This is inspired by Jerry's blog on recruiters refusing to work through HR and the rant I had in the comment section. Thanks for the idea, hope I'm not copying!

I've been working through an RPO for about 18 months now. I came from an agency background, but had always been interested in taking the leap to RPO so jumped at the chance to work over at Omni.

RPO (recruitment process outsourcing) organisations come in lots of different models and sizes, we are primarily an off site RPO, so we have the economies of scale of a shared services resourcing team. For some of our larger clients we have an account manager based on site to assist with succession and resource planning, but most of us work out of our lovely Manchester office. Anyway, I digress...

Working as an extension of our clients' HR team, the recruitment phone number on the clients' careers page calls through to our office and a member of the team will answer "Hello [client name] recruitment" depending on which client shows up on the phone manager. This means many agencies will call through expecting to come straight through to the client and be quite surprised to be speaking to an RPO.

Usually when they call I let them do their full picth and then explain, something along the lines of "Thanks a lot for calling. So that you're aware you've come through to Omni, we're the RPO provider for [client] and we manage any agency activity for them if we're unable to source candidates ourselves." This is usually followed by a quick discussion around what kind of candidates they want to supply and how they think they can help. I always make sure I am very polite and friendly to these guys, I hated having to cold call and coming through to someone mean and miserable could ruin my afternoon (I'm sensitive, hence not being a proper recruiter anymore!). If the agency sounded useful I took a note of their details and the relevent account manager would call them back, if they were terrible/rude/pushy I would give them the polite "No thanks" and that was that.

There was of course though, the odd occassion an agency would say something along the lines of "Oh, sorry, we won't work through a 3rd party" and say their goodbyes. Once this happened when an agency was speculatively pitching a candidate in who was "perfect for them and desperate to work there" now if they actually existed (heard this sales pitch many times and have my doubts about whether these magical candidates exist) they missed out. Are agencies putting their policies before the best needs of their candidates. I'm betting the agency didn't then tell the candidate to apply directly.

Now I do understand the logic about why the agencies wouldn't want to work through RPO, some agencies think we will:

  • Dilute the process, meaning they have a reduced interaction with the client and worse information.
  • Work against them and poison the client against their candidates
  • Reduce the amount of fees they have the opportunity to earn.

I can't speak on behalf of every RPO, but Omni pride ourselves on our partnerships with agencies. Between all our clients we have terms signed with around 280 agencies world wide. Some of these have only just signed with us, some have been working with us since the mid nineties. Each of those agencies is happy to work with us. Let me explain why...

  1. By speaking to us, they are speaking with fellow recruiters. They know we understand the pain of the counter offer, the candidate dropping out from interview and all the little upsets and issues there are in recruitment. We've all been there with our own candidates and we know you tried as hard as possible, that's much easier than trying to explain it to the hiring manager, who is already in a bad mood. That's our job. We might sigh at you, but we understand and we won't hold it against you (unless it starts to happen too often of course!)
  2. We are targeted too! We have to give you feedback within a certain amount of time because that's what we have promised to do and those are the terms we have signed with our clients.
  3. We will have asked the all important questions of the hiring managers already. We know which of the essential skills are actually essential and we know which can be dropped.
  4. If you get a vacancy through from us, you won't have had to call us for it. We send the vacancies to you, so no calling every day/week/hour to see if there's anything. Trust us, if we're stuck on something we will call!
  5. We will have honed our clients' PSL to just the quality recruiters, so if you get a req through from us you will be one of only around 3 to have it. That means a great chance of filling it.

There are probably more reasons, but I can't think of them just now (I'm off to the office curry night in a minute so I've got my mind on the naan bread right now!)


I know this is bound to provoke debate, but I'd love to live in a recruitment utopia where we can all just get along!

Views: 177

Comment by Tim Spagnola on October 21, 2011 at 10:02am

Samantha - I love the naan. This is an interesting topic and one honestly I never really considered. Given how competitive recruiters are in general I suppose this sets the stage for you having to do a lot of educating to agencies to explain all the benefits (like you outlined in this post) as to why they should consider working with you. Do you mostly work with smaller firms? I would think the first objection you listed of the fear of diluting the process must be the biggest one to tackle. What has been the biggest positive for you making the move from agency to RPO?

Comment by Samantha Lacey on October 21, 2011 at 10:11am

Tim, I was admittedly a lousy agency recruiter. I was great at candidate management but terrible at the sales pitch to companies, so a major plus point was that I would only be working with current clients and sourcing candidates. I also liked the more service driven aspect, although I know of a lot of very service driven agencies are doing much better than their sales orientated counterparts.


We have a real mix of agencies on our books, everything from the one man band to the massive global names like Adecco and Randstaad. We have found the initial few meetings to be key, if we don't get an agency to understand the benefits to them of working with us up front they will likely try and side step the process and cut us out of the process. This can lead to issues with compliance and mean they get themselves bumped off the PSL.

Comment by Patricia Martin on October 21, 2011 at 3:10pm

I agree with Tim that it is the dilution of the process that recruiters don't like whether it is HR, a MSP, a portal or an RPO. I've worked with companies that went to RPO's. I went from having direct contact with the hiring managers with whom I had relationships to having to get feedback from the people at the RPO. It slowed the process down and the feedback was typically unproductive one liners like "not qualified", "other better qualified candidates", etc. Any recruiter will tell you that their success rate is higher when they can communicate directly with the hiring managers so they can ask "What is my candidate lacking that you would like to see" and create a dialog that the recruiter can use to better identify candidates.

Comment by Samantha Lacey on October 24, 2011 at 9:40am

Patricia, I know this is always the major worry and completely understand your point. I will say though, that we have such detailed chats with the hiring managers and ask all the questions the recruiter would ask, so when we give the brief to our agencies, they get just as much detail and they get the answers to most of the questions they have thought of straight away as they will be questions we have already asked.


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