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Candidate Focus: RPO Vendors Can Up Their Game

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NelsonHall recently published its Next Generation RPO market analysis and NEAT vendor assessment, as part of which we interviewed the clients of 20 RPO vendors across North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific to ascertain their expectations and satisfaction levels across a range of >40 recruitment service criteria.

Here I look at how working with candidates has emerged as the top area for improvement. Below is a small selection of potential benefits sought by RPO clients, each one related to the candidate process, showing current client satisfaction levels compared to future importance.

Candidate communication is considered to be of highest future importance, but current satisfaction levels lag some way behind, indicating that vendors have work to do in enhancing the ways in which they engage with candidates.

Similarly, targeting of passive candidates is considered to be highly important in future, but current satisfaction levels fall short by the same amount. Clients are expecting vendors not just to engage with active candidates, but to leverage a much wider talent pool that includes passive candidates. This was also reflected in the importance and satisfaction levels recorded for vendors’ ‘capability to deliver across diverse candidate populations’.

All of this tallies with the top client driver for RPO identified in NelsonHall’s market analysis report, which is ‘leveraging vendor expertise to better attract candidates’.

When asked about their expectations related to the candidate process, comments from clients included:

“… scheduling interviews, liaising with the candidates and hiring managers, booking local facilities, and making sure that everything is available that needs to be available – video conferencing, psychometric testing, etc. Also, sitting in at the interview, as a representative of the company.”

“I definitely think there is room for improvement… most of the time they reach out to active candidates only.”

“We have more work to do with hiring managers in working with external candidates… with the candidate experience, sometimes we lose control over the hiring managers when they come into the equation.”

Another related area that showed a large gap between satisfaction and importance was use of social media. Client comments on vendor performance in this area included:

“This is an area where we have struggled, there has been a gap in terms of their presence on social media and this is something they have started to look towards now, understanding the importance of a cohesive approach.”

“We have a model that does not provide for active pipelining. So, the only way they can engage candidates today is by email campaigns, which aren’t as effective as if they were keeping talent pipelines warm and talking to folks (via social media) to keep them interested in us.”

The big picture is that RPO providers are meeting client expectations in a number of areas, including reduced time to hire and cost reduction. These were the primary areas of vendor focus when RPO began, and that focus has clearly paid off. However, vendors need to turn their attention to areas related to candidate handling, where there is a clear opportunity to raise their game.


NelsonHall’s NEAT comparative vendor assessments look in detail at vendors’ ‘ability to deliver immediate benefit’ to their clients, and their ‘ability to meet future client requirements, and assist strategic sourcing managers in assessing vendor capability while cutting the time and cost associated with their sourcing projects.

The RPO NEAT shows how RPO vendors are positioned overall in terms of their ability to deliver recruitment services, as well as within three distinct market segments: these are Global/Multi-country Focus, Candidate Experience Focus and Innovation Focus. The NEAT online tool also enables buy-side organizations to input their own weightings and tailor the RPO dataset to their specific requirements across over 40 individual vendor evaluation criteria. In this way, sourcing managers can configure the NEAT evaluations in accordance with their own priorities and business requirements for service offerings, delivery capability, customer presence, benefits achieved, and other criteria. To find out more, Contact Guy Saunders.

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