• Estimated read time: 6 mins
  • Date posted:20/05/2019
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Project recruitment is a form of recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) designed to support urgent or business-critical human capital transformations. Working in conjunction with an organisations’ Talent Acquisition (TA) or Human Resources (HR) function, project recruitment aims to help organisations effectively respond to and manage these complex, high-risk scenarios by finding, qualifying and placing top talent within strict timeframes.

On-demand and scalable, project recruitment solutions empower organisations to preempt and adapt to political, economic, social or technological change and gain a competitive edge; all without the overheads (time, money, energy) associated with upskilling and expanding their TA or HR teams.

Why use project recruitment providers

Your organisation does not exist in a vacuum. Demands for products or services can fluctuate, resulting in you expanding your capacity at one moment, and restructuring the next. Long-term success is dependent upon your organisations’ ability to rapidly adapt to market changes and customer demand.

Complicating matters further are the challenges facing talent acquisition. Finding, hiring and onboarding A-players, whether on a permanent or contract basis, is resource intensive and high risk. While the right hire can transform a business, a bad hire can jeopardise its future. This risk is magnified during recruitment drives where organisations may find themselves onboarding multiple employees, and in some cases, entire teams.

Project recruitment solutions take the burden off your TA or HR teams during periods of heightened recruitment, which can arise when:

  • An organisation is developing or launching a new product or solution.
  • An organisation is expanding a facility or commissioning a new one.
  • An organisation is undergoing a period of rapid transformation.
  • An organisation has won a contract with a tight delivery schedule.
  • An organisation is opening a satellite facility in a new territory.
  • An organisation has a recruitment backlog they cannot cope with.

What roles do project recruitment providers fill?

Recruitment project providers give you access to both permanent and contract talent. The type (permanent Vs contract) and levelling (fit within the organisational hierarchy) of the roles sought will be determined by the nature and scale of the recruitment project, as well as the functional expertise/specialisms sought. Large specialist recruitment projects, for example, where an organisation is expanding an existing facility, commissioning the construction of an new facility or perhaps undergoing a period of rapid transformation, might require employees across all five seniority levels:

CXO – Top managerial positions within an organisation.
VP – executive management, typically a head of a business function.
Senior – individual with direct reports and leadership responsibilities.
Manager – individuals with direct reports and some level of influence.
Associate – individuals with two-three years relevant industry experience.
Entry level – individuals with minimal professional work experience.

However, in reality, not all project recruitment providers will find and places candidates across all seniority levels from entry level to CXO. Executive search firms and recruiters offering project recruitment solutions tend to do so within their remit, whether that be industry expertise (e.g. life science), functional focus (e.g. manufacturing) or levelling (e.g. senior management and executive-level roles). As such, project recruitment providers tent to work in conjunction with TA or HR, finding, qualifying and shortlisting those roles which best fit their remit.

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What is the recruitment project process?

The recruitment project process begins when a client retains a recruitment project provider to support a business-critical human capital transformation. While the particulars of the search – geography, industries, disciplines, levelling, confidentiality, timeframe – can be tailored to suit a client’s requirements, the recruitment project search process remains relatively steadfast. It consists of a series of stages with key deliverables and milestones – candidate shortlisting, candidate interview and job offer  – along the way.

The six steps for placing permanent talent as part of a recruitment project are detailed below. The process for placing contract talent is similar but is not described in this article.

1) Discovery & Define

The discovery process serves two purposes: 1) to establish the skills, experience and competencies essential for success and 2) to define the client’s market offering, their mission and values.

This ensures the recruitment project provider can qualify candidates for both technical fit – the extent to which a candidates strengths, needs and experience match the job specification – and cultural fit – the extent to which a candidate’s values, beliefs, outlook and conduct align with the client’s organisation. Both are prerequisites for successful onboarding and retention.

2) Search & Identify

With the situation and requirements clearly established, the next phase is to analyse of the market – talent mapping – to identify the calibre of candidates available and the industries and locations where they reside. Talent mapping serves to reduces lead times, ensuring the geographic scope is sufficient in size to headhunt A-players while generating insight into how best to approach them.

Talent mapping complete, the recruitment project provider will approach potential candidates on behalf of the client. The majority of candidates will have been identified as a direct result of the talent mapping exercise, though some will be known to the recruitment project provider through their extensive industry networks and others may be sourced through targeted advertising.

3) Qualify & Access

The approach aims to establish whether there is sufficient interest in the role and prescreen candidates based on the minimum requirements – e.g. whether they have a visa to work in the country. Providing candidates are interested and sufficiently qualified for the position,  comprehensive qualification assessment including competency and technical based questioning designed to match a candidate’s skills, experience and competencies against the job specification will follow. Depending on geographies involved, candidates and consultants might meet in person.

4) Select & Shortlist

Following qualification, those candidates who skills, experience and values best match the job specification are presented to the client for consideration, together with their CV and any supporting information that can assist the client in their selection. The recruitment project provider will liaise with the client, clarifying any points raised and feeding back information in a timely manner.

5) Guide & Influence

Candidates successful at shortlisting will enter the interview phase. It is in the best interest of the recruitment project provider to diligently brief and prepare their candidates ahead of interview, giving them the best possible chance of success. Depending on the level of service provided, some recruitment project providers will manage the entire candidate-side interview process on behalf of the clients, from scheduling interviews and travel arrangements through to post-interview feedback. Others will merely brief, prepare and debrief candidates on an interview by interview basis.

6) Close & Feedback

The final milestone in the search process, the successful candidate(s) will be made a job offer providing their background and reference checks give the green light. Any a-player in their industry worth their salt will be made a counter-offer, so many recruitment project providers provide full offer management to include the handling of counter offers and the provision of post-offer support.

Following the successful conclusion, some recruitment project providers will we seek feedback on the hiring process from all candidates who interviewed with their client. This information is fed back to key stakeholders, enabling their client to hone their hiring process and alerting them to potential issues which could adversely affect the candidate experience and impact employer brand.

How do recruitment project providers get paid?

The majority of recruitment project providers operate on a retained basis, requiring the client pays an upfront fee – typically thirty-three-per-cent of the fee – prior to the commencement of the search. This reflects the considerable work undertaken to market map, identify, qualify and shortlist candidates. It’s what differentiates retained search firms from contingent-based counterparts.

On the successful placement of a candidate — usually at the point of contract sign — the client is billed the remaining fee. This could be 30% or more of the candidate’s annual salary depending on the nature and scope of the search. If a client decides not to interview any of the shortlisted candidates or cancels the search in its entirety, some recruitment project providers will charge a client for the cost of delivering another shortlist, or a cancellation fee. However, the best recruitment project providers will waver both, prioritising client relationships over short-term financial gain.

Client relationships are key to a successful search. Recruitment project providers operating a retained model function as an extension of a client’s in-hours talent acquisition or HR teams. They take the time to understand the client’s business model, its values and challenges, alongside the particulars of the hire. Not only does this ensure that shortlisted candidates are a good fit for the role and the organisation’s culture – essential for retention – but it ensures consultants can paint an organisation in the best possible light when pitching to high-calibre senior candidates.


For more hiring advice tailored to hiring managers, TA and HR professionals working in the life science industry…

* Fraser Dove International is a specialist executive search firm operating exclusively in the Life Science industry. Passionate about people, we take pride in helping exceptional life science organisations source the talent they need to design, manufacture and distribute life-changing drugs, treatments and devices which transform and save patient lives.

For more information on how Fraser Dove International can help you find the very best life science talent, explore our project RPO service, upload a vacancy or get in touch.

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