The opportunity cost of an unfilled job is slowly rising, so you decide it’s time to seek external help. But which do you opt for - retained or contingency?

Before I joined Collingwood I worked for a contingent recruitment agency where my activity levels were monitored strictly by KPI’s and my week seemed to revolve around 'hitting the numbers'. One of the main things I was targeted on was the number of roles I picked up in a week. Don't get me wrong, I do believe targets and KPI's play an important role in driving performance, but what does it actually mean for the clients whose roles you're left unable to fill? After having now worked in both contingent and retained recruitment, I feel confident when providing a practical distinction between the two.

One of the most basic differences between the two types is that retained recruiters are more committed to filling your role. Why is that though? Here’s a few points to consider;


  • Contingent recruiters often fall into the trap of picking up multiple roles (sometimes more than they can handle) with the hope of filling at least one or two. Whereas a retained recruiter is putting their full effort into your search because they’re not having to bet on multiple accounts.


  • A contingent recruiter can easily take on a new client with the knowledge that they may or may not find you the right candidate because they’re not actually bound to anything. However, a retained recruiter is committed and knows their reputation and future of the business is dependent on them finding you the right candidate because they’ve made a promise that they need to adhere to.


  • Because they’re able to spend more time on your account, they can invest their time to fully understand your brief and your organisation. Whereas in a lot of cases, a contingent recruiter has enough time to look at a job description and find somebody who ‘fits it well enough’.


  • A retained recruiter can offer a partnership; they act as a trusted advisor who will spend time with you face-to-face get to know your business as well as you do and to understand what type of individual will add value to your business. A contingent recruiter can get lucky and score you a perfect hire, but that can't always be guaranteed.

When deciding which approach to take it's important that you explore the pro's and con's of every option that's available to you. Every organisation is different and this should be reflected in their recruitment strategy. The articles below are a good benchmark to start from if you're still unsure on which approach is right for your business.

Related articles:

Key Differences between Retained Executive Search and Contingent Recruitment Agencies

10 Bullet Proof Steps to Selecting a Recruitment Partner to Support Your Business

Executive Search - A Cost or Investment?