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Retained VS. Contingent Search: Which Benefits You and Your Company?

It’s not always easy to track down and hire the best people. Assessment of cultural fit, leadership style, and skill set are all critical components of this process. This is especially true at the senior level, where the recruit will significantly affect the company’s culture and strategic decisions. Many businesses use the services of an executive search agency to locate the best candidates faster and more efficiently.

Retained Search

It’s important to note that retained search is a premium service that comes with a dedicated team of recruiters that are experts in your field. Many times, retained businesses may develop an agreement stating that they would not use any of their present clients as a source for new employees. An off-limits deal with a prominent search company frequently requires a certain amount of money spent on recruiting each year.

The search must be entrusted only to the engaged recruiting agency for these benefits. This methodology is commonly used by clients trying to fill senior-level positions. Search firm fees often range from 30 to 40 percent of the total yearly remuneration for a post under a retained search model. A retainer is paid upfront, a payment is made at a certain period or milestone throughout the search, and the final payment is made when the applicant is hired.

In most cases, companies promise to find a replacement for a candidate who leaves before a predetermined deadline or milestone. Additionally, they can offer coaching and onboarding programs to successfully ensure the transition of the new hire into their new position.

Contingent Search

Clients frequently employ one or many contingency search companies for mid-to lower-level roles. As the name implies, a contingency company is paid only when an applicant is successfully placed. In most cases, contingent search fees are a smaller percentage of total yearly remuneration than retained search fees, which vary widely by industry and complexity.Due to the nature of contingent searches, it is common for more than one business to be involved in a single search. Many companies contract with various recruiting agencies to get the most qualified candidates. The company may also undertake its investigation or look internally to fill the position.

Retained VS. Contingent Search: The Difference Between the Two Approaches

A predetermined fee is agreed upon at the beginning of a contingent search, which is paid only when a successful applicant begins work. It’s not uncommon to spend some money upfront in a retained search and the rest upon completing a project. The cash is reimbursed in full if the task is not completed. This option provides an assurance and a total commitment to fill the position, with a fill rate of 85-95 percent.

As a result, a contingency recruiter may be incentivized to place applicants quicker than the retained counterparts because they don’t have a fixed commission. Since a retained recruiter is eligible for a set fee up ahead, their revenue is not affected by the outcome. Many businesses use this strategy because of its ease of use and stability.

Advantages of Retained Search

Exceptional Potential Employees

It is possible that senior and better-qualified individuals may not be on LinkedIn, making it more difficult to find them. The best workers will not be seeking new jobs. Approximately 75% of potential employees are not discovered in this manner, even if they possess the necessary qualifications such as relevant work experience, education, and cultural fit. They are already performing at the top of their game in their current position.

Approach Based on Mutual Consultation

It’s a collaboration when you deal with an executive agency to find the right person for your organization since they will assist you in defining the scope of the position. The search consultant will create a candidate specification to showcase your firm in the best possible light and entice top talent to join you. By the conclusion of the search, you’ll have a thorough understanding of your field and a competitive advantage over other candidates who haven’t gone through the process.


Your time will be saved when you use the services of a search consultancy to handle all of your hiring needs, from setting up interview days to comparing prospects against your brief and eliminating anyone who is a time-waster. Before the interview stage, you will receive a timeframe and little input within the process. If you plan, you’ll know precisely how much time you’ll need for interviews, and you can be confident.


With the help of an executive search firm, you can focus on your day job and save time and money. The upfront fees of a retained search may worry you, but it saves you a lot of money in the long run. Because you don’t waste time or money promoting, screening, and interviewing people who aren’t suitable for the job, you avoid the risk of making incorrect hiring. An expert in your industry may also help you find an attractive wage plan for your new employee, one that you and the prospect can agree on.

Advantages in Comparison to Your Rivals

An executive search firm will provide you an advantage over your rivals since when you recruit the best people in your industry, your competitor loses out! In addition, you safeguard your employees from being targeted for recruitment by working with a top executive search firm in your industry and entering into an off-limits agreement with them.

Advantages of Contingent Search

No Up-Front Expenses

The critical distinction between retained and contingent recruiting is the payment structure. With contingent recruiting, there are no upfront expenditures. Agencies working on a “no pay if no placement” basis are contingent agencies.


Contingent recruiting may move quickly if there are a lot of candidates and no shortages of expertise. Candidates actively seeking a new position are more likely to be available for an interview at a moment’s notice.

Excellent for Entry-Level and Non-Specialized Positions

Contracted recruiting agencies are ideal for those looking for junior or non-specialized positions since they can fill your position fast and at a reasonable cost.

Retained Search vs. Contingent Search: What’s the Best Option?

Many considerations determine whether retained, or contingency recruiting is the best option for your business. Your team’s time and money should be taken into consideration when deciding on the sort of applicant you want to attract. It’s important to consider all of these things together. Contingency recruiting is a good option for firms with limited resources, such as money or time, or for roles that aren’t critical.

Wrapping Up

There are two types of agreements between search firms and clients: a retained search and a contingent search. Both models have advantages and disadvantages if the organization is at a certain point of growth and a particular position needs to be filled. We hope that this blog has adequately detailed both models so that you can make a informed decision about which one is best for your business.