Mastering the Art of High Volume Recruitment

Even a first-rate, well-staffed and exceptionally competent corporate talent acquisition function will be challenged by intense periods of hiring due to amplified market demand or changes in business need. When the business strategy calls for adding tens, or even hundreds, of new employees in a relatively short period of time, it’s a good time to consider a partnership with a recruitment outsourcing (RPO) provider. In the Q&A that follows, Jason Krumwiede and Carl Kutsmode, both partners at TalentRISE, discuss the reasons why.


Question: When and why should an organization turn to RPO?

Krumwiede: There are many reasons, but unpredictability  is at the very top of the list. And that ties to scalability in terms of hiring across the enterprise. Unpredictability comes in many different forms, such as planned and unplanned hiring spikes or seasonal hiring. Anything of that nature requires that the talent acquisition function is capable of building – and funding –  a solution in very short order. And, if you try to do that internally with existing resources and budgets, it requires a shift of resources causing other businesses undoubtedly to suffer. Alternatively, companies may hire a team of interim “contract recruiters” which still means you have to recruit, interview, train and manage them. In addition, to the risk of “unknown contract recruiter capabilities and performance”, you need to provide computers and sourcing resources which can incur additional costs…not to mention the knowledge transfer and relationship disruption that occurs when it’s time to let the contractor team go. So a second consideration, speaking in broad strokes, is whether your business is the type that likes to build, rather than buy, a “turn key” proven solution. In today’s fast changing world, I’d argue that buying capability is far more cost-effective than building it.


Kutsmode: I totally agree with Jason regarding unpredictability. The ugly truth is that you can never precisely staff a full time team capable of seamlessly scaling a consistent, quality level of recruiting support to address all your hiring needs. It’s nearly impossible to operate in a cost-effective manner when your recruitment team is in a constant reactionary mode and their requisition load exceeds industry targets for optimum efficiency and quality. The best analogy I have used to illustrate this example is to imagine how costly a new car would be if manufacturers only produced cars when someone ordered one at a dealership.  It would be impossible to gain efficiencies in production capability or lock into volume purchasing discounts on the raw materials needed to make the car. Ultimately, the quality would potentially be negatively impacted by a stretched workforce asked to work double shifts to address unplanned spikes in customer demand.  Bottom line, something always has to give if you are locked into fixed resources, budgets and costs tied only to a best “guesstimate” on the coming year’s hiring needs. That’s why partnering with outside resources in a customized RPO arrangement provides the scalabilty and flexibility that you need.  Face it: in a high volume situation, speed, cost and quality are the three factors that matter the most. Relying only on fixed internal HR or recruiting resources will typically translate into sacrificing one, if not all, of those factors.


Krumwiede: Let me just add that, over my 15 plus years in RPO work, I have seen the scenario Carl just described play out, over and over again.  This is particularly true in growth industries – healthcare, professional services, technology, retail, hospitality, restaurants and so forth – where high volume field recruitment in multiple locations is the norm. I see hours of time wasted by internal resources whose responsibilities include recruiting hourly workers as well as local, mid-level managers.  I’ve heard field business managers say that a third of their time is spent on staffing. In other cases, store level general managers are entirely responsible for recruiting and – since recruiting is not their core competency – the result is high turnover, flat same store sales, and employment brand issues due to poor candidates or onboarding new hires. Look, these are the people who are front and center interacting with customers and living the company brand. Retailers know that having store managers who are proven performers and who out-perform competitors’ managers is a key differentiator because these managers drive the P&L and set the culture at the store level. Lastly, with the unemployment rate at historic lows, it’s becoming far more difficult to hire quality, hourly people which just compounds the challenge for a store manager or district manager who may need to hire as many as 70-90 people and also play a pivotal, revenue-generating role.


Kutsmode: Trying to handle high volume recruitment without outside help is a bit like a home cook attempting to cater a party for hundreds of people by him or herself. When it comes to volume recruitment, you need to turn to someone who knows that they are doing. Having to feed the hiring funnel, especially during seasonal spikes, requires a strategy that really can’t effectively be pushed down to the local level. Sourcing a steady pipeline requires a consistent and strategic approach.  At the end of the day, in my opinion, recruiting top talent into your organization at any level is, and should always be, a role performed only by people who have the training, expertise, resources and TIME to execute it well…or results will suffer and costs may increase. Ideally, your hiring manager’s role in the recruiting process should be simplified to focus only on:

  1. Providing clear input into the job requirements and ideal candidate sourcing, screening and selection criteria at the start of the recruiting process.
  2. Being engaged throughout the qualified candidate review, interview and hire decision process… and driving it forward to close in a timely manner.
  3. Proactively keeping the recruiting team informed throughout the hiring process with specific feedback on what they like, or don’t like, in candidates they interview and reject or hire.


Krumwiede:  Exactly. We’re now working with several retailers who say, “make the process as easy as possible for my hiring manager.” This means different things for different organizations so we don’t advocate a one-size-fits-all RPO approach. Instead, this often means designing a customized targeted sourcing strategy at the regional level aimed at attracting the best candidates and using comprehensive technology to aggregate high-potential candidates, as well as other tech tools such as automated online or phone IVR pre-screening and recorded video interviewing.  


One of the problems facing organizations in high-volume environments, such as retail, restaurants, call centers, and logistics/distribution, is that candidates often think they understand the job requirements and environment. However, once they are on the job, they soon realize the job is not what they expected. Additionally, the importance of portraying a consistent positive, but authentic, employee brand, can’t be downplayed. Using “a day in the life” realistic job preview and employee testimonial videos are engaging ways to improve candidate self selection in/out of consideration during the candidate pre-screening process. That’s just one example of many I could cite of the “value add” of having a seasoned RPO partner with access to a broader set  of experiences and tools to help you solve recruiting challenges… often baked into the solution.    


Kutsmode: Other aspects of a solid recruitment strategy also tend to suffer during periods of high volume recruitment. Take  compliance, for example. When time is scarce, mistakes and omissions tend to be more frequent and thereby increase the chance of falling out of compliance. This is particularly important for government contractors who must comply with expanded and ever-changing OFCCP regulations… many who have begun to consider RPO outsourcing for their veteran hiring.  For organizations concerned about mitigating recruiting compliance risk, compliance can be enhanced through an RPO partnership as the RPO business model requires a consistent, standardized and compliant platform be used to serve multiple clients’ recruiting needs. Conversely, employers seeking to keep everything in-house, tend to push more of the recruiting process out to hiring managers as their internal recruiting/HR team get overloaded by a hiring spike.  This only tends to lend itself to inconsistencies in process and, again, increased compliance risk.


Question: Do the numbers matter? Is there a general benchmark for how you define “high volume”?

Kutsmode: Certain business models scream out for RPO. Take high volume hiring of similar profiles, for example. Outsourcing recruitment in that instance is a way to scale up and down with predictable costs and without sacrificing service levels to the business. So the “ideal” number which we would define as “high” really depends on the role and the organization’s current structure for recruitment. Organizations with HR Generalists who are also responsible for recruiting have less time to dedicate to recruiting than those with dedicated HR and recruiting teams supporting the business.  However, as a general rule of thumb, I’d say 25-50 hires per year of individual contributors up to the mid-manager level and, among hourly workers, 100+ per year is a good starting point.


Krumwiede:  With professional level roles – whether in IT, sales or finance or other similar functions – the bar may be a bit lower in terms of number of hires. Every client is unique and has its own dynamics so we usually start with a pilot. Typically, we’ll begin in a particular region – a call center in Utah or in Chicago, for example. That way, we can jumpstart building candidate pools and apply our knowledge of the sourcing strategies that work the best in that particular market, and then we can expand from there.    


Question: What are “reasonable expectations” in terms of timing?

Krumwiede:  If an organization is looking for RPO to solve many of its issues right out of the box, without making any internal process changes, they need to be prepared for a surprise or two. We don’t minimize the fact that the first year will be a year of adjustment, change and a close partnership to leverage and implement best practices where possible.  Having said that, we can generally get up and running within four to six weeks. For smaller hiring volumes within a defined hiring spike time frame, like 20 or 50 positions in 4-6 months, a team can be set up and ready to go in less time, generally one to two weeks. The other key point is that, while there certainly will be some efficiencies and cost savings realized in that first year, the real savings and benefits tend to be realized in the second and subsequent years as the partnership solidifies and the initial learning curve and speed bumps have been overcome.  


Question: Anything else you’d like to add?

Kutsmode:  I still see that many HR and Talent Acquisition leaders hang their credentials on saving money and therefore they’ll make statements like, “I don’t spend money on third party search.”  It’s almost a badge of honor in the industry. But I’m convinced that the profession as a whole, values the ability to think strategically about when and how to leverage external vendors far more than the ability to “go it alone.”  With that in mind, I feel that HR and Talent Acquisition leaders need to look at recruitment in the same manner as other aspects of their business and, as it makes sense, consider outsourcing recruitment just as they make decisions about outsourcing other aspects of interim talent or other key HR activities, such as background screening, payroll, and labor law.  


Krumwiede: I agree with Carl. Turning to RPO is not an admission of defeat by any stretch. In fact, the opposite is often true. I’ve witnessed first hand how it can be a career-builder as more and more senior level Talent and HR executive job descriptions are listing experience in RPO vendor selection, implementation and management as a required or desired skill for the role.  An RPO solution can provide the scale needed to rapidly address market opportunities which ultimately translate to improved bottom line business performance. It can also promote a strong employment brand, engage candidates working at key competitors in advance of need, enhance the candidate hiring and new hire on-boarding experience, and deliver higher-quality employees. Having an RPO partner who is accountable and laser-focused on recruiting will yield predictable costs, scalable recruiting capabilities, a consistent process and an improved overall quality of hire.  On the flip side, the costs of getting it wrong can be substantially detrimental to your organization’s long-term success.  
For more on TalentRISE’s FlexRPO approach, contact us at

Jason Krumwiede

About the Author

Jason brings twenty years of leadership, business development, consulting and management experience in Talent Acquisition and Human Capital services.

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