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Retained vs Contingency | Print |

There are characteristics to retained and contingent searches, which all employers and candidates need to understand before selecting a search firm. While there always are exceptions to any rule, understand that in the majority of cases, the business model of the firm drives these characteristics more than the capabilities of its recruiters. The value of an individual recruiter (judgment, experience, ethics and thoroughness) can only be fully considered within the context of the business model.

Retained Search Firms Contingency Search Firms
Relieves the employer of the burden of qualifying candidates, saving valuable company time. Contingency process dictates that firms forward as many raw resumes to an employer as possible, burdening both the employer and candidate to screen each other.
Represent employer clients only. Can and frequently do represent individuals seeking placement.
Presents a given candidate to one client at a time. Never puts clients in competition with each other. The contingency business model forces recruiter to mass merchandise candidates to many companies simultaneously.
Conducts assignments on an exclusive basis only, and in a consultative manner. Are usually in competition with the client itself and other similar firms or agencies for the placement.
Professional staff tends to be compensated on salary, bonus, profit sharing basis with incentives for client business development. Professional staff tends to be compensated on commissions for volume of placements made.
Exhaustive interviews of candidates, in-person. Cursory interviews of candidates, over the telephone.
Usually works at higher organizational levels. Usually works at lower organizational levels.
Must know client organization and position responsibility/requirements thoroughly before beginning search. Tends to spend less time in initial research and specification; may not even meet company management and deal solely on the telephone.
Focuses recruiting and evaluation efforts on a broad range of potential candidates, most of whom are not in active job market. Process and result oriented. Focus primarily on applicants/candidates actively seeking new employment. Placement-oriented.
Provides client thorough documentation, including a written summary of candidate's strengths and weaknesses, position and salary history, written references, motivations, compensation requirements. Provides client a resume and salary requirement.
Thoroughly prepares candidates before client interviews with details on the position's requirements, the client's environment and history. Sends candidates on interviews without a clear understanding of the specific job or the client's requirements or expectations.
Search consultant personally handles only 3-5 assignments on average, at any given time. Contingency recruiters/agency counselors work with a multitude of open job orders.
Search consultant may invest 40-50 hours per month, per client assignment. Without a guarantee of payment for services performed, cannot afford to invest much time in any single search.
Usually recommends 2-4 pre-screened, highly qualified candidates to client. Most submit a high volume of minimally screened resumes to increase probability of a placement. Burden of screening and qualifying is placed on client's personnel.
Reputable firms offer a professional guarantee and commitment to thorough and ethical practices and results. Reputable firms under no obligation to guarantee or produce results due to contingency fee arrangement (paid on placement only).
Fees based on salary, time or flat quote plus expenses, average 30-35% of placement's first year's compensation. Similar fees in the 15-25% range.
"GMR is by far the most professional search firm I have worked with.  They take the time to fully understand & document hiring requirements before they begin a search.  GMR never flooded me with resumes and candidates that they expected me to qualify.  Candidates always came to me prescreened and qualified to my specific requirements.  The value to me and my staff was in the time it saved and the fact that we were able to fill openings with top notch professionals."

Russ Robinson
Graybeard Consulting
formerly CIO, Randalls Food Markets

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