The Recruitment Team: Size, Configuration, RPO

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The Recruitment Team: Size, Configuration, RPO

When it comes to Talent Acquisition, the recruitment team plays an important role. After all, they’re the ones taking care of the identification, attraction, and selection of top candidates. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the recruitment team, its ideal size and configuration. We’ll also look at the practice of Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) and when this can be an option to consider. Here goes!  

Determining the right size for your recruitment team
Recruitment team configuration
Recruitment process outsourcing 
On a final note

Determining the right size for your recruitment team

Naturally, an SME won’t need as big a recruiting team as a large multinational. Similarly, a medium-sized company in a low-turnover industry probably won’t need the same team of recruiters as a medium-sized company in a high-turnover industry such as retail or hospitality. 

The ideal number of people you need in your recruitment team and the exact types of roles you need in that team depend on various elements. These include:

  • The scarcity of the target group in the labor market. It only makes sense that the more choice in candidates you have as an organization, the easier it should be to identify, attract, and select them. That doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t have a well-structured process in place to make sure you hire people who fit both the job and the organization best. 
    If we go to the other end of the spectrum, meaning industries that have particular difficulties finding people, we see for instance in the US, education and health services, financial services, and wholesale trade. Another type of job that typically is hard to fill is that of a software developer.    
  • The ratio of active versus passive jobseekers. In general, active job seekers are easier to identify, attract, and select than passive job seekers. The latter tend to be satisfied with their current role and situation and while they might be interested when the right job comes along, they aren’t actively looking for something else.  
    Ironically, it’s those passive job seekers who often seem to be your ideal candidates… However, as you may have guessed, it takes more time and effort to find them and then to convince them to join your company.     
active and passive jobseekers
  • Whether or not you outsource (parts of) the recruitment process. Recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) is exactly what its name suggests: the outsourcing of (parts of) your recruitment process. If your in-house recruitment team doesn’t have the capacity, skills, or know-how to take care of all of the company’s recruiting efforts, outsourcing to a third party can be a good alternative. We’ll talk more about RPO later in this article. 
  • To what extent your recruitment process has been automated. Both the size and make-up of your recruitment team depend on how much of your process has been automated. There are heaps of (AI-driven) tools to optimize your talent acquisition process hence freeing up time for recruiters.   
  • How much sourcing needs to be done and does this happen in-house or not. This depends on some of the above, for instance on the scarcity of the target group in the market and the ratio of active versus passive job seekers. The scarcer the candidates, the harder the sourcing.
    If there is a lot of sourcing that needs to be done, you can either hire a sourcer yourself or decide to outsource this part of the recruitment process.  
  • The actual numbers. Although we’ve seen some of the elements that determine what the size of your recruitment team will be, we haven’t seen any actual numbers yet. And while there is no one-size-fits-all answer here and while there are many factors that play a role, we can still try to give you a rough idea. 
    Exact numbers differ but according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s Knowledge Center, in the US, averages across all industries and employer sizes tend to fluctuate between 30 to 40 open job requisitions per recruiter at any given time. However, for recruiters who focus on high-level positions filling 3 or 4 roles a month might be an excellent result, while high volume recruiters might be able to manage between 80-100 positions at a time.

Recruitment team configuration

There are as many configurations of a recruitment team as there are organizations, but we’ll describe some possible team formations for various company sizes. 

Startups and small business – up to 10 vacancies per year

Small businesses often don’t have a dedicated HR person, let alone a recruiter. This might be something an employee with an interest in HR and recruitment matters takes care of, but most of the time the (founder and) CEO of the company will be actively involved in the selection of new employees. 

In a startup this makes sense as hiring the wrong person could be fatal for the business. If occasionally a situation occurs where the company can’t find a suitable candidate on its own, the easiest option would be to hire a freelance recruiter or agency. 

Medium-sized organizations – 10 to 20 vacancies per year

Now, for this kind of company, there are several options to choose from in terms of recruitment.

If the company has already hired an HR generalist, it’s likely that this person is a one-man-or-woman recruitment team. As such, they’ll take care of the entire process from sourcing and screening all the way to the employment offer and salary negotiations. 

If the company doesn’t have an HR generalist yet, or if this person is too busy with other HR activities, the company can decide to hire a part-time or freelance recruiter or to completely outsource its recruitment to an agency. 

Scale-ups and fast-growing organizations – 20 to 80 vacancies per year

Once you get to this stage, you need to have a permanent recruiter. This can still be a part-time or full time position, depending on the actual number of vacancies and the scarcity of your target group. 

When it comes to candidate sourcing and writing job adverts, there are various options. If your HR Generalist and recruiter have too much on their plates or don’t have the right skills to take care of these parts of the recruitment process, you can either:

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  • hire specialized external freelancers or agencies to do this or;
  • look for people in-house, like a marketeer or copywriter to help you out.

Larger organizations – 80 to 1,000 vacancies per year

At this point, the urge for a serious recruitment team is there. Depending on the actual number of vacancies and the scarcity of your target group, you will need several recruiters, and a team lead or recruiting manager to lead the team, provide management information, coordinate the use of recruitment tools and do some data analyses.

This is also the stage in which data analysis becomes interesting. At 500 vacancies – assuming at least 20 candidates per vacancy – you already have at least 10,000+ candidates. This creates great opportunities for actionable data analysis.

This doesn’t have to be complicated. A first source for this analysis can be Google Analytics for example. This helps to understand the visitors of your website and vacancies, how long they stay on your site, what kind of device they use etc. 

A second source is your Applicant Tracking System (ATS). This helps you, for instance, to identify the sources via which applicants and new hires came to you so you know where to put your money. 

Team formation

So far, our recruitment team consists of several recruiters, a recruiting manager, and a data analyst. On top of that, it’s good to have a dedicated sourcer, and a marketeer who focuses on vacancy texts, social media-related to recruitment, and employer branding.

At this point, a recruitment assistant would be useful to support the team when and where necessary (think of administrative tasks, answering basic candidate questions, etc.). 

Let’s see what the recruitment team configuration for this kind of larger organization could look like. There could be:

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  • A recruiting manager 
  • Several recruiters, using an average of 1 FTE per 40 hires a year
  • A sourcer
  • A recruitment marketeer 
  • A data analyst 
  • A recruitment assistant 

Of course, this number goes up when the number of vacancies increases.

At 500 or more vacancies a year, having a dedicated data analyst in your recruitment team becomes interesting.

Large organizations and Multinational Corporations (MCNs) – 1,000+ vacancies per year 

Here too, the exact composition of the recruitment team depends on the actual number of vacancies and the scarcity of your target group. For larger companies the number of branches, international spread, complexity of the environment, hierarchy within the organization, legislation, and multilingualism could have an impact.

At this company size, a director or a VP of Talent Acquisition (VP-TA) comes in. This strategic role has direct access to the CHRO, so it’s one step away from senior management. The TA-lead is responsible for designing and applying strategies that help the organization attract and hire qualified employees that help to meet the company’s business goals.

Sometimes when the organization gets to a certain size, it makes more sense to hire specialized recruiters and sourcers. Depending on the industry you are in and the scarcity of the talent you seek, some typical varieties are:

  • campus recruitment or sourcing
  • IT recruitment or sourcing
  • executive-level recruitment or sourcing

Now, let’s see what the recruitment team formation for this company size could look like. There could be:.

  • A manager, director, or VP of talent acquisition
  • Several recruitment managers (or team leads)
  • Recruiters (including specialized ones)
  • Sourcers (including specialized ones)
  • Recruitment marketeers
  • Data analysts
  • Recruitment assistance

Recruitment process outsourcing

Sometimes, you don’t have the capacity, skills, or know-how in-house to take care of the entire recruitment process yourself. This can, for instance, be the case when your company is growing rapidly or when you’re branching out internationally. 

In these kinds of situations, Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) – the outsourcing of (parts of) your recruitment process to a third party – might be a good alternative. 

Benefits of RPO include: 

  • Experienced recruiters have the skills and tools needed to recruit the right people fast
  • The RPO party brings recruitment tooling, proven processes, and market knowledge to the table 
  • Departing recruiters are easier and quicker to replace 

Disadvantages of recruitment process outsourcing can be: 

  • In order to keep the costs down, the team that does the RPO for your organization could consist of junior recruiters (make specific agreements about this)
  • The implementation of and cooperation with the RPO party takes time
  • Certain RPO companies may push mediocre candidates due to an often-used success-fee structure 

There are several types of RPO with different scopes and contract types.

On-request RPO

First, there is on-request RPO. Here, a preferred recruitment services supplier knows the company, its culture and demands, and has easy access to hiring managers and recruiters. In other words, the supplier knows its way around. 

This type of RPO is typically used by organizations with little vacancies and no recruitment experience aboard, or by companies where the recruitment workload is unpredictable or heavily affected by seasonal or other influences. 

Function group-based RPO

Second, there is the so-called function group-based RPO. This is a preferred recruitment services supplier, specialized in one or more specific target groups, that you hire for filling the vacancies for specific roles (like IT or Finance positions) or for a specific department or business unit. 

This type of RPO is interesting for larger organizations and MNCs to cover a whole business unit or hard-to-recruit target groups.

Full RPO

We talk about full RPO when the RPO supplier takes over the full recruitment cycle, from vacancy intake, copywriting, and posting the job, through CV screening and interviewing, until the employment conditions interview. Oftentimes, the supplier will work from your offices to get as intimate as possible. Hiring managers and candidates will hardly notice that their recruitment is outsourced.

This type of RPO is interesting for larger companies and MNCs that choose to focus on their core activities.

Recruitment team
Recruitment Process Outsourcing can be a good way to fix short-term problems while building a sustainable recruitment team.

The question now is, when should you decide to at least investigate partial or full recruitment process outsourcing? If you can check multiple of the following boxes and do not expect significant improvements at the desired moment, you may want to consider RPO to some extent: 

  • The organization has no professional knowledge in the field of recruitment and marketing. The pace of developments requires a specialist with up-to-date market and expert knowledge
  • You do not use the state-of-the-art tooling you need to reach scarce target groups or run your recruitment processes effectively and efficiently
  • You aim for a significantly higher service level to hiring managers, candidates, HR, and senior management at short notice
  • The organization decides to concentrate on the core business and outsources all non-core activities
  • The cost per hire is too high
  • The quality of hire lags
  • The time to fill is too long

In some cases, you can implement partial RPO and over time build the capability in-house. This will bring in external knowledge and fix short-term problems while building a long-term recruiting capability. 

If you want to learn more about Strategic Recruitment, Data, Metrics, Employer Branding, and Recruitment Analytics, make sure to check out our Talent Acquisition Certification Program.

On a final note

The recruitment team plays a key part in identifying, attracting, and selecting top candidates. The ideal size of your team depends on factors such as the scarcity of candidates, the extent to which your process has been automated and, of course, the number of vacancies you have to fill. The latter will often be linked to the size of your company.

In some cases, for instance when you lack the capacity, skills, or know-how needed to be effective and efficient in your recruiting, outsourcing your recruitment process might be a good alternative.


What does a recruitment team do?

Put simply, the recruitment team takes care of the identifying, attracting, and selecting of candidates to fill the organization’s vacancies.

What is the ideal size of a recruitment team?

The ideal size of a recruitment team depends on numerous factors, including the size of the company, the extent to which the process has been automated, the scarcity of candidates, the amount of sourcing that needs to be done and the ratio of active versus passive candidates.

What is recruitment process outsourcing?

Recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) is the outsourcing of (parts of) your recruitment process to a specialized third party.

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