RPO’s. I wish I knew then, what I know now.

This is not a paid RPO advertisement. This does not apply to every company, industry or scenario, but it does apply to a lot of them. I can write this piece today because I am only accountable to myself. The pressure of a TA leader today is being asked to continually do more with less.

This piece is mostly about the current me speaking to the younger me.


For most of my career I was the guy trying to build in-house sourcing teams with the primary premise of mitigating the traditional agency spend as the core value proposition. What I was doing was right, but at the same time what I was doing was wrong.

If I had to do it all over again, there are times when I should have engaged and RPO to help with my high volume low complexity reqs. Most companies out there, which I have written about dozens of times before, get 80%+ of the hires that come to them (Own Careers pages, Referrals, Social Posts, Job Boards, etc). The 20% are the tough, you got to go find and attract them reqs.

When it comes to the 80%, lot’s of RPO’s today can do it faster, cheaper and most importantly, at scale vs myself having to hire a whole bunch of contractors/FTE’s where I am constantly battling the large ebb’s and flows of the business hiring demands. You know what I mean?…Lots of hiring at the beginning of the fiscal year and then grind to a halt in Q4. I have to let those resources go, as carrying the headcount cost is not a viable strategy even if you can convince leadership to have them all doing pipelining for the next fiscal.

In the early days we really leveraged RPO’s for cost reduction purposes and generally this also came with a lot of baggage. I have experienced RPO’s get increasing better over the years at building their own robust infrastructures that can more effectively handle high volume reqs at a lower cost than I could do myself without sacrificing quality. Some of them have even got really good at passive candidate identification at scale given they have the infrastructure in place to use the latest and greatest tools and training.

To be fair, I still think I can build a better mouse trap on the identification and attraction of passive talent than most of them today. Note: I did not say all of them, as there are some pretty good ones out there today, and they can do something I could never do as cost effectively as they can………Hire at scale and quickly.

So if you’re a recruiting leader reading this with the traditional thinking (like me) that if a hiring manager ended up hiring a candidate from an agency, we saw that as failure. A lot of leaders still see RPO’s the same way as the traditional agency hire. You’re not a failure.

My advice young grasshopper, I would encourage you to re-look at your req types to determine which ones fall into that high volume low complexity bucket. I would encourage you to then work out who are the people on the team that are really good at proactive passive identification, nurturing and attracting talent against those mission critical reqs. I would move them to where they have the biggest impact to your business strategy. The money I saved on the headcount and CPH, could then free up the budget to make investments that you know you need to make, but you can’t increase your budget YOY.

If I can leverage a partner who is paid by the result, that can help me scale, not carrying the fluctuating headcount costs, which frees up my strategies/resources to do more impactful work, why would I not want to investigate that strategy.

Final advice young grasshopper. You’re going going to have to have solid KPI’s and SLA’s tied to specific accountability and results. You’re not going to believe everything that comes out of their mouths as the gospel truth or the only right way. They don’t have all the answers either. But, what you are going to have to do more than anything else is…..

You’re going to need to treat them like a partner not a vendor. They are not the enemy.

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