A guide to writing the perfect recruitment RFP the other side of the pitch deck

22 December 2020
rfp for recruitment

An RFP (or request for proposal) is crucial when outsourcing a process like recruitment or creative work. It’s a request for a company to pitch for your hiring project so that you can weigh up your options based on what your business requires and the projects you have in mind. The competitive nature of the process helps ensure you’re working with qualified vendors who aren’t overcharging for their services, and you’re finding a recruitment provider who is the best fit for your company in terms of culture, ideas, work ethic and skill.

Crafting an RFP can be challenging regardless of what industry you’re in. Recruitment is no exception. Therefore, if you’re writing an RFP for hiring purposes, it should be the same as any other brief you write and help to the same standards. Otherwise, the pitching process will be less enjoyable on both sides of the deck.

A pitch is no good to anyone if it misses the mark, and if we’re honest a lot of the time when responses don’t come back well, it’s more to do with the quality of the brief than it is the agency. Most agencies are capable of delivering on a brief; they wouldn’t be in business otherwise. However, miscommunication and lack of information in an RFP could be why they’re falling at the first hurdle.

Crafting an RFP and a brief for a recruitment agency, like any other agency, is an art form. An RFP needs to be clear, on point and cover all bases. To write an effective RFP, you really need to understand how an agency thinks, which is why our leadership team have come together to share some of their best tips and insights. Hopefully, when devising your recruitment strategies for the new year, bearing these things in mind will help you to enjoy a more successful pitch process.

Be as specific as possible about what’s important to you

No matter how much they try, recruitment service providers are not mind readers. Therefore, when writing an RFP, you need to ensure that what’s most important to you is articulated clearly and is impossible to miss. If you leave agencies guessing, no matter how much research they do, they’re likely to get the wrong idea and then everyone’s time will be wasted. Being left to read between the lines means vital elements will be missed, and agencies are less likely to deliver what you have in mind. Make sure your key goals and purposes are outlined within your brief, and you’re as specific as possible. It will not only make the pitch process easier for agencies but will also ensure that you’re getting strategies and proposals that are aligned with your mission.

Quality over quantity

You could ask hundreds of questions and ask for a lot of information, but when writing an RFP, the quality over quantity approach should stand. Ask excellent and essential questions, and you’ll receive clear, straightforward answers with an easy to read response. This will improve the entire process of choosing a recruitment agency and ensure that you’re getting the important information. Ask a lot of questions, and you may receive contradictory messages or lose sight of the vital purpose of the brief.

Always put a budget

Never expect an agency to guess a budget, as they’ll almost always guess wrong. Saying “don’t be restricted by budget” is not helpful, as there’s always a limit and agencies may lose out if they suggest something too expensive. Again, RPO providers can do a lot of things but reading minds isn’t one of them. Even if you don’t know the exact budget, a rough idea will do. Things will inevitably change, and a good agency would not expect your initial budget to be set in stone. However, having a realistic idea of how much you can spend will help agencies to devise an appropriate strategy for your business or rule themselves out of the running if they feel their services are too expensive. An idea of the budget will also give a picture of the resource needed and ensure that agencies not suitable for you are not wasting your time. It’s a way of ensuring the agency is a good fit for you and your project before work is done and time is wasted.

Set a clear timeline for the process

An RFP process takes time; all agencies are aware of this. However, when briefing in a project, a client will have an idea of timings and when they’d hope to reach a decision by. Having a clear timeline in place and informing the agencies from the beginning means they’ll know what to expect and when to hear from you. Don’t do this and you risk being bombarded with emails or calls chasing you for a decision. Therefore, putting an expected timeline in place puts an RPO provider’s mind at rest but also means the process is much less stressful for your team too.

Set realistic KPIs

Everyone measures success differently, so make sure your KPIs are defined clearly. If you have targets to reach, say hiring 25 software developers in 6 months, make it known. This will allow agencies to decide if they’re a good fit for you and if the KPIs are achievable. It could be that with their current workload, your project requires resource they do not have, and that’s okay; it’s all part of narrowing down the search to find your perfect recruitment process outsourcing provider.

Be respectful of people’s time

Regardless of industry, a lot of work goes into a pitch. Whether it’s about recruitment strategy and services, a creative pitch or even a digital marketing proposal; it takes time and effort from a lot of people to put a standout pitch together. In many businesses, this time is precious, so don’t waste it. If you have a clear brief, this will save a lot of time and guesswork. Also, don’t set massive creative tasks as it can put companies off, as with a job application, if the process is too long or involves lengthy tests the candidate may start questioning if it’s worth their time and effort.

Share work that’s already done

In the spirit of saving time, make sure you’re honest about any work that has already been done. This is especially important if you’re working on an EVP or recruitment marketing campaign as some of the core elements may have already been covered which can be built on top of. A creative agency can envision how they can help expand your current work rather than spending time creating a whole new plan. It also gives a recruitment or creative agency a chance to prove they understand who you are and what you’re trying to achieve. You can ask them to sign an NDA and ensure that you’re starting at a point of trust; however, sharing any work to build on will save time, effort and ensure everyone is reading from the same page.

Always be willing to have a conversation

Giving an agency half an hour of your time to have a conversation before the pitch takes place could help both of you in the long run. It provides the agency with a chance to ask any important questions about your business, your recruitment goals, any previous successes and ultimately about the brief. First of all, this will allow you to build a relationship with the agency, and you’ll be able to get a feel for what they’re like to work with, which is incredibly important. Next, it will ensure that the response to the brief is as accurate and in-line with your goals as possible because they’ll have had a chance to clear up any uncertainties. It means that you can vet the agency on another level, but they can also vet the project and understand it in much more detail. Therefore, when it comes to the pitch day, you’ll have better quality proposals to choose from based on a more informed knowledge of your business goals, needs and ambitions.

Don’t base your decision on creative alone

Granted, this isn’t part of writing your RFP, but it could be part of your scoring criteria, and it’s something that from our experience we felt should be mentioned. The creative is a huge part of any RFP; it shows the skill of the agency’s design team, shows they understand your brand and gives you an idea of the messaging that will be put out.

However, in recruitment advertising and marketing, the idea in the pitch is unlikely to be the creative used in the campaign itself. Often, clients will pick the most exciting creative at pitch stage, but when it comes to execution will pull it apart in favour of a safer option. Therefore, ensure that you make a robust scoring criteria and don’t get distracted by the most eye-catching or provocative campaign idea.

Instead, consider the agency as a whole and what they can bring as an extension of your business. Think about which areas of expertise they have that will be beneficial to your business and use this as the base of your decisions.

Talent Works help some of the most exciting tech businesses to scale through employer branding, recruitment marketing and scalable sourcing capabilities. We’re an RPO agency with offices in Manchester, Northampton UK and Boston, US which gives us a truly global edge. If you’d like us to pitch for one of your upcoming recruitment projects, whether it’s refining your EVP or sourcing tech talent due to increased demand, we’ll be happy to help. Contact our team today to begin your conversation.

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