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Retained Search v Contingency

4th Feb 2023

In contingency recruitment you might find the right candidate. With retained search, you definitely will.

Finding, assessing and securing high-quality individuals has grown even more complex due to market shifts, demand for talent, priority transitions toward ESG & DEI, competitive salaries and benefits packages.

All recruiters are not alike, and nor are all recruitment processes. What many clients don’t realise is that there are two main ways of engaging with a recruiter: retained search and contingency.

The difference between the two is simple.

In retained search, the recruiter is paid an upfront or scheduled fee to work on an exclusive basis, meaning they will be dedicated to work on the search. In contrast, contingency recruitment works on what would be best described as a ‘no win, no fee basis’ or ‘success fee’. Multiple recruiters may be instructed on the same requirement and the one that finds and places a candidate, they get paid. If they don’t, they don’t.

Both types of recruitment have their benefits and drawbacks for the client although, in most cases, they cost the same overall. In essence, with retained search, a client pays part of the fee upfront to a recruitment agency to source the best talent. This demonstrates the client’s commitment to collaborate with the recruiter throughout the whole process and this close relationship should continue beyond the candidate’s start date.

Working with several recruiters on a contingency recruitment basis can sometimes allow you to tap into a wider talent pool and bring several different perspectives to a brief. However, this “many hands make light work” approach can have unintended consequences. For example, it can lead to a diffusion of responsibility – no one person is responsible for finding the right candidate and recruiters are free to walk away if the brief becomes too tricky, or if they have something more lucrative or another assignment is easier to place. In a market with a high demand for talent, clients that commit to paying for a retained search approach will expect more of a professional rigorous approach in return and will receive one if the talent acquisition specialist has a good track record.

Your chosen recruitment partner is the ambassador for your brand.

It’s prudent to use one agency on an exclusive basis to manage the image they portray of you and the message to the market. Not only do they promote the most accurate representation of your business, but they also know your team well enough to find new recruits that complement your existing structure – lowering staff churn, boosting retention, and streamlining the process from recruitment through to onboarding and beyond.

Contingency recruitment, on the other hand, can become problematic as a candidate could be approached by several recruiters for the same role, thus diluting the employer brand and making them look desperate and not focused. Retained search is more exclusive in every sense of the word; it shows candidates that the company is meticulous about hiring the best talent possible, utilising the most professional talent acquisition specialist to do so.

With retained search projects, HW People have dedicated teams managing the process in complete partnership with the client, from creating the detailed brief with the client, through rigorous research, interviewing with the brief and the clients culture front of mind, through to offer management and on-boarding. HW People seek to improve shareholder value by sourcing the best talent across functional disciplines, and to be a trusted partner to your business.

HW People disrupt the traditional contingent recruitment market by adopting a ‘true’ collaborative approach with our clients acting as trusted advisors, applying best practice executive search techniques to talent acquisition, normally associated with hiring at more senior Director/Board level.

We combine unrivalled research and market knowledge to find the right talent on a permanent and interim basis across salary ranges of £70k to £120k, with the complete backing of a Global Search firm that adds even more strength and weight to the proposition.

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