The three biggest RPO misconceptions - debunked

The three biggest RPO misconceptions debunked

With businesses looking at alternative methods for talent attraction, one model that is often considered is Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO), where a business transfers all or part of its recruitment process to an external provider. 

The RPO provider performs a range of tasks and regularly acts as an extension of the company’s HR function, sitting on-site to provide a holistic hiring solution, delivering staff, technologies and process improvements.

In my (nearly) 20 years as a recruitment solutions specialist, I have met many HR Directors and hiring managers who, for a multitude of reasons, have developed negative preconceptions of what an RPO model is and think that it isn’t going to help them find the talent they need to drive their business forward. 

Here are three of the common misconceptions I have heard about RPO models and why they are not true:

Misconception 1: 

“RPO is too focused on recruitment administration and process. All the red tape involved doesn’t help me deliver better candidates than I can get from an agency.”


Part of this misconception may come down to the name; ‘Recruitment Process Outsourcing’  suggests the model is just a functional process.

While it does look at improving the overall recruitment process, a large part of a successful model involves building a strategic partnership between your business and the RPO provider. By assessing each stage of the recruitment process, a good RPO provider will be able to build a continuous improvement methodology to ensure the best candidates are not missed. 

A dedicated RPO team acting as an extension of your Talent Acquisition function can actually help you deliver talent more effectively and efficiently than an agency which is likely to have a more transactional approach to your recruitment. By building a team of specialist recruiters, administrators and consultative specialists, each member of the RPO team ensures the process runs smoothly and enables creative, innovative recruitment campaigns to be put in place. 

Misconception 2:

“RPO only helps me to hire lower level positions and isn’t effective for hiring more senior executives.”


We all know it can be challenging hiring senior executives in the ‘Marzipan Layer’ (£80,000-£120,000 salary range); selling the benefits of the business, company culture and the role itself. While many doubt that an RPO model can be effective at demonstrating this to potential senior hires, I would argue that a well-implemented RPO solution can be more effective than the agency alternative.

Once the recruitment business partners are fully embedded within the business, they have a greater understanding of the company culture and the benefits of working for the business and, rather than selling multiple companies to a candidate, will be focused on selling your business. As well as this, they can create a truly collaborative relationship with the HR/procurement function and the manager looking for their senior hire. With all three of these key stakeholders collaborating throughout the entire process, the team can map out what skills the business will need both now and in the future. 

The RPO model also ensures that every candidate in the running for senior positions receives a consistent, positive experience and your employer brand is in safe hands. 

Misconception 3:

“RPO suppliers are a replacement for HR.” 


Particularly in SMEs where their teams are smaller, HR departments often struggle to have enough headcount or time to keep their stakeholders happy. When adopting the generalist model, HR teams can spend a disproportionate amount of time on their recruitment, making it difficult to maintain other key job areas, such as learning & development and workforce management. 

The RPO model allows a specialist recruitment expert to work alongside the HR function, complementing the work they do, rather than competing with it. This allows the HR team to shift focus to the other critical areas they deliver. 

To make an RPO work for everyone, the HR team needs to be accepting and work closely with the RPO team so they can fully embed into the business and effectively deliver the brand to candidates.

While there are a number of common misconceptions about an RPO model, when properly implemented with a specialist provider, it can improve the recruitment experience for both candidates and HR teams. An RPO is an embedded extension of your brand and culture; not only can it help save cost, it can also provide a genuine strategic advantage over your competition. 


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