Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) is increasingly becoming the way forward for businesses to streamline their recruitment process, especially in view of the many challenges that they face with talent acquisition today.
The pandemic was a disruptive force worldwide. Two years on, besides impacting the bottom line, pandemic-induced restrictions have changed the way people think about work and office routines. Millennials and Gen Z workers prioritise work-life balance and flexible working styles over high-paying jobs that lead to burnout.
There are even larger geopolitical and economic issues at a global and national level — the Russia-Ukraine war, chip shortage and raging inflation, for instance — that impact hiring strategies at a local level. Rather than constantly struggle to tailor their hiring processes to these changing elements, many companies have perforce begun to consider Recruitment Process Outsourcing providers to save time, cut long-term costs, focus on their core capabilities and improve their business outcomes.
There are other circumstances that dictate why companies are now choosing to go the RPO way:
India’s RPO industry has burgeoned rapidly over the past few years. A recent report from BusinessWorld says, “India is mirroring the global trend in recruitment process outsourcing (RPO), which is on a steady growth trajectory. In fact, many leading organisations in India have already outsourced their entire recruitment process except for the CXO-level hiring.” Also, “Out of the Rs 7,000 crore permanent staffing market in India, about Rs 450 crore is expected to be spent on RPO this year.” While this is good, one cannot stress enough on the fact that zeroing in on the right RPO vendor is a crucial decision, one that impacts the budget for recruitment, the talent acquisition process and the company ethos. Here is a guide to help you demystify the parameters for evaluating RPO providers and some of the pitfalls you should avoid while choosing an RPO recruitment partner.
RPO services cater to a wide spectrum of needs. Some services address immediate and medium-term requirements such as candidate sourcing, assessing, interviewing and shortlisting. Then there are long-term services that serve an organisation’s strategic purposes such as streamlining your hiring processes, enhancing employer branding and, overall, boosting your company’s performance. Only some RPO firms offer the entire range of services. Select the RPO firm that can cater to your specific needs.Years of experience/track record
Find out how long the RPO firm has been in business. Is its track record of customer service impressive? Get references from the industry or by geographic location. If the answers to these concerns are satisfactory, enquire about the work experience of the individuals who will be assigned to your company.Job marketing and advertising expertise
We live in a time where jobs chase candidates, so first impressions count! Seek information on the RPO vendor’s skills in advertising and marketing job openings. How savvy are its team members with social media marketing? Are they equipped with in-house marketing resources, or will they depend on yours?Hiring methodologies and technology
What is the Recruitment Process Outsourcing provider’s level of experience with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)?
Find out if their technology is home-grown; also, ascertain whether they are familiar with your technology.
Reporting and metrics provide essential feedback on an RPO firm’s performance. They are ways to assess the success of various hiring strategies and processes. Hence, it is crucial that you ask whether a Recruitment Process Outsourcing company provides these inputs. If it does, find out the kind of reporting done and the frequency of this activity.Candidate experience
In the shifting sands of today’s job market, a candidate’s impressions of your organisation, all through the hiring process, is critical to maintaining your employer brand. Whether or not an applicant is interviewed/hired, they should be treated with respect and cordiality so that the candidate leaves with a positive impression of your company. A candidate who does not make the final cut for a position now is still a potential employee for the future. When evaluating potential RPO partners, ask in detail about the type of candidate experience they have to offer.International experience
If your company is expanding into overseas markets, compliance with local laws, customs and institutions can be a bewildering maze. This is particularly so if you aim to hire people from around the world. Your RPO partner should have the necessary knowledge and bandwidth to handle these requirements and get your new offices up and running as quickly as possible.
When you have analysed several RPO providers against the above criteria, it is time to get into detail with the ones whom you think will have a good fit with your organisation. Here are some questions you can ask to finalise your choice:What size companies do they work with?
RPO providers differ in their capacity to handle hiring volumes. Some cater to large organisations needing mass hiring; others handle relatively lower numbers of recruitments per year. Select an RPO firm that can handle your volume.What specific services do they provide?
Among the benefits of getting RPO firms on board (as against plain vanilla hiring agencies/headhunters) is the flexibility offered. If you need large volume hiring and, as is often the case, your in-house HR team is burdened with multiple other responsibilities, an RPO provider can develop end-to-end hiring solutions from screening processes and interviews to onboarding. Alternatively, you can opt to selectively outsource certain requirements such as sourcing and assessments. Depending on your needs, check your RPO firm’s track record in the services of your choice.What is the RPO provider’s experience with a similar industry?
Enquire about the RPO firm’s experience with recruiting in the positions that you need to fill. This is especially important if you are looking for technical expertise or your industry functions in a highly specialised zone. Does the RPO provider have clients from the same industry as yours? Find out who it works with and whether it has sources from where it can recruit the talent you need.What is the technology platform used?
Typically, RPO firms are well-versed with ATS. If you already have one in place, the RPO firm can help evaluate its efficacy and suggest improvements. Alternatively, it can assist you with upgrading to a superior system.Does the team work onsite or offsite?
While it is not essential for RPO team members to function from your company premises, their presence can offer some advantages. Working onsite is an opportunity for them to bond with your hiring managers, get a sense of your company culture and build trust among all stakeholders.Do they write job descriptions?
Writing clear, engaging job descriptions with just the right amount of detail is critical to attracting quality talent; often, harried HR managers, caught between multiple tasks, may not get theirs right. If this is a concern, it may be time to bring in professionals. Is the RPO company in your sight capable of taking this on? Ask for samples of job descriptions created for other clients to see if they meet your standards.How will they understand company culture?
When the RPO team assigned to your organisation syncs well with the in-house recruiting team, your employer branding strategy gets positively impacted. Discuss this with the RPO provider you are considering to ensure that they assign people who are a good fit with your company and understand how to represent you.How will they work in tandem with internal HR?
Ask the RPO firm how it goes about integrating with its clients’ in-house hiring/HR division. This can be a difficult turf to negotiate at the start as the latter may perceive the RPO team as a threat to its existence. Ideally, getting the two sides to bond should be a joint exercise by both the company and the RPO provider. Take your HR leaders into confidence from early on so that they understand the larger goals; also, work with the RPO provider to present a unified front when the exercise of integrating them takes off. This is critical not only to avoid conflict but also to keep hiring managers engaged through the changes introduced by the RPO firm, going forward.Pitfalls to avoid while selecting an RPO provider
With the RPO industry taking off in a big way, many old-school recruiting firms/headhunters also describe themselves as RPO vendors when they are not and may not live up to expectations. Do your homework and ask the right questions to ensure that a vendor’s level of expertise matches your requirements and expectations.Do not fall for exaggerated promises
While shopping for the right provider, RPO sales teams may offer the moon with promises such as, “Our team will give 100 per cent of their time to your company.” Be wary of such lavish claims. In truth, RPO vendors, depending on their clients’ hiring needs, typically shift their team members across client organisations, depending on who is scaling up or reducing recruitment — this, in fact, is one of the advantages of having an RPO provider. Ideally, your provider will assign a core team to implement and monitor your recruitment. However, it is unlikely that all members of this team will be engaged only with your account all of the time. If your provider is making these promises, dig deeper to understand exactly what you are getting.
Be equally wary of RPO salespeople who agree to everything you ask. A reliable RPO provider will give you a realistic picture of the time frame within which they can execute their solutions and also be upfront about where they lack capabilities.The lowest price is not the best price
The popular saying, “When you pay peanuts you get monkeys” holds good for every transaction! If an RPO provider has made you a temptingly low offer, it is likely that the firm is trying to undermine the competition. But will it be able to match the standard of service provided by its competitors? Try to arrive at a more informed decision by making a feature-by-feature comparison of its services vis-a-vis quotations from other RPO firms. Opting for a basic recruiting solution will cost less to start with but can result in additional expenses at a later stage. Ideally, if you locate an RPO vendor who shows an in-depth understanding of your concerns and presents an affordable package, you have a solution.Do not go ahead without a problem escalation process
Any complex partnership is bound to encounter problem areas. It is no different with the client-RPO vendor relationship. A professional recruiter should be on top of this with a process to identify issues quickly, escalate them to your HR leaders and find a resolution. When you are assessing potential recruitment partners, enquire if they have such a process in place. If they do not, it may be worthwhile to walk away.
Selecting an RPO partner is a strategic decision; to get it right, list and consider your company’s needs first. For instance, do you have to recruit a small number of candidates for key jobs, or do you need to mass recruit employees? Do you need workers with specialised technical knowledge or are you looking for people with experience? Your answers to questions like these will help you figure out what to look for in a Recruitment Process Outsourcing provider. Talk to several prospective RPO partners to assess what they have to offer. When you have clarity on your needs and have assessed the services each RPO vendor can provide, finding the right match will be easier than you thought.
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