Chances are if you’re reading this, you’ve been hired or done the hiring at some point over the last decade. So, you’ve probably noticed that the field of Human Resources is constantly changing and developing. For example, what was once simply staffing or recruiting is now called Talent Acquisition Services —a suite of services and processes intended to attract, source and hire new talent into an organization. There’s also been a major shift in employee benefits—ones that were nice to have are now expected. Factors that were once an afterthought—confidentiality agreements, diversity and inclusion programs, professional development—are now front and center of most HR teams. Because of all these changes, another shift has been the outsourcing of many HR functions that were once exclusively done in-house.
While some companies wholly outsource HR to a single outside firm, it’s a more common practice to divvy up functions to a range of outside providers. This approach is a common occurrence in fast-paced industries like biotech and high-tech, but the trouble is using multiple vendors negates volume discounting and leads to a lack of synergy.
Utilizing a Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) Model is an ideal way of consolidating vendors for cost reduction. However, for many hiring managers and staffers, the thought of outsourcing the recruiting function can feel intimidating. This is understandable. There are many benefits, but there are also some risks both financially and legally.
However, the real risk is not mobilizing quick enough with the requisite support to bring in top talent.
RPO is often a better means for companies to effectively and quickly scale their recruiting needs based on demand and complexity. It allows companies to focus on their core business operations and provides service through a defined set of processes and activities as outlined by the client company.
RPO providers usually include back-end resources that regular full-time or contact recruiters can’t offer. In addition, RPO providers can more easily bolt-on services such as additional recruiting support, job marketing support, sourcing, scheduling, etc. An added benefit is that these services are oft included at a nominal price or as part of their service provision, resulting in a lower cost-per-hire and the ability to scale quicker.
The types of RPO include:
- Enterprise RPO: a company-wide outsourcing of most or all of the sourcing and recruiting processes to an RPO provide
- Project Based RPO: relegated to a smaller, contained effort, generally a specific scope of time and/or number of positions.
- Specific Service RPO: outsourcing of specific parts of the recruiting process to increase for example, the quality of candidates, the efficiency of the process and/or other parts of the process.
Advantages of RPO:
- Strategic Approach: RPOs utilize a team-based approach and an economy of scale to offer process improvements and better execute specialized tasks such as sourcing and on-boarding.
- Industry Expertise: Knowing where talent is found, how it is evolving, and common industry challenges is critical to the success of recruiting efforts. RPO providers have the experience, bandwidth, and resources to provide and utilize industry insight to build effective recruiting strategies.
- Attract More Talent: RPOs recognize that attracting great candidates is about effectively communicating an organizations goals, mission, values and the positive things that make it a great place to work.
- Multiple Applicant Channels: A Contract Recruiter is only one channel – themselves, whereas an RPO can manage and measure different channels, such as job boards, job events, referral, or the corporate website.
- Loyalty: An RPO provider is loyal to its client and is positioned to aid the success of the entire recruiting strategy. The contacts made during the recruitment process are assets of the company, not the recruiter, like with a contractor. They genuinely want to make sure a potential employee has the best hiring and onboarding experience.
- Scalable: RPOs can scale to increased demands for talent, and they can do it quickly. Most RPO providers offer tiered services with a ‘pay for what you need’ model as well as the flexibility for onsite, remote, or blended approach.
With the benefits and flexibility provided by RPO, it’s easy to see why the market is growing quickly. Market Watch predicts RPO growth of over 20% by 2022.
What to think about when considering an RPO:
- Cost: Cost per Hire ($) = [Total External Costs] + [Total Internal Costs] / Total Number of Hires. Costs of hiring factors in advertising job postings, conducting background screenings, and investing in recruiting and applicant tracking software. In partnering with an RPO vendor, all these expenses are rolled into one cost that’s often lower than what you pay if you paid for these services individually.
- Time: Is your team is working well beyond a 40-hour work week and yet, just never seems to have enough time to get everything done?
- Process Quality: Are you cutting corners in your hiring process? This can be due to limitations in time and resources, but it can also be due to an approach that lacks consistency, focus and follow through.
- Candidate Quality: Are you organically attracting the best talent for your organization? Are you using a full array of tools and measures to source, attract and vet manage candidate flow and advance your employer brand?
- Vertical Expertise: Does your recruiter really know the industry? RPOs that know the competitive landscape, job types, compensation ranges will provide a better foundation for service and provide more sophistication.
What to ask an RPO:
- What differentiates your firm from others?
- What is the scope of your services? What resources do you offer?
- Can you provide specific cost itemization so we can compare your approach versus others?
- What measures will you take to ensure that we meet our goals and timelines in hiring?
- Do you have any noncompete or non-solicitation specifics?
- Are you working with direct competitors or companies that pose conflict, i.e. strategic partners and embargoed companies?
- How scalable is your service if we need to ramp up? What level of flexibility do you offer if things don’t work out or if business conditions change?
- Can you provide client references and insight on previous projects with other clients?
- How will partnering with your firm strengthen our talent brand in the long run?
RPO Pricing Models:
- Management fee (monthly, weekly or hourly): Fee for agreed-upon number of positions.
- Cost per hire: Fee charged per each hire.
- Management plus cost per hire: Combination of the above two.
- Cost per slate: Fee for a set number of sourced, screened and qualified candidates for each open position.
- Cost per transaction: A fee is charged for a specific process, such as initial screening or reference checks.
By partnering with the an RPO provider, organizations can offboard the entire application process from sourcing, brand promotion, the management of applicant channels, ancillary paperwork and pre-employment screening or simply one part of that process. The options aren’t binary, and an existing talent acquisition team can pair nicely with an RPO partnership. As with any strategic partnership, there needs to be specific goal outlined.
A good RPO partner can leverage focus and economy of scale in its operation. A great RPO partner can leverage expertise in search selection, technology and process efficiencies to truly elevate hiring operations and overall success.
In January of 2018, I was prospecting potential recruiting clients in Minnesota and I saw one company already in our system that looked interesting. I revisited previous messages between my company and the client, and I noticed the hiring manager was not only very defensive but also had declined recruiting assistance in the summer of 2017. Plenty of time had passed since then, so I figured that it could not hurt to check in and see how things were going with the client. Months later, I had successfully filled all four of the openings on the hiring manager’s team.
It is easy to give up all hope when the word “no” resonates as a sense of failure. Admittedly, I have been there before and left potential business on the table because I walked away. This was an insidious mindset that I had developed early on in my career. It wasn’t until January 2018, that I realized “no” is temporary when it comes to recruiting new clients. Just because someone tells you a working relationship cannot be developed does not mean that it will not. As my current manager often says to me, “a no is a yes waiting to happen” in the context of contingent business development. Over time, I have learned how to navigate a “no” in a way that still proves my value as a recruiter.
Objection: “We are all set for right now and don’t need any recruiting services.”
Overcome By: Monitoring company activity and checking back in one to two months later.
This is the most common form of “no” in the hiring process. Just because a hiring manager mentions they are all set, it does not mean the hiring process is complete. Give the hiring manager some time, but circle back soon to see how things went with their hiring. Even if they completed the search, you’ve now initiated a professional dialogue between another professional in the field by actively building a relationship. Checking in goes a long way because the next open role could very well be at the front of their mind and here you are, readily available to lend a hand. To maintain that relationship, I strongly advise making consistent small gestures such as wishing happy a holiday or congratulating company successes. It may seem unusual at first, but I can promise you that the small effect may ripple into larger ones in the future. If you care for your prospect, then you will receive care as well.
Objection: “We already work with another firm/agency/recruiter.”
Overcome By: Proving your value
It is a rarely straightforward process to become an approved vendor with a prospective client when you factor in agreement negotiation and the process of signing documents. In a similar vein, it is easy to feel like the cards are stacked against you as a prospecting business. But, don’t give up!
For recruiters that focus in specialized niches, this is your time to shine. Allow time for the hiring process to continue, and if the position remains unfilled, go to your best prospect who is available and looking, and showcase highlights from the candidate’s resume to the hiring manager. Loyalty can be a double-edged sword in business. For hiring managers, it is a great feeling to know that you can rely on someone to get the job done. However, some roles are not linear, and even the strongest recruiters can overlook an unturned stone. This is a frequent dilemma. So, hiring managers who are not finding success must turn to alternative solutions – you.
Not only are you coming to the rescue, but you are also proving your value by walking the walk. Hesitant hiring managers are only hesitant because all-day solicitation from multiple recruiters can seed doubt into any other new recruiter approaching them. If that is the case, then do not tell them what you can do. DO WHAT YOU CAN DO. Be respectful and thoughtful, and do not send over unwarranted candidates. Maintain professionalism by explaining you are associated with active candidates who possess the hard-to-find skills that they’re so vehemently pursuing. Take small iotas from a resume only with a candidate’s consent and highlight why you think that candidate’s background can solve the hiring manager’s dilemma. If you can persist through the objection, not only will you be rewarded for filling the difficult role, but you will also be considered for future opportunities with the same company. So, do you still wish that you just walked away….?
Objection: “We’d rather not pay a fee for this role.”
Overcome By: Explaining your practice.
Most recruiters will hear this objection and think that it is the end of the road. Although it can seem like a roadblock, many hiring managers are simply not familiar with agency recruiting structure and its benefits. For a contingent recruiter, this is the perfect opportunity to explain your plan on filling a role through various sourcing methods. Once the hiring manager understands, you can then describe how contingent recruiting works. Personally, I clarify to hiring managers that they can review as many resumes and hold as many interviews as they want at absolutely no cost. For hiring managers who have only worked with retained searches, this exposure to another creative options serves as a huge benefit. By offering more flexibility with a payable or a guarantee can turn the initial rejection from a hiring manger into a long-term opportunity. Without jumping to assumptions, understand your client’s dilemma and then offer a flexible option. You will start to see more work come your way.
Ultimately, always keep in mind that a “no” is beneficial to you. Maybe it is not of benefit right now, and maybe it will not be a benefit for more than a year, but people and situations do change. Do not let objections get you down! Ask questions and understand why someone is in the hiring predicament they are in. You’ll quickly realize that doing all the little things makes you stand out from the rest of the competition.
Authors: Allison Ellsworth and Lauren Perna
We’ve talked a lot about why culture is important, how to institute it, and how to get the word out, but what good is all that if candidates don’t believe it when they come in the door? It takes candidates milliseconds to obtain a dominant impression of the company culture during an interview. Even companies on the top of the culture charts have been the center of candidate horror stories–interviews that sent someone running from the company, despite the incredible reviews.
How does a company ensure that a candidate leaves with a positive yet accurate impression of your company culture? We’ll conclude this series with a few ways to make sure a dynamic culture is translated throughout the interview experience:
- Provide examples of what makes the culture so great. They may have read about it online (yay, branding!), but in the interview share examples of the benefits, perks, health/wellness initiatives, or team building events. This lets the candidate know that the branding initiatives are not just lip service–the company truly cares about its employees and invests in their long-term well-being.
- Don’t bring the whole team. At many smaller companies, it is common for most of the team to interview each candidate. This can be a great opportunity for potential new team members to get a real sense of the organization and how they might fit in. Unfortunately, what more often happens is that each meeting blends together with the last in a haze of unoriginal (or, worst case, illegal or antagonistic) interview questions. When team members are not assigned specific behavioral competencies or talking points, a valuable opportunity for mutual discovery is squandered. The candidate can feel as though the company doesn’t have their act together. Identify the key decision makers who must interview a candidate and fight the urge to include everyone on the interview schedule.
- Be punctual and respectful of the candidate’s time. Often people are taking time off to interview, and we’ve seen many candidates be left waiting when interviewers run late or fail to communicate a schedule change. This leaves a bad taste in the candidate’s mouth and reflects poorly on the company.
- Follow-up. While most candidates know they should send a thank you email following a phone screen or in person interview, most employers are guilty of ghosting. Offering feedback and sharing the timeline for next steps once again confirms your company really does care.
Even if a candidate doesn’t end up being the right fit for the job or company, the goal is to leave them with a positive impression. That way they can spread the word to the right candidates, either through their own network or through a candidate review on a site, like Glassdoor.
Authors: Sahana Nazeer and Lauren Perna
In the first three parts of this series we talked about the importance of culture, how to institute it, and how to brand it. The next step in this journey is to believe it and live it. In other words, the employee experience. This is a critical part of the journey because if the culture fades as a company grows, retention will suffer when the need is the greatest, i.e. preparing to go public, beginning clinical trials, going commercial.
An important part of the employee experience is onboarding. When an employee feels welcome during their first few days, they will feel good about their new employer. But it shouldn’t end there—proper training is also critical. An employee that feels as if they’ve been thrown into the fire is bound to become frustrated and resentful, leading to a quick turnover. Companies will save time and money in the long run if they provide ample support in the beginning. But the support shouldn’t end once an employee is fully trained. Regular check-in’s and feedback will help both the employee and the manager be effective.
Camaraderie and collaboration are also central to the employee experience. We explained earlier in this series that collaboration is one of nine key values on the Culture 500, MIT’s index for corporate culture. MIT has proven that the most successful companies make sure that everyone feels part of the team. Not every company needs to be a big, happy family but every company does need to be as inclusive as possible. For some companies this means regular Thirsty Thursdays and group 5Ks, but for others it might simply be company lunches and scheduled team meetings. No one likes to feel left out, and this is certainly true at work, where people spend as much as 50% of their total waking hours during any given working day.
We work with a lot of growing biotech companies, and another factor in the employee experience is senior leadership. In the first part of this series we said that senior leadership can make or break a good culture, and we see this firsthand. Senior leaders that are engaged and interested in their staff will see better retention rates than those that are disconnected and unavailable.
Sci.bio recruiting associate Allison Ellsworth looks back fondly on her time at Moderna because “everyone knew the origin story of the company since the founders were happy to share it.” She explains that factor really made working there a special experience and helped to build camaraderie and loyalty even among later hires.
Companies will also benefit from looping in the patient community. That could be participating in a fundraiser for a relevant disease foundation, encouraging employees to attend patient forums, or simply having a patient advocate come in to share their story. Life science employees work long, hard hours and risk getting burned out quickly. But if they feel connected to the mission and the vision, they will likely stick around.
The last part of this series focuses on the candidate experience because none of the previous information will matter if you don’t treat your candidates right.
Authors: Lauren Perna and Sahana Nazeer
In the first part of this series, we said that if a company builds a good culture up front, they won’t be forced to give a hard sell to potential candidates later. This doesn’t mean a remarkable corporate culture is a substitute for marketing and branding. A comprehensive employer branding strategy complements an engaging culture.
BioSpace’s Katie Roth describes employer branding as “ensuring your company or organization is represented in the best possible way to attract candidates. It’s about connecting with candidates to ensure appropriate cultural fit” in her October 2019 article entitled 7 Tips for Branding in the Life Sciences.
For startups in survival mode this feels like the last thing on the list; resources need to go towards the research. Yet, if a company skips the legwork up front to attract the right people, they risk wasting valuable time and money bringing on the wrong people.
“Employers who don’t invest in their reputations pay up to $4,723 more per employee hired, and half of candidates won’t even consider working for a company with a bad employer brand, no matter how high the salary offer.” – Employer Branding Essentials, LinkedIn
Even for companies with limited resources, there are still branding techniques that incur minimal costs and provide big value. For example, employees can be brand ambassadors by sharing the company story to their networks in-person and online. They can also make full use of their LinkedIn profiles. Another inexpensive way to kickstart a branding strategy is by maximizing the company and careers pages on the website and on LinkedIn. In TalentLyft’s May 2019 article How to Hire for Cultural Fit and retain 86% of Employee the folks at Zety encourage employers to “over-communicate” what their company stands for on these pages; it helps “screen the candidate pool” and attract the right candidates.
Two other inexpensive yet impactful ways to establish a good brand are enhancing job descriptions and utilizing social media. We cannot stress the importance of a good job description. We often see clients send us job descriptions that require an unreasonable list of qualifications, yet the description offers no personality of the company. This tactic scares potential candidates away, especially those that don’t meet every requirement but could be a good overall fit. When consulting with a client, we help them carve out a job posting that does not describe a unicorn candidate but does paint a good picture of the company. We also help clients maximize their social media coverage through their platforms and ours.
Roth’s Biospace article makes an important point about creating a diversified recruitment strategy. Rather than casting a wide net, utilize niche sites and be thoughtful about targeting your outreach so you attract the right people. Biospace and Sci.bio’s career page are great examples of niche sites to consider.
Once you have attracted the right candidates and created a team of employees that will represent your culture, the next step is making sure you live up to that culture. In the next part of this series, we’ll talk about the employee experience.