What Is the Point of RPO When I Can Hire An In-House Team?

This is a question that we get asked time and time again, and the answer, in brief, is that if you can find an in-house recruiter which is as skilled as you will find externally, then you absolutely should opt for an in-house solution. If what you quintessentially need is the transactional element of recruitment – someone to source candidates directly and eradicate the cost of agency hiring - then great. It is a no-brainer.  

But what do you do if you need to do more than just place bums on seats? 

Unlike more traditional recruitment avenues, Recruitment Process Outsourcing has evolved to encompass both recruitment and HR based solutions. Of course, you will still have recruiters dedicated to your business - that is the transactional element of RPO which is absolute, but you should also benefit from other central business functions alongside reduced costs. An RPO provider will have experience working within a wide range of recruitment environments and will be able to identify which solutions would be most appropriate based on both your current requirements and future business objectives. They have the ability to be flexible in their approach – scaling their services from project recruitment to cover seasonal hiring spikes to full on-site, integrated RPO. They can also provide you with guidance on strategic workforce planning, carry out employer branding, deliver training and development of hiring managers to appoint effectively, develop long-term talent pools, design and implement careers portals, advise on what you should come to an expect of ATS (Applicant Tracking System) and many other aspects that together can make your recruitment environment notably more effective.

So can one in-house recruiter, or even a team of recruiters, achieve all of this?

On paper, yes. An in-house team could have the potential capability to deliver all of the above if the right people are found and appointed. But you need to ask yourself what you are expecting of an in-house recruiter. There are very few barriers to entry into recruitment as a whole and ours is a much-maligned industry - sometimes for good reason. Twitter feeds such as @internalbanter showcase the kinds of attitudes and behaviours which can be attributed to recruiters within an agency environment – not all, I hasten to add, but certainly within most. Working in-house is very different and can be somewhat of a shock to agency recruiters. There are no bells, no sales targets to hit, no machismo; the absence of targets can mean that they simply aren’t as incentivised, and in-house recruitment is typically seen as a soft option by external agents for recruiters that just aren’t particularly good. Alternatively, in-house recruiters can progress through the HR channel, in which case they are accustomed to working directly with hiring managers but have quite narrow experience of recruitment environments, so may not be particularly well-placed to make changes.

If you want your in-house recruiter to do more than just shuffle CVs, you need to be very clear on what their experience is and how much support you are able to give them in exchange for their contributions in helping you to achieve your hiring goals.

This is one of the major benefits of an RPO solution versus in-house.

Talented recruiters are intelligent, driven and usually well-educated. Recruitment in itself is not an exciting or intellectually demanding job. This means that to keep skilled recruiters interested and engaged in their job, they need the prospect of career development, which is really difficult to offer in an in-house function where HR is one of the only routes to a broader role, and even then it is a rare transition to make. Within a good RPO environment, skilled recruiters have the option of taking on a number of different roles, from strategic account management to specialising in Executive Search, from operations and process design to winning new accounts. These are all intellectually stimulating, stretching positions that provide great transferable skills. Yes, your onsite recruiter will change every so often, but this is a manageable change with a well-defined handover rather than the result of a resignation.

Above all else, however, you need to examine your organisation’s unique recruitment environment; focus on what your business hopes to achieve in the present and in the future. In-house recruitment is rarely strategic. It’s usually very much a reactive approach to hiring where teams respond when and if a vacancy arises. Thus, you have to consider your overheads and whether having a permanent in-house recruiter or team of recruiters is justified. Unless your business is growing consistently or suffers from high attrition, the need to hire will tend to wind down after the initial flurry has been addressed. What then for your in-house team?

There is then the issue of internal communications. In-house relations between recruiters and HR aren’t known to be particularly harmonious. Both departments have different end goals and when left unmanaged, their agendas can clash. An RPO does not have a stake internally; it is in their best interest to deliver on their promises and create a recruitment environment that will thrive and more importantly, will be sustainable in their eventual absence. They will look to collaborate the efforts of marketing, HR and recruitment departments to ensure the branding of the business is protected and actively harnessed to attract candidates, as well as incorporating the procedures already established by HR to streamline the process. 

Having your recruiters based in-house certainly has its benefits; they will be culturally integrated and you will be able to manage your recruitment campaigns directly unlike with an agency. However, you can still maintain these benefits with a well-organised, strategic partner, and have the additional support and perspective on how your hiring decisions will impact your business.


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