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Offshore RPO (recruitment process outsourcing) companies must follow specific rules to ensure the sustainability of the model and reputation of the industry. There are unwritten factors/rules that are non-negotiable. It is always essential to follow these rules. The factors that recruitment agencies must know when partnering with an offshore RPO.

There is a massive amount of time, money and resources invested by the recruitment agencies when deciding to partner with an offshore RPO. The impact of not following these rules is devastating not on that singular client-offshore RPO partnership, but the industry.

Here are ten unwritten rules that every offshore RPO must follow. These are also critical factors for the client, i.e. recruitment agencies, to watch out.

  1. Let’s Make More Money By Sharing The Staff, The Client Will Never Figure Out!

Multiple engagement models ranging from shared services, dedicated resource, BOT, etc. exist in the offshore RPO world. When a client signs-up for a reliable resource model, i.e. staff deployed on the client account only works for that specific client. They cannot and should not be working for any other company, i.e. recruitment agency.

There is a big red tape in the offshore RPO industry where staff are shared even in a dedicated resource model. When an agreement for deploying a dedicated resource is in place, a situation of sharing staff still exists in many offshore RPOs. Recruitment agencies must review this regularly as a part of their governance.

The client ultimately figures out due to the dip in the quality, and the engagement is short-lived impacting the reputation of the industry.

A practice like this is a BIG NO.

  1. Let’s Use Their Tools To Support Other Agencies 

Another big NO NO!

You can use my tools to work for my competitors or other agencies. How do you control this?

This question tops the list in every new business meeting.

Offshore RPOs give a ton of assurances to secure the business.

When the client gives access to their tools and resources, they must never be used and shared to work for any other client.

Despite this rule, there are offshore businesses that use one client’ tools (ATS, Job boards, etc.) and resources to work for the other. E.g. A set of candidates generated for a Java Developer role is also shared with another agency. So ultimately, one recruitment business is paying for the another.

Sharing of the tools and resources must never happen. Every recruitment business must pay to run their business. It is a high degree of concern for the client when their offshore partner follows such practice.

Secondly, recruitment agencies must only allow access to the tools of the trade on the remote desktop with individual permissions in place. Sharing is not caring, especially in this situation.

  1. John’s On Leave, I Do Not Think We Should Update The Client

Team members take leaves. Most of the times informed, sometimes uninformed. Absenteeism is a global situation and not just applicable to the offshore RPO industry.

Many offshore RPOs and the management teams try hiding the fact when the team member is on leave; irrespective of informed or uninformed.

The fears of losing the FTE, billing, etc. are natural. However, it is advisable to lose a day’ billing against losing the client and the face, especially when the client finds out.

A thumb rule to follow, always let the client know when someone does not turn up for work. An action like this enforces trust in developing the relationship.

Special tip for the recruitment agencies. Interact with the offshore staff on video calls.

  1. John Smith Absconded In Reality, But Here’s Another John Smith.

Just like absenteeism, some people abscond. Yes, they do, and staff absconding is a global issue, not limited to the offshore RPO. Even with best review and HR practices in place, people abscond, and this is a fact.

Of course, the situation is serious whenever an offshore team member absconds. The ultimate consequence can end up losing an FTE on a large team or even a contract. However, should one hide when the staff absconds? The answer is no.

I have personally dealt with multiple situations over the last fifteen years managing clients and large offshore RPO teams. Every time a staff absconded; our first protocol was to inform the client immediately. We also updated the client about how we will manage the workload in the interim and the time to get the replacement.

Many horror stories exist. E.g. when John Smith absconds, offshore RPO deploys another staff presenting as John Smith. On large teams, replacements often go unnoticed where there is limited interaction between the offshore staff and the client.

A practice that badly impacts the sustainability of the relationship when the client finds out. And believe me, the client figures out sooner than the offshore RPO would have thought.

  1. Nope, Your Staff Is Just In The Elevator, Only By The Coffee Machine!

 Late coming is another primary concern. There are times when even the most punctual people arrive late due to various reasons.

However, hiding the fact from the client leads to significant concerns.

The staff are running late due to “x” reason.

The team will arrive by “y” time.

We will manage their tasks or whatever the solution is you can never ride the hide. Especially when the model is dedicated resource, there is a ritual of contacting the onshore counterpart every morning to discuss the day plan.

Full transparency is imperative for a successful relationship.

  1. Replacements

The staff goes on an extended holiday, absconding, performance issues, etc. There are several reasons a recruitment agency will need a replacement on their offshore team.

Offshore RPOs do have a bench of non-billable staff that are utilised as a taskforce when the FTE is on leave or when they abscond. Replacements also come from the bench staff. Bench staff are special task force trained to work across various functions across multiple clients.

However, in many cases, replacements are only deployed when the client approves as they take part in the interview and selection process.

In a rush to ensure the FTE billing continues, Offshore RPOs (at times) overpromise on bringing the replacement in an unrealistic timeline. Without considering the factors such as notice periods, salary, etc.

When the client does not see any CVs in their inbox in the promised timeline, the conversation is not very friendly.

Don’t do this! Realistic expectations must be set instead of risking the relationship.

  1. Misrepresentation

Here is your A1 Recruiter that will work, but it is B2 Recruiter who is now working 

Here is the best shortlist you can select from Ms Recruitment Agency owner. The client selects the best candidate and what follows is the most surprising horror for the client. The service delivery initially is just as impressive as promised. In a few weeks/months, the quality drops.

The client raises the question, and the offshore RPO adjusts to remedy the situation (although not sustainable). The peaks and troughs in the quality start agitating the client, leaving no option but to terminate the agreement.

A practice of presenting the best candidates in a pilot project and having a completely different person work on the task is not new.

Several offshore RPO projects fail because the owner or the management team decides to follow this model to appease the offshore RPO business owners and generate higher revenue.

Offshore RPO owners and management teams must discourage a practice like this.

A candidate that is shortlisted by the client should work on their account. Updating the client in every situation is imperative.

The client must approve of any changes on the team composition.

  1. Commissions – Pay What Is Promised

Apart from excellent culture, ping pong tables, bean bags and local trips, people work for money.

On a dedicated resource model, the offshore RPO gets paid a monthly FTE retainer, and the client pays the commission on placements, sales targets, etc.

Honour the agreement. Do not take the cut! If you are taking the cut, ensure clarity in the first place. Do not hide!

There are plenty of stories where the agreement is in place, but the offshore RPO deviates from the arrangement.

A practice like this only demotivates the staff and risking productivity, and both the staff and client retention in the long run.

The client communicates with their offshore RPO team much more than the management team. Clients ask their offshore RPO team if they have received the commission as agreed. It is in clients interest that their offshore RPO team are happy.

Deliver on your promises! Do not be penny wise pound foolish.


Trust between the recruitment agency and offshore RPO partner is crucial for the sustainability of the model.

Recruitment agencies can consider these factors when deciding to work with an offshore RPO partner and beyond.

A clean operating model is a sustainable model in the long run. Honesty is the best policy!

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