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Retained vs. Contingency Recruiters for Hiring Success

Recruitment Strategies

Retained search vs Contingency Recruiters

When you're looking for a specific type of recruitment agency, it can be difficult 'especially if you're trying to fill a niche role. Retained vs contingency?

There are two types of recruiters: retained and contingency. A retained recruiter gets paid regardless if they are successful or not.

However, they are contracted to the client, committing to filling that vacancy no matter how hard or long it takes, therefore providing a service guarantee. A contingency recruiter gets paid only if they fill the position.

The pros and cons of retained search versus contingency recruitment

How to choose between Retained vs contingency?

Contingency agencies do not charge clients money upfront, but they do not guarantee success. This means that if a candidate does not get the job, the client pays nothing. Contingency-based recruitment is less expensive than retained recruitment because the client only pays when the candidate gets the job.

Working with several recruiters on a contingency basis can lead to a diffusion of responsibility as well as an increase in workload. Recruiters may be free to walk away if briefs become too difficult or if they have something else more lucrative on their books (e.g., another client).

Confidentiality and discretion are crucial when recruiting. You should work with one agency to sell your brand. Multiple recruiters may not focus on selling your brand because there is competition among them.

Contingency can also get messier than you think. You might be approached by several companies for the same position. This makes your employer seem desperate and unfocused. Retained search is much more exclusive in every sense. It shows candidates that your company is serious about hiring them.

The pricing structure of contingency recruitment

Contingency-based recruitment is a simple process. If the recruiter doesn't provide the winning candidate, they won't be paid. Pricing can range from 10% to 25% based on the successful candidates starting salary


If the role is difficult, the location is remote or perhaps the salary is under market, they will not prioritise it in their work as it is not 'closest to the fee'. You should always choose a retained recruiter however as they are always more methodical and committed to filling the role Retained recruiters are paid by clients to fill jobs on an exclusive basis. They are expected to find the best candidate for the job. They may also be required to interview several people to make sure they get the right person. Clients pay them for their services.

A retained search is a very expensive option. The company pays the recruiter a fee as well as pays the candidate's salary. This means that the company must be confident that the candidate is worth the money. This is often used by executive search firms.

Benefits of retained recruitment

A retained search opens up potential candidates who are already employed, meaning they're able to expand their search to a wider range of individuals 'increasing the chances of finding the person with the exact, unique skill sets needed for the niche role.

Top-end recruiters are more likely to be exclusive than other types of recruiters. They are motivated to work hard to ensure they retain clients.

Headhunters and executive search firms maintain a large network of contacts. Their job is to recruit people into companies. They often work as an intermediary between employers and employees. They also help candidates get jobs by making introductions to potential employers.

Greater efficiency and effectiveness. Having one team to deal with also helps the efficiency of the recruitment process, as well as enables the recruitment agency team to be more effective.

A headhunter will usually provide you with profiles of four or five candidates. You should interview each candidate thoroughly before making a decision.

Downsides of retained recruitment

Retained recruitment is a very expensive process. An employer must pay a percentage of the final fees to the recruiter before presenting a candidate to you.

This means that if your budget is tight, then you may need to reconsider whether or not this is an option for you.

Retained recruitment is a slow process because candidates must be found and matched with the correct job role. This takes time for recruiters to set up.

Pricing Structure of Retained Recruitment

Retained recruiters charge a higher fee than contingency recruiters. This is because headhunters are more expensive to employ.

A recruiter may ask for a fee upfront or pay another when he receives a list of candidates. But a headhunter will always want to get paid before any candidates are hired.

A recruitment agency charges a fee based on the amount of money you are paying them. This fee may be as high as 50% of your first year's pay. Recruitment agencies charge more when hiring people who are already employed.

Difference in methodology

So what's the difference in methodology Retained vs contingency? Retained recruiters take their time to get things done correctly, while contingency recruiters work quickly to make placements. Retained recruiters have signed up to a service-level agreement (SLA), which means they will do everything possible to place a candidate.

Contingency recruiters may not always follow an SLA, but they will still try to place a candidate.

Which recruitment method should you choose contingency or retained?

Given that contingency and retained recruitment differ, how do you decide whether to use a retained recruiter or a contingency recruiter?

At the top and the bottom of the salary range, the answer is simple: for lower-paid positions, contingency recruiters will usually work better than retained recruiters. However, for higher-paid positions, retained recruiters will usually outperform contingency recruiters.

This has more to do with the supply and demand of labour than anything else. Retained recruitment works well for filling positions at the bottom of the pay scale.

However, when recruiting towards the middle range of salaries, this difference is not as clear-cut. Some roles require skills that are widely available, while others require specialist skills.

There are many different types of recruitment agencies. Some are free, and some charge a fee. Some are paid, and others are unpaid. Some are permanent, others are temporary. Some are full-time, others part-time. Some are large, others are small. Some are specialists, others are generalists.

Implications for you the candidate

Recruitment agencies should provide as much information as possible to candidates. Candidates should ask questions about the process and what they need to do to get hired. Contingency recruiters should be more proactive than traditional recruiters.

How can we help?

So here is my overview of Retained vs contingency. We at Food Recruit would be glad to help you. If you want to talk about what kind of search you need, feel free to contact us.