How to Recover from a Bad RPO Relationship

76806713If you’ve experienced a negative relationship with a RPO provider, chances are you’re wary about jumping into a new one. But just because you had a bad experience, doesn’t mean you’re doomed to repeat it. Great RPO firms understand that when you come to them after a bad break-up, you’re going to have issues that you’re concerned about. There is a way to recover and build a new relationship that effectively meets your company’s hiring needs. How do you do this?

The first step begins before you search for a new RPO partner. Take the time to determine what went wrong and whose responsibility it was. Was it lack of follow up or follow through by the RPO firm? Zero urgency in filling your requisitions? Did they push off too much work on your hiring managers? Send over underqualified candidates? Not screen people well enough? Or were your hiring managers unresponsive or sluggish in providing feedback? Were you asking for too much experience in a candidate for the amount of pay offered? Did you fail to communicate openly and the RPO firm did not know what your true expectations were? Pinpoint the trouble and take a good, hard look at where one or both parties were responsible.

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Once you are armed with an understanding of what the issues were, objectively consider what your strengths and weaknesses are as a recruitment function and seek out an RPO partner who is strong where you are weak. This will ensure that you’re not doubling up on efforts where you don’t need them, and create the best partnership where everyone maximizes their strengths. As you evaluate RPO firms, pay attention to what they claim as their strengths and seek out references who can attest to the veracity of those claims. You also want to ask a lot of questions and pay attention to the overall level of energy and enthusiasm the RPO firm has for their work.

Questions to ask:

  • What processes are used that ensure quality and speed, without compromising either?
  • How well does the RPO firm know my industry?
  • How often do they communicate and report?
  • What do they value and how do they retain their own employees?
  • What do they expect from hiring managers and when?
  • When there is an issue, how is it handled?

Next, communicate clearly with the RPO firm about what you want and don’t want to experience. If they are a top firm, they should ask you for your history and about any past struggles you have had. Be honest and let them know how you got burned and why. This will help them to refine their approach to address those issues and reinforce processes to ensure that you do not experience them again. Reporting and metrics are key to help everyone know where you’re starting from, how progress is being made, as well as to identify potential issues early on so they do not snowball.

When you have clear insight on how the new RPO operates, consider whether or not your hiring managers may need to be brought up to speed on how to interact with them. If they were used to a slow pace or lack of responsiveness and the new RPO is fast-paced and expects prompt feedback, your hiring managers will need to adapt their behavior to make the relationship work. You also want to establish expectations for open, regular communication and performance reviews. Great RPO firms will not only help you hire effectively, they will help you improve your processes overall. Ask them how they plan to do this.

Finally, once you have been working with the new RPO for a while, periodically seek feedback from your hiring managers, your human resources professionals who interact with the firm, and candidates about what their experience with the RPO firm is like. Share the results with the RPO firm and discuss any areas of concern. It’s important to remember that RPO partners can’t read your mind. You need to proactively address issues, clearly set expectations, hold them accountable, and find ways that help you most effectively meet your mutual goal: to continually hire outstanding talent so you have the best people on board to keep you competitive.

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Amy Caswell
Amy Caswell is a strategic director for Seven Step RPO and has more than nine years experience in staffing and RPO delivery.

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