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The Quest for the Best RPO

by Beth Miller

22nd Jan 2019

Setting out to find a Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) solution for your organization is a lot like a Quest story. You know the type: a hero embarks on a journey to obtain a great prize that will better his or her world, but the hero will also encounter any number of trials and tribulations.

An RPO is your golden ticket to hiring and retaining the high performing talent your organization needs, but the selection process doesn’t have to be tumultuous. Use my tips to predict and overcome any obstacles you may encounter along the way. 

The Setting

Clearly understand the needs of your organization before you begin your quest to select an RPO solution. Not just from the Talent Acquisition team, but from hiring managers and the business as a whole. You want to ensure you are able to give a robust overview of your company, culture, employer value proposition, and future strategy to help the RPO providers determine alignment.

Think through other competing initiatives within your business that could potentially stifle your RPO initiative. What could you do to time the RFP so that it does not compete? It’s helpful to consider how your company has purchased something similar to RPO in the past. Gather insights from that team to learn what worked and what did not work in their vendor selection.

Be realistic about timeframe. The RFP process can last from 6-12 months from initial delivery to contract signature. Think about when you want your RPO to kick off implementation, then determine your RFP release date from there.


What’s the point of embarking on a quest without an end goal in mind? A goal is vital.  Do, however, be open to shifting your perspective along the way as you learn more about vendor capabilities. For instance, if artificial intelligence is a theme throughout your business but TA hasn’t adopted it yet, an RPO provider could be a great way to enter into this new realm of technology.

Consider all components of the recruiting process and take a critical look at your current metrics to identify those that are the biggest challenges for your business. Identify goals and improvement targets you expect to meet through partnering with an RPO provider, and have your business case completed prior to going to bid so that you know what your true costs are.  This includes the hidden costs like agencies that tend to be buried in the business budget rather than HR. 


You won’t be alone on your quest to find an RPO provider. Like in any great journey story, you’ll be joined by a cast of internal characters to help you out along the way, so it’s important to ensure that you have support from all stakeholders before embarking on an RFP with preliminary budget approved. Have a realistic timeline, be cognizant of everyone who needs to be involved, and keep a clear path to decision. You’ll want to pre-sell as much as possible to avoid an unhappy ending to your quest.

Have a view into how procurement will work with your team and leverage their research capabilities. Provide your procurement team with your end goal details and work closely with them rather than asking them to run every step of the process. This allows you to get to know the vendors and how you will personally interact together to determine a fit.

Determine who will be involved in the decision-making process (influencers, advisors, ultimate decision maker) and what role finance will take. You will want to write the RFP to ensure that all of those participating have a chance to have their questions asked.

The Journey

Now that you have a robust understanding of the needs of your business, the talent acquisition team, and internal involvement, it’s time to begin the process of finding the perfect RPO match.

Begin by seeking insights from analysts on the market, like HRO Today, NelsonHall, and Everest Group, to help determine a list of providers that will best fit your needs.  Seek out HR leaders who have used RPO and seek their advice.  That’s also a great way to build your network and hopefully down the line, you can repay the favor when a person on their own RPO quest needs your advice.

Think about the vendor’s skill set, innovation, team fit, and capabilities as you are evaluating vendors. Seek a culture that complements your own. Consider a reverse RFP for your vendors specifying all the data that you would want to know about them, and put that against your own company. Conduct vendor interviews and overview calls before the RFP is released to narrow your field further.

Remember, a good match between your organization and an RPO provider goes both ways. So when you offer an opportunity for Q&A and send responses to vendor questions, leave ample time for your team to gather information to ensure you can clearly answer every inquiry. Also leave ample time for the vendors to review those before submission, as often, they can help to inform the solution.

Final Ordeals

You’re so close! You’ve narrowed your list of vendors down, and you’ve asked your top choices to bid. At this point, frequent communication with those vendors is key. If steps in the process are taking longer than expected, let them know that.

When setting-up onsite presentations, allow the vendor at least a week to prepare for the meeting. Have an agenda for the vendors to follow and meet with them before the presentation to review content, thus ensuring it meets your audience’s needs. It’s important to try to have the same audience for all vendor presentations.

Finally, stress test appropriately with your provider to determine how they will respond under pressure.

The Goal

At last, you’ve selected an RPO provider that enables your organization to fulfil its potential through talent acquisition. You no longer fear losing in the ever-intensifying war for talent, and you feel confident that the vendor you’ve partnered with will stay up-to-date, informing your team of shifts in technology and trends, and keeping your organization thriving with the best possible people. Now you can enjoy your happily-ever-after!


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