Contingent Vs Retained Search

Contingent Vs Retained Search

Companies make the mistake of thinking that when sharing their role with multiple agencies they believe they are duplicating the effort and getting more coverage of the market.

But actually what they are doing is diluting the effort and coverage they get from each and every recruiter.

When working on a contingent basis, recruiters are normally working on five to 15 jobs at any one time. In order to work closest to the fee, they must grade their jobs. Unfortunately, the harder-to-fill positions, especially those with other agencies working on them, tend to get the lowest grading. Instead of getting a duplicate of effort, you actually get a dilution when you’re using multiple agencies to source the same position.

The Iceberg

When you realise that 30% of any given talent pool is active, in much the same way that 30% of an iceberg is visible in water. These 30% are the ones that will apply to an advert or reply to a LinkedIn message/email. So on a contingent basis with limited time to risk every recruiter is typically engaging with the visible 30% of talent.

So unfortunately in a contingent process, most of the talent goes unspoken to because they haven’t responded to initial approaches. Also sadly it’s often that same 30% which gets approached, imagine what impact this has.

This means that the candidates who don’t respond to initial approaches, generally are not engaged with on a contingent basis, because it takes too long to headhunt them. Unfortunately, 70% of every talent pool is in this category.


‘For Sale’

In this market, every candidate is precious. Even if they’re not right for now, they do talk, or they might be a candidate for the future. If you think about a house with multiple ‘For Sale’ signs, what impact does that have on you as a buyer? And what perception do you have of that house? That is exactly what happens when you have two, three or four agencies on the same vacancy.

Unfortunately, it is the same 30% of candidates that get engaged on a contingent basis – so this is effectively what happens when you brief multiple agencies on the same position. Candidates are approached multiple times. As a company, you can’t afford to make a poor impression on anybody or dilute the effort of the recruiter.


When you also consider that contingent recruiters have to work fast and as soon as they come across a candidate that looks a bit right and is a bit interested they have to submit their CV straight away before someone else does otherwise the competition will get there first and they will get the fee.

How much time does that allow the recruiter to qualify and assess the candidate?

How much time does that leave to make sure the candidate has the right skills for the job, will fit the culture and has fully explored and considered the opportunity?

None! There’s just no time for that.

Retained Search 

Inversely retained search allows a recruiter to apply a robust process mitigating against the things that can go wrong giving them an extremely high chance of reaching a result. And not just any result but the best result that is available to you in the market at this time.

When working with a search firm on a retained basis you change that candidate journey and experience, ensuring it is thoroughly headhunted, well controlled and the recruitment firm can have a positive impact on the talent pool. By putting a robust process in place, which both parties commit to working together on until a result is reached.

Partnering with a retained recruitment firm can be a game-changer for any business. This relationship thrives on trust and understanding, allowing clients to rely on their recruitment partner to secure top-tier talent. However, retainers aren’t suitable for every role due to the resources required, which need to justify the return on investment. For successful recruitment, it’s crucial to have someone who is accountable. In a contingency setup, that’s the hiring manager. In a retained setup, it’s the recruiter.

Some of our clients who benefit from our retained recruitment services include heavily funded start-ups, large banks, healthcare companies and service providers to name a few.

If you’re interested in exploring retained recruitment with Edge Tech please get in touch using the below details:


UK: +44 1908 382 398

US: +1 628 212 8404

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