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Contingent Recruitment vs. Retained Recruitment

​Recruitment is an ever-growing market, with more and more agencies now working across several different sectors. Agencies typically offer two main services - a retained search and a contingent search.

So, what is the difference between contingent recruitment and retained recruitment? This article will offer advice and provide a breakdown of how each service works – both retained and contingent.

Retained Recruitment:

Working on a retained basis means the recruiter will charge an upfront fee to the client to conduct a search. The preferred recruiter will operate on an exclusive basis, meaning that the vacancy will only be filled through this recruitment company.

On a retained search, the recruiter will work very closely with their clients and use an agreed method to find the best person for the job. This could be put down to several factors, such as location, motivations, experience, salary, language skills etc.

This process is usually an in-depth search with a shortlist of anything from five to ten names being presented before interviews commence. On top of this, a longlist should be provided to the client of all the relevant candidates who could perform the role. Not only should a retained search find the client the best talent in the market, it should also include market feedback and market insights on their business and how their competitors are attracting talent. It should be used as a partnership to empower the client.

Contingent Recruitment:

A contingent search on the other hand, is a typical ‘no win no fee’ agreement. It is a simple search where a service is performed by a recruitment company for free until the day a candidate represented by them takes a position with their client. Many recruiters working on this basis are often competing with the client’s internal HR department, advertisements, direct applicants and typically one or more other recruitment companies – meaning 9 times out of 10, you will not get an agency’s full attention as the likelihood of completion is much lower.

The problem with contingency recruitment is that you will not always receive the absolute best talent on the market from the chosen recruiter. This is because some agencies will be looking for quick wins and quick profiles. This often means that you may get profiles sent to you who are ‘on the market’ rather than ‘in the market’.

A contingent search can be more effective if you agree an exclusive agreement to one agency, or can offer a number of different things such as:

  • 24 hour CV feedback

  • Up front interview availability

  • Confirmed face to face availability

Difference in methods:

A retained recruiter may take a little longer with the search to ensure that they are doing the job to their best ability and providing you with the best service possible. This is not to say that you should not retain a recruiter if you are looking for a quick hire. Fast hires through a retained search could also be done by putting a strict, but in depth search process in place with the right recruiter which will allow speed and precision. On the other hand, a contingent search may allow speed and various CV’s, however the candidates may not always be at the level or calibre you are looking for, depending on the success skill of your recruiter.

Mantell Associates is a specialist Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Recruitment organisation. We pride ourselves on the success we have as a business on both contingent recruitment and retained searches, and are able offer tailored services to your business needs. For more info, please reach out to Oliver Masson on +44 (0)20 3778 0990 or oliver.masson@mantellassociates.com.