Understanding What RPO Is and What RPO Isn't

by Allison Reilly


Since recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) differs greatly from provider to provider, and from buyer to buyer, understanding what constitutes recruitment outsourcing and what doesn't can be a little difficult. An RPO provider may not offer a particular service, but that particular service could still be a valid RPO engagement. However, a company that calls itself an RPO provider may not be practicing true recruitment process outsourcing.

An RPO provider acts as a company’s internal recruitment function for a portion or all of its jobs. RPO providers manage the entire recruiting/hiring process from job profiling through the on-boarding of the new hire, including staff, technology, method, and reporting. A properly managed RPO will improve a company’s time to hire, increase the quality of the candidate pool, provide verifiable metrics, reduce costs, and improve governmental compliance.

RPO Isn't the Same as Headhunting

Although headhunting is technically "outsourced recruiting," it's not the same as RPO because headhunting isn't the same as "a company's internal recruitment function." Headhunting often compliments the internal function, but rarely does it replace it or serve as a company's only recruitment function. In this sense, RPO isn't the same thing as remote recruiting because the solution is much more than closing job openings and filling positions.

"Acts as a company’s internal recruitment function" is the key phrase of this definition, as the acting as the internal recruitment function is what differentiates RPO from other recruitment, human resource, or recruiting consulting services. RPO is a sustained agreement, a partnership with the entire enterprise. The sustained agreement can be for all of the company's recruiting functions, for a specific hiring drive, or for a known project length.

The Difference Between Recruitment Process Outsourcing and Human Resource Outsourcing

Although the terms "recruitment" and "human resources" can be used interchangeably, RPO and HRO can't be used in the same way because they are not the same things. As demonstrated, RPO involves outsourcing a company's recruiting and sourcing aspects. HRO involves outsourcing more administrative duties, such as data input into HR systems, on-boarding paperwork, performance management and benefits management. Granted, there are a few aspects that overlap, such as on-boarding, but that's about the only similarity. Essentially, RPO helps companies source and make great hires by working with the candidates, while HRO helps companies manage people by working with the employees.

RPO is About Improving the Recruiting Process

Although an RPO solution can replace a company's need for internal sourcing and recruiting services, RPO is not a way to offload recruiting problems or a way to recruit for less. An RPO provider can source slates of qualified candidates and pass them to internal recruiters or into an applicant tracking system for recruiters or hiring managers to review. Recruitment process outsourcing is about improving the recruiting process. If the company doesn't have a desire to improve the recruiting process, then an RPO solution isn't the right solution.

After all, it's not RPO if there's no discussion or involvement in the "process." This is why engaging with an RPO provider is a relationship and a partnership, not a transaction or a simple business service. For example, an RPO partner can also perform screening, testing or credential verification and coordinate interviews and offers. Allowing an RPO provider to do this with your organization requires a significant amount of trust, accountability, and commitment to improving the recruiting process. Without those three things, the RPO partnership will not work and the RPO solution will fail for your company.


guide to understanding recruitment process outsourcing

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