There’s been a lot of chatter recently about the difference in these forms of recruiting so I thought I’d put my 2 pennies worth into the pot.

For those who aren’t aware of these agreements, retained is where the recruiter is paid part of the fee in advance to secure both exclusivity and shared commitment. Contingency perm is where there is only a fee IF a candidate is placed.

In another language retained is where you have enlisted one professional recruitment partner who will devote time and effort to guarantee filling your vacancy and contingency perm is where you give the role to multiple agencies and everybody rushes round initially (cue benny hill music) to get CVs over first until it becomes obvious that this may take longer than a week so they move on unless someone magically comes across their desk.

Now I’m obviously being glib and there are some good contingency perm agencies out there but really great recruiters know the value of saying no to being part of this game. Any executive search consultant working on more than 5 senior roles at a time is in essence a contingency permanent recruiter, due to the nature of what recruitment should be and as clients like to believe that by giving the role to multiple agencies they are widening the net then it takes a while to change opinion (side-note; this does widen the net, however it also gives the net bigger holes for the right candidates to slip through because they’re being bombarded with approaches from recruiters trying to get a CV before the competition and not too focused on anything else)

A lot of clients I speak with find retained a little bit scary at first and it’s down to our innate human nature to be skeptical of things that seem too good to be true (guaranteeing an offer) and we want to be seen as getting a ‘good deal’ for our business.

Until they experience it for themselves.

This is the hard part of starting your own executive search business. We currently offer a hybrid version of executive search whereby we still do all the things you’d expect of a specialist, however we also know that 3, 4 or even 5 other agencies have the role and are just waiting to send over a CV once someone applies via one of the multiple job boards they have advertised the vacancy on).
I guess this is the legacy of a recruitment industry that has always sold contingency as the default hiring model, despite the fact that the recruitment landscape is almost unrecognisable from 10 years ago – in particular, how candidates view recruitment agencies and how they are sourced.
We’re taking the long-term view that once clients see the difference the next step is to look at retaining our services. This approach seems to be working, but I wish we didn’t have to go through the initial pain as I feel it demeans the industry and clients are missing out on candidates that would be a better fit for their business culture, without realising it.

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