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Contingency Vs. Retained Recruiting: What’s Best for Your Company?


If your HR department has never worked with an executive search firm before, you may not be aware of the difference between a contingent and a retained search. However, understanding the difference – and how it can work to your advantage – can be very important depending on your hiring situation.

The primary difference relates to method of compensation. Contingency search recruiters, as the name implies, only receive compensation if a candidate is placed with a company. This means that usually a contingency search firm is in competition with other contingency firms and is trying to make multiple placements with multiple companies at a flat rate percentage. The contingency search firm works quickly – it’s trying to find qualified candidate placements faster than its competitors.

As mentioned, Cost can also be a factor in your decision to use an agency on a retained or contingent basis. For example, Retained agencies oftentimes put a ceiling on their hiring fees, as opposed to contingency arrangements, thus saving your company money in the long run. This combined with the aforementioned bonus of using a retained agency for niche-hiring situation can often result in a win/win situation.

Generally speaking, another difference between the two recruiting methods is the type of candidates sought using each method: a contingency search firm usually fills entry- and middle-level corporate positions where there may be more candidates available. In contrast, a retained search is generally warranted when you have  specialized, high-level placements. For these positions, there are fewer qualified candidates and the stakes are much higher – as a result, the client wants extensive screening, and is willing to spend the time and money to get it.

In summary, both a contingency search and a retained search can help candidates and clients alike, but first you need to understand which search hiring model fits your current needs.

Burchard & Associates provides a personal approach to accounting and tax recruitment for St. Louis and beyond. We are ready to listen to YOU.

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