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What is Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO)?

October 11, 2023

This is a comprehensive Q&A on all things recruitment process outsourcing (RPO).

Use the table of contents to navigate to a specific section you'd like to read more about directly.

An introduction to RPO

What is recruitment process outsourcing (RPO)? 

Recruitment process outsourcing providers take on all or parts of a client’s recruitment function. RPO providers essentially act as an extension of the company's recruitment department, operating as a strategic partner to drive efficiencies and results. 

Read more: The A to Z of RPO 

Why do companies outsource their recruitment? 

RPO providers specialize in talent acquisition and have access to advanced processes, technologies, talent intelligence and expertise that many in-house teams lack. They add value by implementing comprehensive, strategic solutions and finding the right talent to meet business needs, allowing organizations to focus on core business activities.


Before RPO

  • Lack of talent
  • Slow time-to-hire
  • Misaligned technology
  • Inability to showcase value
  • Unable to scale
  • Poor candidate experience
  • Reactive approach

After RPO

  • Access to high-quality, diverse talent
  • Align talent with revenue generation
  • Access to cutting-edge tech stack
  • Increased revenue generation
  • Ability to scale up or down
  • Exceptional candidate experience
  • Long term approach

What kind of companies tend to use RPO? 

Businesses of all sizes partner with RPO providers. They can supplement existing in-house teams or take on the entire talent acquisition process. RPO providers typically cover all industries as well, including healthcare, manufacturing, life sciences, financial services and FMCG. 

What are the main benefits of RPO?

There are multiple benefits of outsourcing recruitment, including:

  • Improved quality of hire: RPO partners focus on high-quality candidates who add immediate, strategic value
  • Scalability: With ever-changing economic cycles, RPO providers scale resources up or down based on individual business needs
  • Advanced analytics and talent intelligence: Allows leaders to make informed hiring decisions at pace
  • Long-term talent pipelining: RPO providers build comprehensive talent pipelines to attract and nurture talent for the future, not just right now 
  • Cost savings: Outsourcing all or some of the hiring process increases efficiencies 
  • Diverse hiring: RPO providers build more inclusive workplaces through diverse hiring 

What are the types of recruitment process outsourcing? 

Depending on your challenges and goals, there are multiple RPO solutions that can be customized to fit individual business needs. 

  • Strategic enterprise RPO: RPO partners take on the responsibility for an organization's entire global recruitment function including sourcing, recruiting and onboarding high-quality, diverse talent. 
  • Project-based RPO: Project-based RPO partnerships typically last between three and 12 months. Organizations have access to expert teams supported by the latest tech, workforce analytics and talent intelligence. Whether an organization has a new product launch, digital transformation project, business reorganization, or corporate spin-off planned, project RPO will ensure access to the talent needed to succeed. 
  • Agile RPO: RPO teams work seamlessly in partnership with in-house teams to provide talent services that they don’t have the bandwidth or expertise for.
  • Strategic sourcing: RPO partners take care of the entire sourcing process, giving in-house recruiters and hiring managers more time to focus on their day-to-day. 
  • Admin outsourcing: Admin teams take on the responsibility of job postings, interview scheduling, offer letter creation, pre-onboarding activities (coordinating background checks, drug screens/medical checks and pre-hire paperwork), reporting and ATS management, resume screening and basic behavioral phone screening. 

How is RPO different from a recruitment agency? 

Recruitment agencies fill open positions, while RPO partners provide a strategic approach to talent acquisition to deliver business-impacting results. From diversity hiring and employment branding to upgrading onboarding processes and deploying recruitment technology and talent intelligence, RPOs take a holistic view, elevating talent acquisition and increasing bottom line.  

Read more: 4 benefits of RPO you don’t get from staffing agencies 

How is RPO different from an MSP? 

Primarily, RPO providers handle the entire recruitment process and offer additional business strategies to drive value, while managed service providers (MSP) typically support an organization's contingent workforce.  

How an RPO partnership works

Does RPO replace an in-house recruitment team? 

It can, but it doesn’t have to. RPO providers are flexible and can augment existing in-house teams to assist with improving screening processes, conducting strategic workforce planning, scheduling interviews, filling requisitions and more. With extensive in-market expertise, RPOs add considerable value and elevate talent acquisition. 

How does an RPO partnership work? 

RPO partnerships are highly customizable based on a company’s unique talent needs and goals. After identifying the needs an organization has, RPO providers develop talent solutions that drive individual hiring goals and align with the wider objectives of the business. The implementation phase is next. Regular calls, updates on ROI, and strategy sessions are then scheduled to further optimize and elevate talent acquisition. 

How long does it take to get started with RPO? 

While roadmaps vary by provider and organization size, once an organization has signed a contract, it can take anywhere between three and 12 weeks to fully implement depending on scope. This accounts for an initial discovery phase to allow a recruitment process outsourcing team to learn company requirements and systems.

What are the different pricing models for RPO? 

RPOs have flexible pricing models according to a business’s needs, so scope and investment vary depending on what talent solutions are required. The value of RPO goes way beyond HR and talent acquisition and positively impacts bottom line.

What other services do RPO companies offer? 

RPO providers often offer a wide variety of talent solutions outside of RPO, including: 

Which people in the organization benefit from an RPO partnership? 

When a business has the right people, everyone benefits. RPO partners supercharge recruitment processes and build next-gen workforces with diverse, high-quality talent to give organizations a competitive edge. In short, RPO providers elevate talent acquisition to ensure companies have the talent needed to meet their strategic objectives. 

Choosing an RPO partner

What is the best RPO provider? 

There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to the best RPO provider. RPO providers should be evaluated based on individual business needs, objectives and cultural fit. Evaluating factors include industry expertise, track record, technology and talent intelligence capabilities and flexibility. The right RPO partner will continually advance talent strategy and ensure their clients have access to the talent they need to not just achieve but exceed their business goals. 

How do you decide on an RPO partner? 

Prepare these questions to start your decision-making process on which RPO provider to select: 

  • Are they knowledgeable in your company’s industry, location and challenges? 
  • Does their team know how to use predictive analytics to make informed decisions? 
  • How do they find talent in the face of high demand and low supply? 
  • Can they be flexible to scale up or down as business needs dictate? 
  • Does their culture align with your company’s values? 
  • Does the RPO provider have access to the latest expertise, processes, technology and talent intelligence?

Be sure to understand how quality is defined in a proposed RPO partnership through its entire lifecycle. 

Read more: Questions to ask when considering an RPO partnership 

What should I look for in an RPO partner? 

You should look for the following attributes in an RPO provider:  

  • A track record of continuous innovation 
  • Talent acquisition process excellence
  • Hiring scalability 
  • Proficiency in data,  analytics and talent intelligence
  • Access to time-saving tools and automation 
  • Subject matter expertise 
  • Talent acquisition technology expertise

Is it possible to change to a different RPO partner? 

Of course, but you’ll need to look at your current agreement. Breaking contracts early can incur extra fees.  

Are there any risks when entering an RPO partnership? 

Performing due diligence before selecting an RPO provider can mitigate any risk. Be sure to clearly define expectations, SLAs and benchmark evaluations from the outset. This, coupled, with regular communication and performance reviews will ensure an RPO partnership continues to align with a company's talent acquisition requirements.

Learn 4 promises RPO providers must keep
Our whitepaper provides a look at the current RPO market, what providers promise and what clients seek most from their partners.
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About WilsonHCG

WilsonHCG is an award-winning, global leader in total talent solutions. Operating as a strategic partner, it helps some of the world’s most admired brands build comprehensive talent functions. With a global presence spanning more than 65 countries and six continents, WilsonHCG provides a full suite of configurable talent services including recruitment process outsourcing (RPO), executive search, contingent workforce solutions, talent consulting and talent intelligence.