is tailored to make candidates feel wanted and valued.

Moreover, a better candidate experience means a better relationship between the candidate and the company. If the candidate eventually accepts a job offer, they will be more motivated to perform well for the company — and that will reflect positively on you, the staffing firm that placed the candidate.

3. Utilize Internal Talent Wisely

As hiring surges in certain sectors, some companies may not be able to keep up with demand. Take time now to analyze how your team members work through daily tasks and ensure they are all positioned to deliver their most high-quality work in the most efficient way.

If certain team members excel in certain areas, make sure their time is focused on those areas. For example, people who are great at client relations should be allowed to focus on client relations, while those who can really connect with candidates should be working on your talent pipelines. Playing to your team’s strengths is essential to providing the best services to customers and candidates — especially right now.

4. Be an Innovator

Create a perception of your staffing firm as a cutting-edge leader in the marketplace. Make it a priority to be at the forefront of new innovations, new trends, and new technologies.

A favorable reputation as an innovator will make your firm attractive to candidates and clients alike. Both populations want to work with companies that are driving the future, not stuck in the past. If you are an authentic innovator in the industry, you will in turn attract innovative candidates for your clients.

This year is shaping up to be unlike any other, but that doesn’t mean your staffing firm has to stumble. Take advantage of the digital transformation disrupting the recruitment space while building an unmatched candidate experience and deploying internal talent wisely. This is the best way to make sure your organization not only survives in 2020, but thrives.

Vinita Venkatesh is vice president of product marketing at Mya Systems.

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