What is Recruitment Process Outsourcing? It’s the act of transferring talent acquisition, selection and hiring activities to an entity that specializes in recruiting services. Recruiting involves a range of activities that begin with identifying, attracting and sourcing candidates and concludes with the actual act of hiring. Once a new hire is employed and on the job, the recruitment process ends.

Why has Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) become an industry standard?

Hiring needs are difficult to predict. There are peaks and valleys that leave in-house recruiting departments either understaffed or overstaffed. In addition, the various skill sets and talent that organizations need to hire require staffing and recruiting departments to have candidate sourcing, screening, assessing and on-boarding expertise across the full range of entry-level, technical, managerial and executive level job openings. Talent acquisition and recruiting leaders depend on RPOs to help ensure hiring needs are met. Why Partner with an Recruitment Process Outsourcing Provider shares several examples of why talent acquisition and recruiting leaders are using Recruitment Process Outsourcing and Project Recruiting RPO services.

How do I know if a recruitment provider is an RPO?

The RPO marketplace can be very confusing. Many companies refer to themselves as RPOs but don’t actually recruit. Some providers only offer recruitment technology, such as applicant tracking systems. Technology solution providers are not RPOs. Still other providers who engage in recruitment and refer to themselves as RPOs are not true outsourcers at all, but staffing agencies providing temporary or leased workers, or headhunters and search firms offering stripped down versions of their full-scale services.

Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) providers represent employers and specialize in recruitment services. They serve as an extension of an employers recruiting function or in some cases as the employers whole recruiting department. True RPOs, whether they refer to themselves as Recruitment Outsourcing or Recruitment Process Outsourcing companies, provide recruiting services that can support or carry out the entire end-to-end recruitment process. The setup of the relationship is no different than calling Microsoft for tech support, thinking you are speaking with Microsoft, when in fact you are speaking with a third party supplier who is representing Microsoft and authorized to do so by Microsoft. To job seekers, the perception is they are speaking with the employer itself.

In contrast, headhunters, search firms, and staffing agencies represent the candidates. They serve as an agent for candidates and represent candidates to many potential buyers; in this case the buyers are employers. Whereas headhunters, search firms, and staffing agencies negotiate with employers for the best possible employment opportunity for their client – the candidate – recruitment outsourcers protect the interests of employers, ensuring their client – the employer – hires the best person for the job in the most efficient and effective manner.

What is Recruitment Process Outsourcing versus Recruitment Outsourcing?

Recruitment Outsourcing and Recruitment Process Outsourcing are used interchangeably. The acronym RPO refers to both Recruitment Outsourcing and Recruitment Process Outsourcing.

Recruitment Outsourcing and Recruitment Process Outsourcing providers can be differentiated by the R , P and O capabilities.

RPOs must have outsourcing capabilities and provide
recruiting and/or processing services
R = Recruitment Do they find, attract and source candidates?
P = Process Do they manage transactions that carry out the act of hiring?
O = Outsourcing Do they have the ability to carry out the recruiting process from start to finish?

Very few providers have all three capabilities (R + P + O). To be an RPO provider, they must have outsourcing capabilities and provide at least one of the two remaining capabilities: Recruiting and/or Process. Providers offering technology only solutions are not RPOs.

Not all RPOs actually recruit, a fact that surprises many Recruiting and Human Resource (HR) professionals.

When the term RPO was first coined, it was intended to reflect a focus on processing specific, discrete and well-defined transactions rather than the higher-level thinking and specialized aspects of recruiting such as candidate identification, attraction and sourcing. Most RPOs process transactions provided to them by the employer. For example, the employer provides the RPO with the specific job ads to post and asks them to post the ads on a pre-determined list of sites. The employer provides the RPO with the resumes to screen and asks them to mark resumes meeting specific criteria. The employer identifies candidates to be set up for employment interviews and asks the RPO to schedule the interviews. In other words, the employer is doing the recruiting and the RPO provider is processing the specific transactions requested by the employer.

Recruitment Outsourcing providers differ in their outsourcing capability. Some RPO providers focus on particular aspects of the recruiting life cycle: Talent Acquisition vs. Candidate Assessment and Selection vs. Onboarding Processes. Other RPO providers have outsourcing capabilities that cover the entire recruitment life cycle, also referred to as end-to-end recruitment outsourcing. Outsourcing capabilities also vary based on geographies and languages serviced, transaction capacity, scalability and customization of services.

Recruitment Process Outsourcing providers with recruiting capabilities vary in many significant ways. Some RPO providers focus on particular types of positions, like administrative or entry level employees.Other RPOs focus on functional areas like Sales or IT. Some RPO providers focus on specific geographies. Most RPO providers with recruiting capabilities work across industries, job type and functional areas.

What is Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO)?

Answers to frequently asked questions about what is recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) may be found here: RPO FAQs


To understand the breadth of recruiting capabilities-consider asking an RPO provider:
  1. What percentage of client engagements require them to identify, attract and source talent?
  2. What occupations and job levels do they source for?
  3. Is talent acquisition an add-on service or part of their typical program?
  4. What industries do they recruit in?
  5. Do they have any specialized methodologies or systems for Talent Acquisition?
  6. What expertise do they have in screening, assessing and identifying qualified talent for your job openings?


For more insights and answers to the question “What is Recruitment Process Outsourcing?” please contact us here at The WorkPlace Group

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