Executive Search – Contingency vs. Retained
A Question of Value
Fees are about the same for contingency recruiters and retained search consultants. Is it the same service?
A Numbers Game
Contingency recruiters never know if they will make a placement. To ensure an income, they must work many assignments (5 – 10) at once, and work them as briefly as possible. A contingency recruiter makes only enough calls to submit the first 2 or 3 candidates and hope for the best. A retained search consultant knows each search will be completed through the full fee. The consultant accepts only those searches on which he can perform (2 -3 at once), and then can call all the candidates that might fit (50 -100 typically), and submit the 3 or 4 best people (not first). He will work 3 to 5 times harder for the same fee!
Exclusivity vs. Multiple Recruiters
Many employers find out the hard way that more isn’t better with contingency recruiters. They erroneously believe that giving the job order to several contingency recruiters will produce more candidates, more quickly. Instead, it reduces the quality of those candidates. Make a search non-exclusive, and it dives to lowest priority. The candidates submitted will be the easiest to find, not the best. Retained search is done exclusively – the search consultant you select will fill the position. The best candidates know the difference. They take retained search consultants more seriously. Having an expert who treats you as his number one priority, who is dedicated to in-depth recruitment, produces the high quality candidates you’d like to meet in the same time frame.
Real Search or File Search
Contingency recruiters maintain files of candidates who have contacted them, looking for a change. Not the best, but the most vocal candidates. This is their first, sometimes their only source to present from. Retained search firms have even more contacts, having made more calls on each search. These high-value contacts are used as a springboard, as referral sources to finding new candidates to fit a precise specification. The candidates found and screened on a retained search are happy, productive individuals who are not seeking job change, just the top performers you’d like to meet.
Contingency recruiters don’t ask too many questions. The simpler the spec, the easier it is for them to persuade you to see a candidate who might fit. The shoehorn approach doesn’t work. It is critical to write a performance-based job description defining objectives, critical results, beliefs, values etc. so you can recognize the candidate who can do the job. Thorough evaluation means that only candidates already determined to be a fit are the ones you will meet.
When you decide to invest in executive search, make sure that your investment will pay off: Demand to see only pre-qualified top performers who are precisely what you want, who can produce results, and who can positively impact your bottom line. Retained search is your best value!