how to manage volume spikes in recruitment

July 7, 2015 Dave McInally

look to an RPO solution to keep talent engaged and readily available

Your business has just announced a massive project or successful pitch that will result in massive growth. All exciting news, right? But…you are stuck.

Your mind races: are you going to hire 500 employees on a permanent basis? Is your annual demand high enough to sustain 500 permanent hires? Can you accommodate contingent labor solutions in your region? Can you somehow manage both full-time employees and contingent workforce as part of the initiative?

After you have formed a sound people expansion strategy (because you are awesome), the difficult questions come to mind. Do you have a talent acquisition team that can manage the significant extra spike? Does your team have the capacity, capability, or support needed to ramp up quickly? Do you have time to train new talent acquisition consultants? What if they don’t deliver, and you only realize this midway through the hiring spike?

Then even more questions keep you wake at night. Do you even have pipelines of candidates to choose from? What happened to all the candidates from previous projects? Were there many qualified ones that you couldn’t hire at the time?  How on earth will you find them again with speed?

So you are stuck, again.

This is a common scenario in many companies that experience a big spike in labor demands as a result of either projects or significant organic growth. Even during this period, business as usual hasn’t stopped, and your talent acquisition team is still under the hammer to live up to its service level agreements.

key ways an RPO can help

The below graph indicates a typical volume-vs.-time cycles. It shows the requirement beyond existing full-time employees (when projects are spiking) and depicts the down times when project teams are demobilized from your business. The most important part of this is the purple shaded sections of the graph showing a dropoff in talent engamement.


Fundamentally, this graph depicts three key areas that a project RPO and/or an ongoing embedded RPO can support this kind of spike work in any organization.

  • scalability – talent acquisition teams
  • talent pipeline development and management
  • project cost, time, and delivery metrics that are linked to your project rehire ratios


Just like your project’s staffing demands, the decision to hire talent acquisition consultants on a contract or permanent basis can impose a heavy load on your already time-stretched diary. You have to consider training, capability, and culture fit in addition to their ability to delivery. In 9 times out of 10 you will hire contract talent acquisition consultants based on the ability to terminate their employment post-project. What do you really get from this? Fundamentally you are getting someone who can answer a phone, post an ad, shuffle paper, email stakeholders, and coordinate interviews.

The robustness of a project RPO solution comes with the knowledge that:

  • the on-site talent acquisition consultants are experienced
  • they are backed by a sourcing team
  • pipelines are created for future use
  • compliance is an SLA and not a task

talent pipeline development and management

CEOs believe that their companies’ biggest asset is people. However, in the down cycle between projects and spikes, companies typically fail to keep talent engaged. Applying asset management principles to your talent pools is imperative to keeping them engaged in your employer brand.

If you have the foresight to use a project RPO, you should consider embedding the down side of your spike swings with a talent maintenance team. These teams are designed to apply asset management principles to your talent pipelines. Some of these principles include maintenance, upgrades, replacement, and overhauls (just like a machinery asset). Having a connectivity framework to manage your talent pipelines ensures that when the next big spike comes, panic doesn’t set in.

Call it what you will – re-hire, re-engagement, re-employment, or candidate re-election. If you do not capture the people leaving the business that you would like to re-engage, then you are losing out big time. As an organization’s re-hire ratio improves for repeating spikes, projects, or organic growth, there is a marked link to increasing employee productivity and delivery efficiency, while time-to-fill, cost of hire, training requirements, and onboarding workloads decline.

To conclude, the better you get at re-hiring, the more significant the impact you make on corporate efficiency. With this, you are giving HR and talent acquisition a real seat at the C-suite boardroom table. 


About the Author

Dave McInally

Regional Strategic Account Director- Global Client Solutions Dave McInally is a former head of recruitment and talent management in Asia Pacific with an MNC whose workforce demand included 5000 hires annually and, in some cases, more than 1000 hires required for 8-10 day projects.

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