a close up of a computer screen with a triangle pattern
RPO vs Staffing

RPO vs. Staffing Agency: Choosing the Right Recruitment Strategy for Your Business

Explore the differences between RPO and staffing agencies, their unique benefits, and how to choose the right recruitment strategy for your business.

RPO vs. Staffing Agency: Choosing the Right Recruitment Strategy for Your Business


a blue clock with a white clock face on it
This is some text inside of a div block.
arrow right
a blue circle with the word linked on it
share on linkedin
the letter x in a black circle
share on twitter
the instagram logo in a circle
share on instagram

If you’ve been exploring different recruitment strategies for your business, you’ve likely encountered recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) and staffing agencies. It’s not uncommon to find these terms a bit confusing or even to mix them up. 

But we’re not here just to untangle these terms for you. We’re also here to help you weigh up RPO vs. staffing so you can decide between these two recruitment strategies.

Understanding RPO and Staffing Agencies

Before we dive deeper into the differences, let’s get a basic understanding of RPO and staffing agencies.

What is RPO?

Imagine you’re building a house. You wouldn’t hire individual contractors to lay the foundation, build the walls, and install the roof, would you? Instead, you’d hire a construction company to oversee the entire project. This is what an RPO provider does. It manages the whole recruitment process, including:

  • Crafting job descriptions
  • Screening candidates
  • Enhancing your employer branding
  • Developing onboarding programs

The RPO provider integrates into your team, collaborating closely with your HR department and hiring managers. They function as a strategic partner, offering deep industry knowledge and a flexible solution that enhances the efficiency of your company’s hiring process.

For a more in-depth look into what RPO is, including how to choose an RPO provider, see our comprehensive guide to RPO

What is a staffing agency?

Now, let’s switch gears and think of staffing agencies as emergency rooms. They operate on a more immediate basis, focusing on quickly filling specific job openings. If your company suddenly experiences a surge in workload or needs to replace a key employee who’s unexpectedly left, a staffing agency is your go-to solution.

There are different types of staffing agencies depending on your needs, and we cover the different types in our complete guide. But, in short, depending on the type of positions you need to fill, the location of your company, and whether you’re targeting local or remote international candidates, there is likely a staffing agency that specializes in that particular need. 

Key Differences Between RPO and Staffing Firms

RPO vs Staffing Agency Graphic Image

Understanding the key differences between RPO and staffing agencies is crucial to making an informed choice. RPO is all about the big picture, offering a strategic and comprehensive approach. On the other hand, staffing agencies are your go-to for the here and now, focusing on finding and hiring employees, usually for specific and immediate job openings.

The following sections will delve into some of these key differences.

Approach to recruitment

As we said, RPO takes a strategic, long-term approach to recruitment. This involves building a talent pipeline to deliver the right talent when needed and tailoring recruitment processes to the client’s specific requirements.

While staffing agencies address immediate hiring needs by:

  • Leveraging their pool of candidates
  • Leveraging their network of temporary workers
  • Quickly identifying and placing a suitable individual for an open position

Services offered

In terms of service variety, RPO provides an extensive range of services, covering everything from the initial stages of recruitment to the final stages of onboarding. Staffing agencies, on the other hand, primarily focus on immediate hiring needs and job placement, offering a more limited range of services.

RPO firms’ broad spectrum of services usually include:

  • Marketing the job position
  • Identifying potential candidates
  • Sourcing from various channels
  • Screening applicants
  • Shortlisting potential hires
  • Recruiting the best fit
  • Finalizing the selection process

In contrast, traditional staffing agencies primarily concentrate on candidate placement. They assist companies in sourcing suitable candidates for temporary assignments, temp-to-hire positions, and permanent placements.

Duration and continuity of services

RPO companies are designed for long-term partnerships with clients, focusing on continuous improvement of the recruitment process. They provide ongoing services and work on a contract basis, which may last several months to a few years. They are committed to creating a sustainable recruitment strategy that will serve your company’s needs for the long term.

On the other hand, staffing agencies are typically engaged for short-term needs. They are used as needed, often for immediate hiring requirements, and their relationship with the client ends once the position is filled. Their services are more transactional and do not involve a long-term commitment.

This key difference makes recruitment process outsourcing services more suitable if you are looking for a strategic partner to enhance your recruitment process over time, while staffing agencies are more suitable if you have immediate, short-term hiring needs.

Evaluating Your Recruitment Needs

To select the appropriate recruitment solution, evaluating your recruitment needs is the first step. 

Your evaluation should consider several factors, such as the hiring volume, the types of roles you need to fill, the urgency of these roles, and your company’s long-term goals. It’s not just about filling empty positions; it’s about understanding the intricacies of your business and how each hire contributes to the overall organizational objectives.

Why is this important? Well, imagine you’re planning a trip. You wouldn’t pack your suitcase without first considering the destination, weather, and activities, right? The same logic applies to selecting a recruitment strategy. Understanding your recruitment needs helps ensure the chosen strategy aligns with your business goals.

For instance, if your company frequently needs to fill high-volume, entry-level positions or if you experience seasonal fluctuations in hiring, an RPO provider might be the best fit. They can tailor a recruitment strategy that adapts to these needs, ensuring a steady flow of qualified candidates.

On the other hand, if you often require specialized or hard-to-fill roles or if you have immediate hiring needs, a staffing agency could be the better choice. They can leverage their extensive network of candidates to quickly fill these roles, saving you time and effort.

Furthermore, understanding your recruitment challenges is equally important. Do you struggle to attract top talent? Is your employer brand strong enough? Do you need assistance with onboarding new hires? The answers to these questions will help you identify whether an RPO provider, with their comprehensive approach, or a staffing agency, with their focus on immediate job placement, can better address these challenges.

In essence, evaluating your recruitment needs and challenges is the compass that guides you toward the right recruitment strategy. It ensures that your chosen approach not only fills your immediate hiring needs but also aligns with your long-term business goals, ultimately contributing to the success and growth of your company.

Working and shaking hands with an RPO

When Is It Best To Consider Engaging an RPO Company?

RPO is an ideal choice when you’re looking for a strategic partner rather than just a service provider. An RPO firm brings along industry expertise and flexible solutions that can significantly enhance the efficiency of your hiring process. This not only leads to considerable savings on indirect costs associated with poor hiring decisions but also improves the overall quality of your hires.

Need for adaptable and scalable solutions

RPO is the perfect choice when your recruitment needs are dynamic and require adaptable and evolving solutions. RPO providers are well-equipped to swiftly adjust to changing recruitment demands. Whether your business is experiencing a phase of rapid growth requiring many new hires or you’re scaling down, RPO providers can efficiently handle these fluctuations.

Desire to enhance employer branding

If you’re aiming to infuse your organization’s values and mission into your recruitment process, to showcase your unique work culture to potential candidates, or to attract and retain quality talent to gain a competitive edge in the job market, RPO is the way to go. 

RPO can significantly boost your employer brand by ensuring a consistent representation of your organization’s values and culture throughout the recruitment procedures.

Need for greater control over the recruitment process

RPO can enhance overall recruitment effectiveness by ensuring candidates align with the company’s culture and objectives, promptly filling vacancies, and engaging hiring managers and leadership.

RPO also enables you to forecast future recruiting costs and timelines while enhancing competitiveness in attracting top talent. Thus, an RPO company can be your ideal partner if you’re seeking improved control over the recruitment process.

When Should You Consider a Staffing Firm?

Despite the numerous advantages of RPO, there are situations where staffing agencies might be a more beneficial choice. These include instances where you need to swiftly fill urgent positions, as staffing agencies specialize in fast and effective hiring processes.

A staffing firm acts as a dependable ally to be called upon when instant results are needed. They have an extensive pool of qualified candidates and can promptly match them to your job requirements.

Temporary and seasonal hiring

Staffing agencies are perfect for filling temporary or seasonal roles.

Staffing agencies offer several benefits, including:

  • Maintaining a pool of candidates available for short-term assignments or peak-season demands
  • Promptly filling gaps in the workforce
  • Sustaining productivity
  • Adjusting to evolving demands

These benefits make staffing agencies a valuable resource for businesses.

Urgent position fillings

Staffing agencies excel in swiftly filling immediate positions, particularly for temporary or contract roles.

Staffing agencies streamline the process of finding exceptional candidates quickly, saving time and effort. They manage administrative tasks such as scheduling interviews and handling paperwork, thus facilitating a faster and more effective hiring process.

RPO and Staffing agency hand in hand

Combining RPO and Staffing Solutions

While RPO and staffing agencies each offer unique benefits, it’s not a case of either-or. In fact, many businesses find that a combination of both can create a more robust and flexible talent acquisition strategy.

Working with an RPO provider for long-term, strategic recruitment planning and a staffing agency for immediate, specific hiring needs can ensure all bases are covered. This approach allows you to capitalize on the strengths of each, creating a hybrid model adaptable to varying recruitment needs.

RPO providers can focus on developing your employer brand, enhancing your recruitment process, and building a candidate pipeline for future needs. Meanwhile, staffing agencies can step in to fill immediate vacancies quickly or address seasonal fluctuations in hiring.

This integrated approach can provide the best of both worlds, offering a comprehensive recruitment solution that is both strategic and responsive. It’s like having a well-rounded team where each player excels in their position, contributing to the overall success of your recruitment strategy.

Final Thoughts

Both RPO and staffing agencies offer unique advantages in recruitment. While RPO provides a strategic and comprehensive approach, staffing agencies are adept at quickly filling specific job openings. By understanding the key differences between the two and evaluating your recruitment needs, you can make a well-informed choice that promotes sustained growth.

Whether you’re considering RPO, staffing agencies, or a blend of both, Near is here to help you hire top talent from Latin America. Let’s tailor a recruitment strategy that aligns with your business goals and supports long-term growth.

Book a free consultation call with us today and start your journey toward efficient and effective hiring.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between RPO and contingency recruiting?

RPO is a comprehensive, strategic approach that manages the entire recruitment process, often paid for on a retainer basis. In contrast, contingency recruiting is transactional, focusing on filling individual, often urgent, job openings. A contingent recruiter is only paid when a candidate is successfully hired. 

What is the difference between outsourcing and RPO?

Outsourcing refers to delegating business tasks to external agencies. Recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) is a specific type of outsourcing that involves entrusting the entire recruitment function to a third-party expert.

What is the difference between RPO and on-demand recruiting?

RPO is a long-term, strategic approach where a third-party provider manages the entire recruitment process of a company. On the other hand, on-demand recruiting is a flexible, as-needed service used for immediate and sporadic hiring needs. The choice between RPO or on-depend recruiting depends on your specific needs.

Frequently Asked Question

Receive remote hiring insights delivered weekly.

a green lightning bolt with a black background
a white and yellow background with a diagonal triangle

Discover Why Hiring in LatAm is a Cheat Code. Download our FREE Guide Now.