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Navigating the world of talent acquisition and recruitment can be tricky for both clients and candidates. Whether you are looking to add an individual to your team or seeking a new opportunity; it is important to understand the landscape when considering a talent partner.

At first glance, retained executive search and contingent recruiters may seem similar in that they both assist organizations in identifying and hiring talent, however they operate very differently and serve distinct purposes.

With retained search, clients enter into an exclusive engagement with the search firm and a signed agreement to ensure a commitment on both sides to deliver with ‘best’ efforts, a successful placement within specified timeframes. A key difference is that retained search firms have a much more thorough method of strategically sourcing and approaching passive and active candidates in the market which delivers more credible pools of qualified candidates to the client for consideration.

Contingent recruiters, staffing firms, and agencies, as the name suggests, work on a contingency basis. They may use a basic contract or informal agreement with clients and fees are only paid if they successfully place a candidate. Contingent recruiters often work on a volume-based model, quantity over quality, aiming to make the quickest placement with individuals actively in the job market. They may send the same candidate to multiple employers which one could argue is misaligned with the client’s best interest. Contingent recruiters focus on leveraging their existing networks, online ads, job boards, and other readily available sources which makes their process quicker, but less thorough.

Working within a Retained Search Model

An executive search firm invests significant time in comprehending the identified hiring need; executing a vetted hiring strategy and through comprehensive research, sourcing, and assessment, delivering the best possible hiring outcome. A retained search methodology is a highly tailored search process that clients appreciate and are engaged with that focuses on cultural fit and compatibility.

Importance of Distinction

Knowing a retained search firms’ approach and ‘how’ we go to the market to source and attract the best available candidate allows the employer to mitigate risk and ensure a favorable outcome within needed timelines. Working with a retained search firm gives you the added benefit of market intelligence on candidate pools including compensation insight.

Understanding what sets these groups apart will help you in making an informed decision when considering a talent partner.