How to write a Request for Proposal (RFP) for RPO/MSP

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How to write a Request for Proposal (RFP) for RPO/MSP
Ria Newham

How to write a Request for Proposal (RFP) for RPO/MSP

If you’re outsourcing your recruitment, you might feel overwhelmed by choice. Learn what an RFP is, when and why you might use one, and how to get started.

Outsourcing your recruitment is a big decision. Hiring the right talent is key to the longevity and success of any business strategy and trusting your future to a third party can seem daunting. Luckily, tender processes have been designed to take some of the risk out of the decision by thoroughly qualifying suppliers and ensuring you only partner with the people best placed to represent you and your needs. Here, we’ll give you an overview of what you need to know when issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP).

What is an RFP?

An RFP (Request for Proposal) is a document detailing your requirements for a recruitment project, such as outsourcing your permanent recruitment. Suppliers will respond to the RFP with their solutions in a bid to win the contract and deliver the project. RFPs should contain enough detail for a supplier to produce an accurate, workable solution for you. You can issue an RFP for any recruitment project you want, whether that’s a 3+ year MSP or a single six-month volume hiring campaign (Project RPO)

What’s the difference between a Request for Information (RFI) and a Request for Proposal (RFP)?

When putting together your proposal, you may hear terminology like RFI, RFP and RFQ. These requests typically correlate with how far along in the decision-making process you are. An RFI – or Request for Information – is used when your requirements aren’t yet defined, and you want to learn more about the suppliers and understand their potential solutions. RFIs typically take the form of a list of general questions about a supplier’s approach and credentials, requiring a written response. However, more and more now we are seeing companies opt for a presentation format of response, where they get to meet the supplier in person or virtually, and ask questions post the presentation. An RFI is normally followed by an RFP; some businesses will shortlist suppliers between stages.

A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a more detailed request, and asks the supplier to give a formal, defined solution for your specific requirements. As part of the RFP, the supplier will demonstrate their skills, experience and expertise, outline their solution and benefits, and quote the cost for delivering the solution. You will need to provide as much information as possible about your requirements at RFP stage in order to get the best solutions from suppliers. RFQs (Request for Quotation) may also be used where you have a clear understanding of the solution you need, and simply want a pricing comparison. 

Do you need to write a Request for Proposal?

You don’t have to issue a Request for Proposal to choose a service provider at all if you don’t want to. Some businesses go out to tender to explore different options and to see if there are other solutions (or providers!) that better fit their requirements. It can also be a useful price comparison exercise, to ensure you’re getting the most for your money and that you’re paying a competitive price for any existing solutions (for second generation RPO/MSPs). Generally speaking, it’s never a bad idea to see what else is on the market, and you may wish to meet with potential suppliers on a more informal basis.

However, there are cases where going out to tender might not feel right, and the grass isn’t necessarily always greener. Tendering is a time, cost, and resource-heavy process that requires input from lots of different senior stakeholders. If you don’t feel like anything is missing with your current provider, or you’ve already identified a supplier that you feel confident ticks all the boxes, then you might be tempted to bypass the process.

How do I write a Request for Proposal for recruitment?

Step 1: Prepare and define your needs

Before writing your RFP, you should have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve. Start by mapping out the scope of the work, such as where you want it delivered, how you want it delivered (i.e. model of recruitment), and when you need it delivered by. Then detail pain points you need solving and key objectives. Your objectives might not always be operational – you may want a supplier that is aligned to your values, for example. You can refer to this plan as you build your RFP.

Step 2: Introduce your business and background

Your introduction should give context to your proposal. It should explain who you are as a business and reasons for outsourcing, such as going through a significant period of growth. Your company history, values and purpose let suppliers know a bit more about you and what matters most. You should provide a summary of the project and key aims, and you can also detail information about the process, such as timeframes, if you wish.

Step 3: Outline your requirements

This is perhaps the most important aspect of writing your RFP, as the more detailed you can be, the better the solutions will be. Provide as much information as you can, including both strategic requirements (e.g. becoming seen as an employer of choice) and operational targets (e.g. improve CV to interview rate). Where possible you should provide anonymised data sets to demonstrate your needs, such as key roles you recruit for and average salaries & day rates to enable potential suppliers to provide you with accurate indicative pricing

Step 4:  Explain how suppliers should respond

You should set out the format for how you want suppliers to respond, and there are a number of ways you can do this. You can request a specific format (e.g. general headers/bullet points to address), ask direct, detailed questions if you want specific answers, or allow the proposal to be freeform. You can also put limitations around responses, such as word counts or page limits. And you can issue an RFP using a portal to standardise responses, or you can request PDFs to encourage more creative and visual proposals. Word limitations are good for clean, concise responses, but it’s important not to be too restrictive or you could miss important information. Likewise, setting out a format or asking specific questions makes proposals easier to compare, but freeform allows the supplier to showcase specific elements of their solution.  

Step 5: Outline evaluation criteria and timeframes

Ideally, you should set out clear evaluation criteria to help suppliers understand how you will score their proposals. This might include weighting for specific elements of the proposal or highlighting specific priorities. You should also give the supplier the opportunity to ask any clarification questions (CQs). Responses to these questions should then be shared amongst all suppliers to ensure a fair tender process. You should also outline your timeframes, including a CQ deadline, response deadline, shortlisting deadline (where appropriate), any next steps and their deadlines (such as presentation), and expected date for contract award/project go-live (if known). 

I hope this short guide will give you the confidence you need to start putting together an RFP! If you are currently thinking of outsourcing and want to understand your different recruitment options, check out our Client Services. You can also get in touch with us at for more information on Lorien, what we do, and outsourcing your recruitment. 

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