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7 min read

What is Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO)?

What is Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO)?

Article roundup

  • Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) can provide many benefits to businesses struggling to manage candidate attraction, acquisition and onboarding.
  • RPO solutions are available in a range of models to suit every business, offering flexibility and adaptability to match changing recruitment needs.
  • When looking to engage with an RPO provider, it’s essential to ensure you conduct reviews on their services and develop a robust contract.
  • RPOs are fast becoming a vital addition to growing businesses that want to stay competitive in a demanding job market and deliver a high-quality, efficient experience to new talent.

If you work in Human Resources or you’re responsible for managing any part of the recruitment process, you’ll know how time-consuming it can be – and for a good reason.

Finding the right talent is a crucial part of the ongoing success of any business. When you cut corners around your recruitment processes, existing teams suffer.

Reports currently estimate it takes, on average, between 21 to 80 applicants to get one job offer for corporate job openings, with each new role receiving around 250 applications. That’s a lot of administrative paperwork to shift through, interviews to schedule, and back and forth to handle.

It comes as no surprise then that many are turning to Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) to take the pressure off existing staff to handle the attention, care, and time that recruiting the right employees requires.

What Does RPO Mean?

RPO stands for Recruitment Process Outsourcing.

RPO is when an organization hands over its permanent recruitment needs to comprehensive external recruitment resources. These might involve advanced technological solutions or the full transfer of ongoing recruitment processes to a third-party partnership that expertly manages all recruiting across the business. Usually, it’s a mix of both.

RPO is one of the many business processes that have become the target of outsourcing moves from businesses over the years (other common targets include payroll outsourcing and IT outsourcing). Commonly — this occurs across international borders. Businesses are increasingly aware of the benefits of foreign talent acquisition and engage international firms to carry it out. 

While there are few statistics on the growth of international RPO specifically, the graph below identifies the general increase in overseas outsourcing from the US (including RPO), over the last few decades. 

Outsourcing from the US — 1985-2010

The figure below demonstrates the tendency of US firms to employ staff via a foreign affiliate, rather than the US parent company. We can interpret foreign affiliates as proxies for outsourced functions. The trend is clear, other than a blip during the Great Recession, the outsourcing of functions overseas has steadily increased over time. 

While the figure only shows the trend up until 2010, there is no suggestion that this trend has slowed or reversed since. 

Read more at Outsourcing and Insourcing Jobs in the U.S. Economy: Evidence Based on Foreign Investment Data.

How does RPO recruiting work?

In its simplest terms, RPO recruiting takes over the complete administration of existing employment vacancies, sourcing, selecting, and identifying the right talent. Alongside this, RPO recruiting can create a talent pool of potential employees to tap into in the future when the need arises.

RPO models vary depending on individual organization recruitment needs, and they can be fully tailored to directly address company goals and requirements.

RPO recruiting features include:

  • Scalable models to match company needs.
  • Market Intelligence
  • Predictive Talent Analytics
  • Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
  • Talent Consulting
  • Onboarding Support
  • Career Transition Services
  • Internal Talent Mobility Support

What are the different RPO models?

RPO recruiting recognises that every business is different, with unique needs and challenges when finding their newest recruits. For this reason, a few different models are available on the market.

Here’s a look at a few of the most commonly offered ones:

1. End-to-end RPO

End-to-end RPO provides in-house, ongoing recruiting solutions that take control of the full suite of services and processes involved with finding and hiring new employees. This includes:

  • Consultation with hiring managers to understand needs.
  • Process requisitions
  • Sourcing and screening candidates
  • Scheduling interviews and assessment tasks
  • Preparing, presenting, and following up on job offers
  • Onboarding activities
  • Initial new employee check-ins

End-to-end RPO may also encompass internal talent mobility schemes, high-end compliance, and the implementation of advanced technology designed to streamline and speed up recruitment processes. It can be the most efficient and challenging model to set up initially.

2. Project RPO

Project RPO is very similar to end-to-end RPO, the critical difference being that it is utilized to manage the complete recruitment needs of one specific project. This may be the opening of a new site or company growth in a new region or country.

Project RPO delivers the same efficient and effective services as end-to-end RPO but is much more outcomes driven based on the hiring project you engage the RPO recruiting services to support with.

3. Selective RPO

You may decide you need RPO support in only one or two areas of your recruitment process, and in this instance, you could utilize a selective RPO model.

This model allows you to pick and choose the key areas you’d most like support with, so the RPO can strengthen your existing internal recruitment processes. For example, you may decide you only need help attracting and identifying the most suitable candidates but can manage interview scheduling, offer proceedings and onboarding internally. In this instance, selective RPO recruiting would be able to assist with just the services you determine.

Some of these models may work onsite or offsite and offer a blended approach. One of the great benefits of RPO recruiting is that there is a decent amount of flexibility to build a model that works for you.

What are the benefits of RPO?

According to HR Magazine, 50% of candidates have turned down a job because the recruitment process was too long, complex, or chaotic. These findings are mirrored in a recent report from PWC, which also found that nearly half (49%) of candidates have turned down a job even after going through the full recruitment process because they felt it was a bad experience.

In today’s fast turnaround world, there is no place for a chaotic hiring process in today’s quick turnaround world. With skills shortages cited across many industries, candidates are choosier than ever when it comes to finding the right employer for them. Their impressions start the moment they hit submit on their application.

RPO recruiting helps to mediate this loss by streamlining the entire process and building trust with new talent.

There are many other benefits to RPO, including:

1. Reduced cost

As we touched on, recruiting is a time-consuming process, and it draws your existing employees away from other vital tasks they could be attending to.

RPO recruiting partners are fully dedicated to your organization, so there’s no sharing of candidates or wasting money on third-party agencies.

2. Speed

Due to the implementation of state-of-the-art technology specifically designed to address some of the biggest recruiting challenges, RPOs can deliver a speedy turn-around on identifying the right talent for vacancies.

They’re also fully dedicated to just this task (rather than juggling multiple priorities), resulting in a streamlined, speedy process.

3. Compliance guaranteed

RPOs are subject area experts – this is what they live and breathe – for that reason, they know all the rules and regulations. They can address candidate questions and concerns and know how to handle any issues that may arise.

They’re also on hand to provide advice and guidance to internal teams should they have any questions or concerns about any aspect of the hiring process. Should any changes arise in compliance policy or legalities, RPOs are best placed to stay on top of these changes and make any appropriate adaptations.

4. Fewer errors

RPOs are well-rehearsed in the common errors that arise throughout the hiring process and work hard to reduce and address these wherever possible.

They operate on a continuous process of improvement, tweaking, and adapting along the way to deliver stress-free, effective solutions.

What are the disadvantages of RPO?

You’re probably thinking that all sounds too good to be true – what’s the catch?

As with most things in life, there are a couple of disadvantages that are worth noting:

1. Reduced control

One of the benefits of internal recruitment is the full remit of control it offers HR staff, hiring managers, and team leaders over the recruitment of new members for their teams. When utilizing RPO, you also relinquish a fair amount of control.

While final hiring decisions will come down to those in charge, there is always a risk of missing out on a potentially great-fit candidate because they didn’t pass some of the RPO processes or requirements.

2. Personal data risk

As RPOs handle the full talent acquisition process, they’ll hold important personal data on any suitable applicants and potential employees.

Unfortunately, in today’s digital market, security breaches and data leaks are common occurrences, so there is a potential risk here that personal data could be falsely acquired.

How can the risks of RPO be managed?

While there are a couple of disadvantages when these are weighed up against the full range of benefits that RPOs offer, they’re relatively minimal.

These are also risks that can be well-managed with a little bit of extra work at the outset:

1. Contract construction 

A robust contract between the organization and the RPO is a must to ensure everyone understands their rights and responsibilities.

This contract should include information about the storage and use of personal information obtained from potential candidates and potential future employees and set out the steps and process should anything happen with this data while being managed by the RPO.

2. Due Diligence

Before entering any agreement or contract with an RPO, you should also do a little background research and ensure they’re legitimate.

You can usually find reviews by Googling the service or by looking on trusted third-party review sites such as Trust Pilot or Reviews. If possible, you should also ask for references from existing or previous clients you could speak with to understand further how suitable the RPO might be for your own needs.

Video: Recruitment Process Outsourcing — Breaking Down the Concept

Should you choose RPO recruiting?

Deciding whether RPO recruiting is right for you depends on the challenges you currently face with recruiting and talent acquisition.

If your recruitment needs are minimal, your current team is content to take control of hiring, and your internal recruitment process raises any red flags, you may not need to consider RPO recruiting just yet.

If the administration, time, care, and energy needed to deliver a high-quality experience to your future talent feels too much, then you need a new recruitment strategy: RPO recruiting could be the beneficial solution you need. With so many different models to choose from, there’s bound to be a tailorable option to meet your unique business needs and hiring challenges.

As mentioned, it’s essential to do your due diligence and shop around for the right RPO for you, ensuring you check out reviews and prepare a robust contract that protects you and your future workforce.

To find out which company might be best for you in your RPO journey, check out our top 10 ranking of international recruitment agencies for 2023. 

If you are a recruitment agency, looking to up your game with the best tech tools, check out our top 10 software for recruitment agencies. 


RPO companies provide comprehensive, expert recruitment solutions for organizations to address their most crucial talent acquisition challenges.

From candidate attraction and employer branding to candidate screening, interview scheduling, offer submissions and onboarding; RPOs handle everything that comes with recruiting to help reduce the roll-on costs to businesses and deliver the best talent quickly and efficiently.

BPO stands for Business Process Outsourcing. While it can include certain aspects of recruitment process outsourcing, it encompasses a broader range of business functions that sit outside recruitment.

BPO services might consist of human resourcing, IT helpdesk support, customer service, marketing, accounting, and much more. On the other hand, RPO focuses solely on addressing solutions and services around recruitment, talent acquisition, and new employee onboarding.

Article By
HRIS and Remote Tech Specialist
Charlotte speaks with authority as RemotePad’s recruitment and HR tech maestro. With a background in marketing, Charlotte has worked for major brands in the industry, including leading HR software provider, FactorialHR. Originally from Manchester, UK, with a bachelor’s degree from the Manchester Metropolitan University, Charlotte currently resides in sunny Barcelona, Spain.