Headhunters vs. RPOs: Talent acquisition titans tussle for top tier troops

Laaaaadies and gentlemeeeeen, welcome to the evening’s main event.

In the left corner, we have the traditional approach to recruitment – the headhunters.

And in our right corner, we have the new kid on the block, the recruitment process outsourcers (RPO).

In this corner-to-corner battle, we’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages of each recruitment model (plus a real-life story), so you can make an informed decision about your next talent acquisition process.

Peter Griffin as a fancy RPO and a country headhunter

Round 1: Headhunters

One of the main advantages of headhunters is their ability to identify top talent. Yeah, they’ve got that down pat.

They have a huge network of contacts and the experience to know what skills and qualifications are needed – if they’ve spent time in that particular industry.

But speed? They’re not incentivized to fill their roles quickly, so despite your need to fill the role ASAP, speed isn’t a big concern for them.

And their astronomical fees are a drag – up to 40% of new hires’ salaries. If you’re growing and need to hire for multiple roles, 40% of each salary is a boatload of money.

Plus, headhunters don’t often show you into their workflow and process until they pass you their final round candidates. So hiring managers and talent leaders are left thinking … huh?!

Uncertainty and frustration abound.

Round 2: Recruitment process outsourcing (RPO)

RPOs are the relatively new guy in town.

And boy, do they butt heads with the traditional headhunter model. We like to think of our brand of RPO as RaaS (Recruitment as a Service). More on RaaS later… 👀

Let me know if this resonates with you:

From start to finish, RPOs source, screen, engage, interview and recommend candidates for hiring. They focus on transparency, accountability and cost effectiveness throughout the hiring process. Especially because they typically partner with clients for longer periods than just a single hiring process.

Sounds like a no brainer, yes?

But I’ll be honest, not every organization needs a longer-term commitment. Even if recruitment process outsourcing is far less expensive than headhunters in the long run.

Round 3: Auctor’s story

Meet Auctor, a state and government agency consulting company.

They were growing! So they needed to fill two critical positions: an operations specialist and a .NET software developer. And yes, as you’d imagine working with the government, these hires are technical and very specific.

The timeline? Tight.

Auctor leaders considered finding a headhunter but quickly realized the high fees would be significant. Instead, they decided to partner with an RPO firm (psst… That’s us!) to handle the hiring process.

The project kicked off March 7 and Field of Talent was off and running. Here’s a breakdown of the project:

  • 1,696 candidates screened
  • 1,406 engaged through SMS
  • 52 interviewed
  • 17 final round candidates passed on to Auctor for further vetting

Auctor filled both positions. The operations specialist in just 22 days to fill and the more technical .NET software developer position in 70 days.


But that’s not all.

Billy Mays saying "But wait... there's more"

Want to hear about Auctor’s cost savings?

In a traditional headhunter fee-per-hire model at 25% (that’s being generous – some headhunters charge up to 40%), they would’ve paid $17k and $37k for each job, respectively. $55,000 in total.

Field of Talent’s RPO model required only a $26,000 investment. Thus saving Auctor $29,000 and getting two hires in record time.

Round 4: Why RPO over headhunters

So when it comes to cost savings, transparency, scalability, speed and expertise, RPOs have the upper hand (or should I say uppercut?).

Auctor got a better look into the hiring process with data, notes and regular updates at each stage. And of course, the RPO model saved Auctor almost $30,000 compared to what they would have paid with a traditional headhunter approach.

So the winner is… RPOs!

Auctor's RPO strategy earned $30k in savings

Yeah, headhunters have established themselves as a reliable option.

But if you want to optimize for speed, cost, quality, transparency and a better talent acquisition strategy going forward, RPOs are your go-to.

Choose your fighter: Headhunters or RPOs.

If you’re ready to start your journey to a better, quicker, more affordable hiring strategy, Field of Talent is primed and ready to assist. Just ring that bell.

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Headhunters vs. RPOs: Talent acquisition titans tussle for top tier troops