The Future of Recruiting is Happening Now

A few years ago I speculated about the future of recruiting. I consulted my Magic 8 Ball for clues to the future and it warned that life as we know it would evolve into one where a Recruitment Processing Outsourcing (RPO) model would become more prevalent. During the years of a soft economy, corporate recruiters have been scaled back, staffing personnel have been assigned to other non-recruiting tasks within HR, and fill-in contract staffing jobs have essentially dried up. Coming out of the recession has seen resurgence in the need for company growth, but there is still a great deal of uncertainty about committing to an increase of in-house staffing resources.

Even though I predicted the emergence of RPO’s, I was somewhat surprised to learn that a former client, a $50 billion global corporation, had recently made a significant commitment to outsource their recruiting activities to the RPO arm of a large search firm. Total ownership of the recruiting process had been ingrained in the culture of this company, so this was a major departure from old school management thinking. The Magic 8 Ball was right. There are signs that this is only the next step in a significant trend. It not only impacts the in-house recruiting model, but also tests long established relationships with third party recruiters. As time goes on, can anyone professing to be a recruiting professional remain unaffected by such changes? To assume that today’s world will go on forever could be very shortsighted.

Installing an RPO is not a simple plug-and-play solution. There are very good reasons for this trend to continue, but it cannot happen without a significant effort to make it seamless. The following characteristics need to be considered in evaluation of any new recruiting solution.

  1. Scalability: How does the model respond to changes in scope and size of mission? – The flexibility of a shared RPO allows the staff to expand or contract more rapidly than a constant shifting of internal resources to meet recruitment objectives. Without concern for having a critical mass of recruiting talent, a company can allocate only the amount of financial resources necessary for the current business need. The critical mass of talent is absorbed by the RPO and allocated as necessary.
  2. Evolution: Does the model allow itself to change with environmental needs? – There is an inherent commitment that once the recruiting process is outsourced there is no turning back. It is possible for the RPO to morph into a multi-dimensional entity that can provide a talent pool from a broader perspective, analytics from a global basis, and metrics that have an industry-wide yardstick.
  3. Cost Effectiveness: Will the benefit of achieving results justify the cost of operating the model? – A careful assessment needs to be made regarding the interface with the company hierarchy and the procedures for sourcing, hiring, and onboarding talent in accordance with the company needs. There will be a significant amount of emphasis needed to maintain and promote the company brand while making the candidate experience positive and transparent.

This is not a one-size-fits all solution. Small entrepreneurial companies would need to grow into a need that would support outsourcing of recruitment. Large companies would be wise to roll out such a transition in a phased approach after committing to the process. In either, a key to success is 100% agreement in client-RPO communications effectiveness. We all need to begin thinking what role we will play in this new world. Where will this go next?

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Comment by Matt Charney on March 4, 2014 at 7:06am

Tom: Thanks for this - I absolutely agree that not only are RPOs probably getting even more entrenched into our world of work, but increasingly must be customized and configured to individual client needs instead of the former cut-and-paste template that MSPs seemed to rely on almost exclusively. As the market for RPOs continues to grow, so too does the competition for customers; to your point, this is good news for those recruitment leaders savvy enough to be selective and choose the right provider for their needs.  Awesome post and great perspective!


Comment by Keith D. Halperin on March 4, 2014 at 3:03pm

Thanks, Tom and Matt. IMHO, a firm that claims to do RPO and has US-based prices (wherever its sourcing resources) is probably wasting its money.



Comment by Doug Douglas on March 5, 2014 at 10:40am

Nice post Tom. I have worked heavily inside the RPO world and have seen the benefits of it, but I also have paid special attention to some of the concerns and areas that companies were a little slower in trusting to an outside source. I came up with a tweaked version of RPO called IRM (Integrated Recruitment Model). Here is a link to my notes from a webcast I led for SHRM on the topic.


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