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  • Writer's pictureClaus-Peter Sommer

RPO Delivery Models

When you hear, RPO, what do you see?

Recruitment Process Outsourcing Circle

That was the question we asked a number of CEOs, HR Directors, Hiring managers, and recruiters, as well as Business Partners at client and non-client companies. Guess what? The answers were as diverse as the people we interviewed. So, here at Serendi, we have decided to draft the ultimate RPO guide for you to use as a reference and, more importantly, a useful tool that gives a wide perspective on what is possible in the RPO world.

During our interviews, what struck us is that the concept of outsourcing recruitment was not so much what set the answers apart, it was much more the how, i.e., what kind of delivery models exist, and to what extent how they can be customized.

But before we delve into the subject, a quick reminder of what RPO stands for[1]:

Recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) is a form of business process outsourcing where a company engages a third-party provider to manage all or part of its recruitment process.

The RPO provider is responsible for filling the open positions at its client organization within a given qualitative and time frame. Most providers’ offering includes offsite service centers, often in different countries and regions, with local language and cultural knowledge, onsite recruitment specialists well versed in talent analytics, recruitment technologies, and innovative sourcing, to win the right talent at the right time.

And a final distinction: in the early days of RPO services, traditional search & selection recruitment firms were the main providers. With the increased sophistication of the RPO market, so-called pure players have now conquered the vast majority of the RPO business. These companies, that are not attached to a traditional recruitment firm but have RPO in their DNA, bring one major advantage: avoiding the inherent conflict of interest that used to exist.

Basic RPO Models

RPO Delivery Models

Now that we have an overarching definition of what RPO stands for, let’s look at some concrete models of application of the outsourcing of the recruitment process. Three basic models exist:

Model 1: End-to-end RPO

End-to-end RPO is literally the full package, the A-to-Z outsourcing of all possible recruitment steps, including:


  • Advising on job descriptions

  • Position approval

  • Preparing and planning

  • Managing the hiring manager and candidate experience

Sourcing candidates

  • Executing recruitment marketing activities (candidate attraction)

  • Reviewing resumes

  • Candidate screening

  • Interview scheduling

  • Interviewing for open positions

  • Candidate assessments


  • Negotiating salary and benefits

  • Extending job offers

  • Hiring, including managing contracts


  • Onboarding

  • Conducting reporting and data analytics

  • Compliance monitoring

This model spans the whole recruitment life-cycle (from position approval to its marketing; candidate selection, assessment, and interviewing; offer management and total or partial onboarding). Consequently, the RPO consultants master the tactical day-to-day recruitment challenges, starting with managing and administrating workforce planning and requisitions, and including direct contact with the hiring managers.

In this model, the embedding into the client’s HR team is such that the RPO consultants share office space with their client “colleagues”, and are fully integrated and assimilated into the client’s HR function. As such, they are part of the client company, have company email addresses, and most of the non-HR employees do not even know they are outsourced. For all intents and purposes, the recruitment team just happens to be on the payroll of an external partner. This means that a large part of the success of this model is dependent on the healthy integration of the third-party consultants.

Evidently, for such a set-up to be viable from a financial and organizational perspective, the contract between the RPO provider should span over a few years.

One of the most significant, and often overseen advantage of this model is that the client company benefits from the talent pool, intelligence, sourcing, and candidate marketing capabilities of the RPO provider. The provider has, as in the case of Serendi, multiple offices, geographically diverse, which enables it to be close to candidate pools. As an example, IT specialists are hard to source in Western Europe but plentiful in Central end Eastern European countries. But if you are located in London, how do you go about approaching them in Belgrade, Sofia, or Prague? That’s where the regional offices and market knowledge of your RPO provider come into play: they are at home almost everywhere! They can rely on offshore sourcing specialists who are constantly scanning the market to attract and engage the right candidates for open positions. The client also benefits from digital talent sourcing, talent communities, hiring metrics, and recruitment under its brand name, including best practices and regular reporting. And the cost of this set-up is shared by the other clients of the RPO provider.

Model 2: Shortlisting

As the name alludes to, the shortlisting model covers the first part of the recruitment process, the talent attraction part. It is mainly used by organizations with an HRBP[2] structure (including the talent acquisition responsibility for the HRBPs), or used by smaller organizations and fast-growing start-ups with an HR generalist function.

The external talent acquisition partner - the RPO provider - takes care of the external positions for which it sources, screens, and qualifies candidates with a pre-assessment, generally a telephone or video interview. It then delivers a shortlist of the most suitable candidates.

The next step is the client’s: the internal team uses the qualified shortlist to go straight into the selection process with its hiring managers.

As an alternative or add-on, the RPO partner can support recruitment administration such as, but not limited to, the coordination of interviews, communication with candidates, etc.

Model 3: Project Recruitment

With the emphasis on a project, this model is characterized by a beginning, a middle, and, first and foremost, an end, as with any project. Therefore, project recruitment is ideally suited in situations such as: hiring for a new production site, launching a new business unit, spinning off a business activity, or relocating an existing business. Project recruitment also comes to play in certain ramp-up situations. Project recruitment is particularly ideal when your business keeps on changing, which today is a given, and you need the same flexibility in your talent acquisition department. Project recruitment allows for this additional support just when and where a business needs it.

Using a restaurant analogy, you may either order a set menu, with or without a few changes, or eat à la carte altogether and build your meal according to your taste and envy. Pursuing the analogy even further, you can also order wine pairing, i.e., associating the right wine to whatever you have ordered, which, translated into RPO language, means adding the right service when and where you need or want it.

In this case, the external partner gets involved when the project starts – or shortly before – and leaves at the end of the project. The intensity of the collaboration is dependent on the existing structure at the client’s: in other words, one can imagine an end-to-end RPO activity, limited in time, or only a partial takeover of specific recruitment activities, depending on the situation and the client’s needs, capabilities, market knowledge, etc.

You may need to deliver on a very niche requirement. For example, you may be struggling to fill a big number of key roles, but the requirements are so unique that the job requisitions remain open longer than it should. Project RPO could help find the required talent, and ensure that the entire process runs effectively for everyone concerned.

In a way, project RPO lets you test-drive a full-scale RPO solution. It gives you a sense of what it’s like to design, implement, and deliver RPO.

Hybrid RPO Models

In addition to the three basic models, hybrid models are current too. Here you can mix-and-match a bit of everything.

Below are a few examples of what these additional services may look like, keeping in mind that full customization is possible.

Temporary Recruitment Projects

You need to ramp up a business project, staff a new green-field production site, or run a dedicated recruitment campaign? The RPO provider offers a range of support modules to add capacity to your recruitment teams on a temporary basis.

Partial Recruitment Support

You want to keep the larger piece of your recruitment process in-house but need support during specific recruitment steps? The RPO provider supports your organization during certain stages of the talent acquisition process, such as application management, interview scheduling, and background checks.

Shortlisting Solution

Wish to keep recruitment in-house while continuously receiving the best-qualified candidates for your open positions? RPO service providers offer talent sourcing services to identify the best talent for your external positions, while you stay in control of the selection part. This service includes active candidate screening, approaching passive professionals, and building talent communities as we go.

Advantages of collaborating with Serendi

By putting the candidate attraction and handling into our hands, your in-house HR and line managers can focus on the selection and assessment part. They know that sourcing, recruitment marketing, and talent targeting are in the reliable hands of Serendi's sourcing experts.


The right RPO solution can transform your recruiting operations, optimizing efficiency, cost, quality and hiring speed, and drive a positive hiring manager and candidate experience that sets you apart as an employer. The agility and flexibility an RPO solution brings to your (HR) organization is second to none. Serendi’s full life-cycle recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) model was designed to allow HR professionals to engage our expert recruiting team to execute the complete hiring process — from the second a job requisition is approved to sending over the offer letter and onboarding your ideal candidate.

When does RPO apply?

  • A continuous hiring need

  • Want to hire the best available talent (and not just fill a position)

  • Expect high quality in the recruitment process

  • Need to control costs

  • The centralized candidates sourcing allows a powerful use of technology and knowledge to provide more and better candidates

  • The embedded recruiters guarantee the link into the client’s business, culture, and environment

  • The offsite administration brings cost advantages and higher service quality.


You haven't found the RPO model that fits your needs?

No problem! We are tailoring our solutions based on the client's needs.

Serendi is the integrated service partner for talent acquisition (RPO) in EMEA. We support companies and organizations with mid-size hiring volumes (100 – 1.000 per annum) with our highly customizable solutions, allowing them to play in the global competition for talent on the same level playing field as big corporates.

Our plug & play talent sourcing platform is at the top of digital and technological innovation enabling the identification and attraction of the best talent available and thus supports sustainable hires through customized onsite recruitment services at a reasonable cost, backed by high-performance KPIs.


[2] Human Resources Business Partners


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