The Differences Between Contingency and Retained Professional Search

      Comments Off on The Differences Between Contingency and Retained Professional Search

Many job seekers don’t realize that there are two different kinds of headhunters out there. Today’s recruiters work on either a contingency or a retained basis, and there are significant differences between the two. In this guide, readers can learn more about these differences.

Retained Search

When a Professional search firm works on a retainer, it means that they take upfront payment before conducting the search. They work exclusively, which means that positions are only filled through that particular recruiting company. Such recruiters work closely with clients, using agreed-upon methodologies to find the right candidate for each job. The recruitment process is often rigorous, with a short list of names being offered before the interview process begins. Companies often request retained search firms when they want to fill a senior-level position, or when less-expensive options are exhausted.


On the other hand, contingency search occurs when the candidate is the leverage. It’s sometimes described as no-win, no-fee service. Here, the recruiter works free of charge until one of their candidates takes a position with the client company. When recruiters work on such a basis, they typically have to compete with the client’s in-house human resources department, direct applicants, ads, and other recruiters.

Differences in Methodology

Retained recruiters use agreed-upon methodologies and processes to get things right, in the reassurance that they’ll eventually fill the client’s position. A contingency recruiter works much faster and they may deliver more potential candidates in hopes of making a successful placement. Another significant difference is that retained recruiters have agreed to a certain service level, while contingency recruiters simply move on to clients that are easier to work with.

Implications for Candidates

If a candidate is approached about an open position, they should ask the recruiter how they obtained the assignment and how the competition looks. When clients deal with retained recruiters, they’re more likely to get good briefings on roles, interviews, offers, and more. With that said, however, contingency recruiters are often more proactive, and their sales skills can help candidates land the ideal job. Call today or visit the website to find out how professional recruiters can help clients and candidates alike.