What to look for in an RPO provider

Having spent time selling, buying, implementing and delivering various RPO models in the past, here’s a high-level viewpoint on what a client / potential employee should be looking for in an RPO provider:

  • Strategy & differentiators. Does the RPO provider have a clear business strategy and understanding of their unique differentiators? Are they prepared to walk away if the opportunity is not right for them?
  • Specialisation. Does the RPO provider specialise in a particular industry or skill level? For example, professional/technical hires versus entry level volume hires? Multiple clients within a particular industry will result in the RPO provider having an excellent understanding of the external marketplace and should bring examples of strong best-practice, but too many clients in one industry can create challenges when pro-active search is required.
  • Client retention. What is the average length of client relationships? It’s expensive and people intensive to regularly change your RPO provider. RPO’s who have shown the ability to nurture partnerships over the longer term generally do so because they can show operational excellence, outstanding relationship management and a strong drive towards continuous improvement and innovation.
  • Referenceability. It easy to blow your own trumpet but how many clients are willing to endorse the products and services of the RPO provider?
  • Size and scale. If you are a small to medium sized business, you want to pick an RPO provider that will actually want and care about your business. Consideration should be given to where you would fit into their client portfolio.
  • Flexibility. Is the RPO really able to create a bespoke solution or does it boilerplate most service models? Sometimes, a bespoke solution isn’t required but, if it is, make sure the RPO has the ability to ‘think outside the box’ and create something that they haven’t previously.
  • Global reach. Does the RPO provider have a global reach? Will the provider be able to accommodate your own growth plans?
  • Strong website and employee value proposition. Would you want to replicate the kind of media footprint they create for themselves? Is it innovative and forward looking? What is the staff attrition like? Can the RPO provider hire great people into its own business?
  • Independence. Some RPO businesses are associated with a larger recruitment consultancy businesses which is good if you are looking to leverage market intelligence and cost savings and achieve commitment to delivery, but you need to make sure the RPO is impartial.
  • How much has the RPO provider outsourced its own capabilities? It’s important to ensure that even the outsourced service is able to reflect the client’s individual requirements and culture.
  • Is the RPO business successful in its own right? Over the years, the boundaries of RPO and vendor supplier relationships have become blurred in places. Who is really calling the shots?
    Sometimes it is the recruitment business behind the RPO that ultimately shapes the delivery model and benefits from the increased opportunity.
  • Do you trust the RPO and can you work with them? Trust between RPO provider and client is everything as not every potential issue can be dealt with in a contract. The RPO provider will be responsible for the engagement of the company’s most important asset – its people. Are your values aligned? Can you see yourself working effectively together?

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