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Retained search vs contingency

The Face Off Between Retained search vs contingency recruitment.

Recruiters vary in their approaches, just as recruitment processes do. What many clients may not be aware of is that there are two primary methods of engaging with a recruiter: retained search and contingency.

The distinction between these two approaches is straightforward. In retained recruitment, the recruiter receives an upfront or scheduled fee and operates exclusively on the search. This means that only that specific recruiter will be involved in the process. On the other hand, contingency recruitment operates on a "no win, no fee" or success fee basis. Multiple recruiters may be involved in the search for suitable talent. If one of them successfully finds and places a candidate, they receive payment. If not, they don't. There can also be instances of exclusive contingency, where only one recruiter is assigned to the role.

The pros and cons of retained search versus contingency recruitment.

Both types of recruitment, retained and contingency, come with their own advantages and disadvantages. Retained recruitment may have a higher upfront cost, but overall, it can be comparable in terms of total expenses. Essentially, the client pays a portion of the fee upfront to a recruitment agency, demonstrating their commitment to hiring and establishing a close partnership until the placement is made. On the other hand, contingency recruitment can be perceived as cheaper since there is no upfront fee. Payment is made only when a recruiter successfully fills the position, mitigating the risk.

Engaging with multiple recruiters on a contingency basis can potentially provide access to a broader talent pool and diverse perspectives on the job requirements. However, this approach of "many hands make light work" can have unintended consequences. It may lead to a diffusion of responsibility, where no single person is accountable for finding the right candidate. Recruiters might withdraw from the search if the requirements become challenging or if they have more lucrative opportunities. In today's competitive talent market, where recruiters' time is in high demand, clients who don't demonstrate commitment to a particular recruitment agency may find their role receiving lower priority.

Confidentiality and discretion are crucial in the recruitment process. Your recruiter acts as an ambassador for your brand, so it is advisable to work with a single agency to maintain control over the image they project. When multiple agencies are involved, the focus on selling your brand may be diluted since exclusivity is not established.

Contingency recruitment can become complicated when multiple recruiters approach the same candidate for the same role, creating an impression of desperation and lack of focus on the part of the employer. In contrast, retained search is inherently more exclusive, signaling to candidates the seriousness and significance the company places on the hire. In a competitive candidate market, these factors play a significant role.

Retained search = stress-free recruitment

Lastly, in contingency recruitment, clients may find themselves in the position of briefing and managing multiple recruiters over an extended period of time. This situation is less than ideal since the purpose of working with a recruitment expert is to alleviate the stress associated with a time-consuming process.

In contrast, with retained search projects, we allocate a dedicated team to the task, enabling them to work swiftly and efficiently. It is not uncommon for us to complete a role within a week's time. Furthermore, the benefits of retained search are not limited to senior positions alone; it can also be highly effective for project-based needs. With our track record fill ratio, success is guaranteed when working with us.

While contingency recruitment may yield good candidates, retained search ensures definitive results.

Choosing retained or contingency

Determining whether to utilize retained or contingency recruitment for your business depends on various factors. Contingency recruitment can be suitable for junior positions, and at Helmsman Group, we have successfully undertaken contingency-based projects. However, when it comes to senior hires or roles requiring hard-to-find skill sets, retained search is highly likely to yield the best outcomes.

It is essential to consider the amount of time your team can dedicate to the recruitment process, your company's budget, and the type of candidate you wish to attract. While choosing contingency recruitment may initially seem cost-effective, it could potentially prolong the search for the ideal candidate.

Ultimately, the decision should be based on a comprehensive evaluation of these factors to ensure the most efficient and effective recruitment strategy for your specific needs.

How can we help?

Introducing our specialized recruitment services for the energy and technology sector. Through our evidence-based Recruitment Process Management system, we guarantee predictable outcomes, cost savings, and improved retention. With tailored solutions, we minimize downtime, boost new employee retention, and reduce hiring costs. Plus, we provide peace of mind with our up to 12-month replacement policy. Trust Helmsman Group to deliver exceptional talent and drive your organization's success in the energy and technology industries.

Whatever type of recruitment you choose, we at Helmsman Group would be happy to help. If you'd like to discuss the best option for your situation, don't hesitate to get in touch. Call us @281-532-8382 or email @

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