The Definitive Guide to RPO – Getting the most from your RPO agreement


Your journey began with a vision; you secured the buy-in, reviewed the market, and now you’ve reached agreement with your preferred partner, it’s time to turn the vision into a reality and deliver results.

Whether your goal was to outsource something specific, like an early careers' intake, a geographic expansion, or outsource recruitment completely, the foundations are now laid and it’s time to get building. It’s time to shift your focus to delivering the outcomes you set out to achieve.

At Instant Impact, we use a three-stage methodology that can be applied both initially and throughout any RPO or recruitment project - Build, Run, Continue Improving. If you use a framework like this then it will allow you to get the most out of your partnership.


The first ‘build’ is the implementation of the service, however in true continuous improvement fashion, you will never stop building new processes, ways of working or adding improvements. No matter what, the following rules apply:

1. Create positive First Impressions. They say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and while you have already met the suppliers, identified drivers, and required outcomes during the procurement process, most of the business will have no idea what an RPO is and why you have decided to make this change. You not only need to get the technical build right, but you must nail the change communications. Failing to get both sides of implementation right will lead to numerous issues down the line.

2. Map out your Technical Build. This is not (just) about technology, this is about everything technical (process mapping, handovers, documentation, assessment tools etc) needed to deliver the RPO. The complexity of this stage depends on the model deployed. If it’s a multi-country RPO with tech deployment, then you’ll have to invest significant time and effort to ensure a great delivery. If you are deploying a project piece of work or a category intervention (for example outsourcing all your tech hiring), then it can be much simpler. A high-level list to use is:

    • Technology – what do you need to deploy, what will each team need access to and how complex are any infosec requirements, for example:
      • Deploy - a new applicant tracking system (ATS) or a new assessment technology.
      • Access – Set up company emails or access to Intranet or SharePoint.
      • Infosec – How integrated to your systems will each be, do you need additional due diligence, or will the suppliers’ team need to complete any training?
    • Process – Do you already have a recruitment process in place, is it mapped out? What are the specific handoffs between the RPO and internal teams, for example onboarding. Who is managing the careers page or Glassdoor? Getting the initial processes right during implementation is key, it may change later, which is fine, but you need something concrete to feed into your communication plan.
    • Timeline – You need to agree your timeline in this early stage, including what needs to be done before you ‘Go-Live’ and what can be done on the move. It’s critical that both parties understand what Go-Live looks like and agree. We would often define this as Instant Impact taking full responsibility for the end-to-end hiring process.
    • Early metrics – Key to demonstrating the success of any programme is having the data to prove that it’s working. During the procurement phase, you agreed what success looks like, but you need to agree the data you will capture and how (ensuring you are set up to do so) to prove success. Our advice is to reduce this to three key metrics that validate early-stage success, with several additional ‘would be nice’ elements which can be built later but won't halt progress.

3. Think of this as a Change programme. This is a significant change and therefore needs to be delivered like a change project. What you are about to do is exciting and will positively impact the business and the people in it, however for it to work you need to bring everyone on the journey with you. You need to consider how you will communicate the information, make it accessible and relevant to everyone. You will have colleagues that will be naturally more interested, and you will have people that recruit once a year and while curious, may not really want to get involved (until they need the service). A couple of good change management strategies are:

  • Prosci’s ADKAR. The ADKAR Model addresses change by equipping leaders with the right strategies and tools, and individuals with the right information, motivation and ability to successfully move through changes in the organisation. It’s broken down into Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement.
  • Lewin’s Change Management Model. This model is based on the fact that change for any individual or organisation is a complicated journey which is often complex and involves several stages of transitions or misunderstandings before attaining the stage of equilibrium or stability. This model is broken into 3 stages – Unfreeze, Change and Refreeze. Essentially getting people on board with why we are changing, then implementing the change and finally helping people on the journey while reinforcing positives and celebrating success.
  • The McKinsey 7-S model. A change framework based on a company's organisational design. It aims to depict how change leaders can effectively manage organisational change by strategizing around the interactions of seven key elements: structure, strategy, system, shared values, skill, style, and staff. It’s normally reserved for bigger pieces of change than implementing an RPO, but you can take the principles and apply them.

The ADKAR model is our preferred as the simplicity blends itself well to bring your people on a journey.


Once you have implemented the programme (or change) and managed the communication it’s time to deliver the service and start to realise your objectives. With any RPO, it’s about making hires in the first instance. It’s how people see value when the hires start to land and managers feel not only listened to, but that they are getting a better service and filling the gaps in their teams. We like to think of the initial ‘Run’ being split into three parts. 1 - making hires, 2 - filling in the gaps, 3 - working out what’s missing.

When you make any change to your programme, be that minor or major such as adding new geographies or business units, changing assessment methods, or tweaking the process or ways of working, you will need to go through the three steps, and get to a run phase.

1.Make hires – The most important point of any change is that you keep making hires more effectively. It may sound simple, but it can often get lost in the detail of getting the process right or implementing new tech. There are several metrics that can be used to measure performance, such as time to fill, quality of hire or diversity metrics, but the most principal action is to keep making hires. Delays will cost you advocates, a good example of where you could show immediate value is with requisition kick off meetings.

    • A requisition kick off is run longer term by the RPO, but initially you, as the key business stakeholder could put some time aside to get involved in this process. This can be critical as with some managers resistant to change, a joint approach to these initial roles shows additional value and generates early momentum. Getting this first impression right is vital for the programme and selecting the right mangers who support behavioural change, and simply making things happen makes all the difference. A joint effort equals success, which when you have, make sure you shout about it. You can read more about running a successful requisition meeting here.

2.Filling the gaps - No matter how well you have prepared, it’s highly likely that as you move through the process with live candidates you will find gaps in both process and knowledge. Having both parties work in tandem during this phase will ensure you can roll over any speed bumps quickly and deliver point 1 (make hires!). Keeping an up-to-date risk tracker will allow you to see and mitigate risks. Remember, filling the gaps is about working through immediate problems, not trying to start new long-term projects. If you have chosen the right partner, you’ll be able to fill the gaps without impacting the service.

3.Work out what’s missing - While you are making hires and filling the gaps, you will begin to identify longer term projects to deliver, this is the benefit of keeping a centralised risk log as mentioned above. As a team you and your partner can then prioritise these into operational improvements – for example open access to hiring managers diaries or pre confirmed interview slots, improving job descriptions to drive more diverse applications (think skills over experience); or into longer term strategic improvements, data being the number one priority that most people what to improve, but it could be additional things like long term hiring manager training (we’re all in recruitment!) or meaningful EDI changes to the entire process (reflect on how inclusive it is). Either way you have the beginning of a list to start improving.

Continue Improving

Many factors will influence the evolution of your RPO agreement, and undoubtedly, metrics and targets may shift depending on business priorities and market conditions. While you and your talent team may be capturing improvements, it’s vital to create a feedback loop that allows for external input. Change is the only constant, and your programme needs to adapt to the speed of change around it. You will undoubtedly end up in the build, run, continue improving cycle continuously, if not you will likely start losing the competitive advantage you’ve built. Here are some tips on ensuring you deliver a great improvement experience and outcome:

1.Communication is key - You need to maintain an open feedback loop with the business, ensuring all stakeholders, not just the loudest or biggest users have their voice heard. Doing this allows for adjustments and improvements based on received feedback. We’d normally advise doing this over three ways:

  • Hiring manager surveys – after each role, the RPO should survey the hiring manager on how the process went and solicit any feedback. This needs to be short and frictionless to ensure a high level of response.
  • Involve Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) – These are a vital source of information, not only to understand how people experience coming into the business, but also if there are any nuances that make your process internally exclusive rather than inclusive.
  • Book in 1-1 sessions – at the end of each quarter (or at set intervals), work with your RPO to randomly select a portion of hiring managers and ask them questions about the process and their experience. By asking the same questions you can generate meaningful data, for example perhaps the service that the C-Suite or Directors are getting is different to lower-level managers, or expectations are not being set correctly.

As you go through this process, it is important to remain neutral, feedback is there to improve the process and not single out individuals. Doing this in partnership with your provider ensures you understand the feedback and challenges and can then internally support any change required.

2. Candidates & New Hires - A goldmine of information is gathered from the candidates who go through your recruitment process, both those that become employees and those that don’t. Capturing feedback from this cohort allows you to understand both how it feels to be hired (or be unsuccessful) and what those early impressions are. We recommend:

  • Capture candidate Net Promoter Score (NPS) – Any company that provides a service (yes, including hiring), should look to understand what the top line impression is on their customer, the candidate in this case. Ideally you want to capture information from any candidate that has meaningfully touched the process, we’d suggest aiming for anyone interviewed. Doing this will give you a great high-level overview on candidate experience.
  • ERGs – Again ERGs are a great source of information, especially if you are looking to improved EDI across your business. By understanding how the process was and felt, then how that compared to onboarding and day 1+ you can capture very specific improvement areas.
  • Become a candidate – A great way to understand your recruitment process is to become a candidate yourself. Then you can understand how easy it is to apply, how easy it is to research your business and find the information you would want to know before you joined. An example of this could be what does Glassdoor say about you as a company vs what you say about yourself in your EVP. Many business leaders have no idea how hard it can be to apply to work for them. Even with an RPO in place you can create blind spots through changing a process or a technology that has unintended consequences.

3. Break the process down. Often when looking at improvement projects businesses start with too broad a lens on what they want to improve, for example, make our process more inclusive. Taking this broad a view leads to companies thinking of what they perceive as quick wins, rather than detailed projects that will make a meaningful difference. To help you break down your process consider these 6 key areas:

  • Before anything – This is looking at the phase from two angles, the first, internally – how am I capturing demand, what information do I have on the market. The second, externally – what information is currently being pushed in the public domain – news, articles, partnerships etc.
  • Once a role is live – Externally, how easy will it be to ‘find your role’, what messaging are you sending out and to who. With most job sites the top recruiters get a 90% response rate, the bottom percentile gets 15%, that’s six times the approaches to get the same result. Internally - how easy is it for a manager to start the process and get all the information they need.
  • Post application / interest – What happens in the time between a candidate being approached or applying, being screened, and being set up for the first interview?
  • Selection – Take the process from the first interview until you offer the role. This is an area where a lot of things can go wrong, and a lot of people need to be kept up to date.
  • Pre Day-One –once you’ve offered the role (and it’s accepted) what happens in the time between that and the candidate starting. Is this different for different roles?
  • The first 90 days – Less to do with the RPO, more to do with internal process, but to run a successful (and efficient) process, you need the candidate to stay and the manager to be happy. So, look at what happens here to candidates and how it varies from role to role.

The above is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully it gives the outline of a comprehensive plan to deliver a successful continuous improvement plan, prioritising projects and delivering both quick wins and longer-term success. This process can also be used at the very start of your journey with your RPO provider, so you know exactly the problems you are solving.

Getting the most from your RPO partnership


You started this process to achieve a set of objectives, it’s important to keep them in mind to avoid any change in what good looks like. You should ensure that you take the time to celebrate success on a regular basis, both against the original objectives and the new ones you have set along the way. In choosing the right partner and committing to it, you will give the business a competitive advantage. We all know it’s the people that make a difference and you’ll be doing all you can to set your team up for success. While it’s easy to get the most from your RPO initially (providing you build well), real long-term success comes from partnership and shared goals.

This concludes our Definitive Guide to RPO blog series; if you missed the earlier chapters, jump back to the beginning, where we looked at [What is RPO?]. To learn more about RPO services, visit this page to find out more or contact one of our expert team.