Retained Vs. Contingency: What You Need To Know


Jim RudmanBy Jim Rudman, CEO, Ashton Tweed

Retained search firms and contingency placement agencies operate using different recruiting and hiring techniques. It’s important to know these differences before selecting a firm to fill a position for your company.


Retained Search Firm:

  • The firm is paid up front typically through 3 installments
  • Works exclusively for an employer to fill the position – Candidates sourced for a retained project are only submitted to that retained customer
  • Extensive research is done prior to search to identify prospective candidates that are currently employed
  • High quality approach versus generating a large volume of resumes
  • Works predominantly on mid-level to senior-level roles
  • Consultants assigned to your project are only working 3-5 projects at a time and will stick with the project until the process has concluded
  • The retained process yields targeted, high quality candidates within 4-8 weeks
  • Favors difficult-to-fill, high salaried projects


Contingent Placement Agency:

  • The agency is paid only when a candidate is placed
  • The placement company competes with other recruiters and HR Departments to fill the position
  • Little to no research done prior to each search – the process favors internet searches for unemployed candidates
  • Works quickly and provides many candidate options
  • Works predominantly on lower-level roles
  • Recruiters are working on many projects at a time and will focus on those that will make the individual recruiter the most money in the shortest period of time
  • Presents candidates within 1-2 weeks typically targeting unemployed candidates or those readily available in a database
  • Favors quick, easy-to-fill projects


While retained search and contingency placement both result in a hire, the quality of the candidate pool and subsequent employment result is superior using retained search. Retained search firms take time to provide a handful of excellent candidates, while contingent search firms work quickly to provide a volume of candidates. There are pros and cons to each technique, allowing your company to choose which solution best fits your needs.


Want to explore your recruiting options? Contact Jim Rudman for more information.


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