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Recruitment process outsourcing: the ultimate guide


When you have high-volume hiring needs, recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) is a logical choice for growth-oriented businesses of all sizes.

Using an RPO provider can help you ramp up your staff quickly without needing to hire and train your own internal recruiting department.

In this guide, we’ll explore:

  • The definition of RPO
  • RPO benefits
  • Whether RPO is a good fit for you
  • Choosing an RPO provider

What is recruitment process outsourcing?

RPO is a talent acquisition model that is scalable, flexible and can be more cost-effective than having an in-house recruiting team.

By definition, RPO is a form of business process outsourcing where an outside provider handles all or part of your recruiting and hiring activity.

If you engage an RPO, your provider becomes an extension of your company’s HR department. You can customize your depth of service with an RPO provider based on your available resources and needs.

Six RPO benefits

In the hands of a skilled provider, RPO can offer you many benefits. Here are some key advantages companies experience through RPO.

1. Improved hiring time

With hiring systems in place and ready-to-use as soon as you have a hiring need, RPO firms can significantly shorten the time it takes you to fill open positions.

2. Increased candidate quality

Through well-established networks and fine-tuned recruiting methods, RPO providers often help companies find better quality candidates than they could find on their own.

3. Verifiable recruiting metrics

Using an RPO firm can help you track key recruiting metrics more consistently. This deeper insight coupled with an RPO firm’s expertise will help you make more strategic recruiting decisions in the future.

4. Reduced cost to hire

An RPO provider should help you lower the amount that you spend per new hire.

In the short term, when you make your initial investment into RPO services, your company will be spared the high overhead costs of implementing new methodologies or technologies in-house.

You’ll also experience the long-term cost reduction that comes with strategic recruitment processes due to:

  • Improved quality of candidates
  • Better retention
  • Consistent employment branding and hiring practices

Furthermore, your internal team will remain free to focus on core business tasks while a dedicated team of RPO professionals handles your recruiting needs.

5. Flexibility

Most organizations have fluctuating hiring demands. If you use RPO rather than establishing your own recruiting team, you can scale up or down your hiring support as needed. This keeps your financial resources more readily available during seasons when you don’t have as many positions to fill.

6. Strategic support

Often recruiting is an important component of organizational initiatives such as developing your employer brand or becoming a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace. If your company is working to execute on specific strategic plans such as these, using RPO can help you get your hiring aligned with those goals.

When the competition for quality candidates is most intense, these RPO advantages can give your business a significant edge.

Is recruitment process outsourcing right for you?

Whether you need a little bit of help with hiring or would prefer to outsource the entire process, there are a few things you should consider when evaluating an RPO solution for your company.

Know why your company needs recruiting help.

It’s important to evaluate your hiring needs before seeking outside help. Doing so will align the expectations of your management team and prepare you to choose the right provider.

Begin by exploring specific reasons, and then rank them by priority.

Examples include:

  • Your internal resources are over-taxed.
  • You foresee an increase in hiring activity.
  • Your management team wants a more accountable, consistent option than traditional internal recruiters, contract recruiters or agencies.
  • You want to improve the way you track hiring metrics like recruiting quality, speed and cost.

Consider the depth of assistance you require.

RPO firms typically provide two levels of service: project outsourcing and total outsourcing.

If you need help hiring a few salespeople, that’s project outsourcing. If you just landed a federal contract and need 200 people immediately, that’s also project outsourcing.

If your entire HR department needs support, that’s total outsourcing.

Identifying whether you need project or total outsourcing will help you determine if an RPO provider can meet your needs.

Acknowledge problems an RPO can’t solve.

RPO firms excel in their ability to:

  • Improve candidate quality
  • Increase recruitment responsiveness
  • Implement best-in-class recruitment processes

However, they can’t be expected to solve your existing problems with the same or fewer resources than you are currently allocating.

If your company has inefficient processes and infrastructure, focus on the end results you desire rather than an immediate need to keep hiring costs low.

In the end, hiring employees who perform at a high level and retaining them will dramatically improve your company’s bottom line.

Selecting a provider

After deciding whether recruitment process outsourcing is a good fit for your company, you will need to evaluate your options.

Below are a few things to consider when choosing an RPO provider.

Service structure

RPO providers differ greatly in the technologies, processes and staff they employ.

Some RPOs will refine your current processes and work with your existing infrastructure and staff, whereas others prefer to implement a more complete end-to-end solution.

Ask questions, explain your desired outcomes and evaluate service agreements closely to determine which provider will best meet your needs.

Company background

Ensure any RPO firm you’re considering is established and shows a track record of quality customer service.

Ask the provider how many clients they have and get references, preferably from other clients in your industry or geographic area.


It’s important to choose an RPO provider whose staff you could work well with since the RPO will serve as an extension of your internal HR team.

Trust, shared values and compatible leadership styles are key to a successful long-term relationship.

Quick and strategic hiring

A recruitment process outsourcing provider can provide consistency, scalability and quality in hiring practices that an internal team may be unable to achieve.

Most importantly, outsourcing your hiring to an RPO firm can help you find people who are a great fit for your organization in a fraction of the time.

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