Retained and Contingency Recruiting: What’s the Difference?

Jan 16, 2013

Most people don’t realize that there are two different types of recruiters out there. Recruiters work on either a Retained or a Contingency basis. What are the differences and how does it all affect you as a job seeker?


Working on a retained basis means the recruiter will charge an upfront fee to the client to conduct a search. They will operate on an exclusive basis meaning the job will only be filled through this recruitment company. The process is usually rigorous with a shortlist of anything from three to ten names being presented before interviews commence. In a perfect world, the retained recruiter will be able to present five candidates with the perfect skills, location, salary etc and all the client has to do is pick the one they like the most.  Companies will request a retained search when they are looking to fill a senior position and sometimes when all other cheaper search options have been exhausted.


Contingency search on the other hand is when recruitment company works for free until the day a candidate represented by them takes a position with their client. Recruiters working on this basis often have to compete with the client’s internal HR department, advertising, direct applicants and typically one or more other recruitment companies.  The trick here is to represent the best candidate or candidates and to do this faster than the other channels. If for instance the vacancy is hard to fill, chances are there will only be a few candidates out there qualified for the position.

So what does this mean to you? If you are approached about a vacancy, ask the recruiter how they got the assignment and what the competition is. Executrade is a contingency recruitment firm; we work for our clients by matching the best talent with the best companies.  Our business is you, and we are focused on building authentic long-term relationships. Clients and candidates have expressed a need for more; we seek to deliver through strong relationships and proactive approach to recruiting.