RPO – that’s just a lot of hiring, right?


Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) is well-established in the UK and the US where it’s been around for 15 – 20 years, but the market in the Middle East is in its infancy. As a result, there are some misconceptions about what RPO actually is.

Yes, there is a lot of hiring, but RPO is far broader in scope, covering the entire recruitment lifecycle. A typical RPO engagement might include manpower planning, developing candidate sourcing strategies, screening, shortlisting, interviewing, assessment, managing the offer process, referencing and pre-employment checking process. They may also cover the more strategic elements of Resourcing, such as employer branding, employer referral programmes, Emiratisation, Graduate recruitment and provision and management of an Applicant Tracking System.

A team of people to act as your in-house recruitment team

An RPO team is a delivery team exclusive to a specific client, so to all intents and purposes, they look and feel like a part of the organisation’s HR team. This is significant because RPO is about delivery, whereas recruitment in an agency environment is predominantly about sales.

RPO agreements tend to be long-term, often several years, and include KPI’s and Service Level Agreements to ensure the objectives of the client and the RPO provider are aligned. Contracts should be written in a way that there’s no commercial incentive for the provider to do anything but what is best for the client. A true partnership.

Then there’s the candidate experience. For RPO clients, their candidates’ experience tends to be a far more positive one, because the employer is trusting the provider with their brand. There are strict SLA’s to make sure the whole end-to-end experience is a good one for everybody – for candidates, for hiring managers, for HR – so it’s a more thorough management of the recruitment process.

And because RPO agreements tend to focus on long-term objectives, it’s not just about finding someone that can do a job, it’s about finding the best person for the job and for the employer, long-term. So assessment processes tend to be far more rigorous than you’d expect from a traditional recruitment business, where the focus tends to be on filling the job.

So yes, RPO is a lot of recruitment, but done properly, it’s much, much more than that.