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RPO vs. Agency: Which model is better?


My career has straddled both agency and RPO settings, and over time I’ve gathered insights that reshape how I view talent acquisition.  

I spent 15 years in an agency, filling roles for clients and doing my best to provide the best fit. But now that I’ve worked at Coit Group, I’ve seen how my work as a recruiter has improved in quality, speed, and efficiency. I’m convinced that, in almost all cases, RPO is a better solution than traditional contingency agencies. Here’s what I’ve seen so far.  

RPO: A Symphony of Precision and Patience 

RPO isn’t just a different recruiting method; it’s a fundamentally different mindset. Agency recruiting often feels like a sprint to fill vacancies. RPO on the other hand is focused on the best results, and not just speed (although ironically, I believe it’s better there too).  

RPO demands a nuanced understanding of my client’s unique culture and long-term objectives. I’m tasked to find that perfect fit, a candidate who not only excels with the skills in their role but also enhances the team’s dynamic. The focus is on sustainable hiring, which invariably leads to better, more enduring placements. 

In my tenure at Coit, I’ve found that this methodology promotes a more trusting relationship with clients and deeper engagement with candidates. I can present roles that align not just with a candidate’s skills, but also with their career aspirations and values. This depth of interaction and understanding is rarely achievable in the fast-paced world of agency recruiting. 

Agency Experience: Fast-Paced, and Often Superficial 

Reflecting on my agency days, there was always intense pressure to deliver quick results. The agency model demands it. Agencies essentially start work for free and get paid when the role is filled. The incentive is to fill the role as fast as possible. The metrics prioritize speed, many times at the expense of quality.  

We never tried to cut corners at the agency, but sometimes the model inevitably led to placements that were less than ideal in the long run. The emphasis was on filling the position rapidly, which could overlook the subtleties of fit and long-term potential. This approach, while effective in meeting immediate needs, often missed the mark in fostering long-lasting employee satisfaction and retention. 

The Benefits of RPO – Efficient and Human 

RPO distinctly stands out in its human-centered approach. Recruiters aren’t just sourcing candidates; they’re building relationships.  

In RPO, I have a direct line to the hiring manager to understand the needs of the role, source feedback, and hire with the client. We delve into the aspirations, motivations, and potential of each candidate, creating a more holistic picture. This level of engagement enables us to match candidates with roles where they can truly thrive, not just function. It’s a process that values the individuality of each candidate, ensuring that their next career move is more than a job change – it’s a step forward in their personal and professional journey. 

Under the agency model, I never had that kind of client access. There was always a middle person, typically a sales rep, who managed the client relationship. This also meant that feedback was slow because we had to fine-tune what we were looking for through trial and error, passing resumes back and forth through multiple channels.  

What’s more, RPO ends up being more economical. We typically save our new clients 25% of the cost they experience with their agencies. 

The Coit Approach: Beyond Recruiting, Towards Building Legacies 

I love how we work at Coit.  I never feel like I must “just fill the position.” Instead, I feel like I’m shaping the future of the organization I’m working with, and that’s an important distinction.

I’m dedicated to my client. I’m not sourcing multiple opportunities to candidates. I tell a single story, a single opportunity, and that means my client gets the very best in the market.  

We take pride in being architects of teams that drive innovation and success. This approach demands a comprehensive understanding of the industry, the market, and the unique challenges our clients face. 

The Evolution of My Recruiting Philosophy 

Moving to RPO has been a very rewarding change in my career. It’s easier to view the recruiting process as a strategic partnership rather than a transactional task. Every day presents new challenges and opportunities to learn, grow, and contribute meaningfully to my clients’ success stories. It’s this dynamic, ever-evolving landscape that keeps me passionate about what I do. 

The Future of Recruiting Is Here 

The world of recruiting is evolving, and I can see that teams in 2024 need the mix of a scalable solution with a team that feels like it’s in-house. This is RPO.  Our commitment at Coit Group to understanding and integrating into our clients’ worlds allows us to offer unparalleled recruitment solutions.  

If your team is looking to grow and has worked with agencies in the past, I encourage you to look at Coit Group as a more efficient model. Reach out to me on Linkedin if you have any questions.  

This post was written by Eric Wilson, a Senior Corporate Recruiter for Coit Group 



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