Retained vs Contingent Search

28th January 2019

In this week’s blog we pick the brains of one of our newly promoted Managing Consultants, Ryan Burkinshaw. He has spent several years in recruitment before joining JBAndrews near the start of 2018. Ryan focuses on Freight Forwarding and Contract Logistics within North America and parts of Asia. Because of Ryan’s experience we thought he’d be the perfect consultant to break down the two main types of recruitment and explain the pros and cons of both. I started by asking Ryan to briefly explain the two main types of search models and to relate them to JBAndrews. “Typically in executive search there are two main services that firms will operate through, the first is retained search which is our go-to at JBAndrews- we prefer to work retained. The second is contingent search.”

You mentioned that JBAndrews prefer to work retained, could you break down each model for us?

“Sure, contingent search is a service we provide at JBAndrews even though it’s not our preferred model. A contingent search would entail us understanding the position the client needs to fill, and then going out and providing them with a shortlist of candidates from our network to which we get paid if they decide to place one of the candidates we introduced. We can’t put all of our time and resources into this search because of that but we still pride ourselves on producing top quality shortlists for our clients to either choose from or not, if they do place one of our candidates then we get paid based on our standard terms & conditions meaning there is little flexibility in terms of fees. The reason we aren’t very keen on contingent search is because there is no upfront fee, meaning we can’t put all of our resources into the search because there would be a chance it’s a waste of time if one of our candidates isn’t chosen to fill the role. Often when a client isn’t willing to work retained with us we presume it’s either because they don’t understand retained search, maybe the upfront fee scares them off, or it could be because they already have someone in mind for the role. This doesn’t mean we won’t have a look in our network to see if there are any immediate matches but it does mean we won’t be able to do the thorough search our retained services offer.”

So what are the main differences between retained search and contingent and why is retained seemingly the better option?

“Retained search, from most points of view, solves the problems that contingent search creates. A lot of people may not agree with that, this will either be because they don’t understand the process properly or because the companies they have worked retained with in the past haven’t been very good at their Job. The retained search service we offer enables us to develop some great long lasting partnerships with the best Logistics companies out there because they’re happy with the quality of candidates we provide. The reason we are able to provide a better service retained than on a contingent basis is because the upfront fee gives us the safety buffer to put all our time and resources into the search. We’re yet to have a client that’s left unhappy with the retained searches we have done with for them and that shows in the partnerships we have for such a young company. The main differences between our retained service and our contingent is that the client we’re working with will pay us a third of the agreed fee upfront, a third when we provide them with the shortlist and the final third on completion. Because we have this security net we are able to have more than one consultant spending their time on the vacancy using all of our tools which ultimately gives a much more thorough search and a better end product. It also means we can negotiate on the fee percentage we charge meaning it always works out cheaper for the client to retain us overall. One of the best parts of working retained is we get to work in collaboration with our clients as we’re their only point of call regarding that vacancy. Contingent search can leave HR or hiring managers having to deal with multiple search firms trying to get in contact with them and it can all quite hectic. Simply put, a retained search allows JBAndrews to understand the needs of the client and the challenges they face in great detail which means we can tailor our service to produce the best quality results and to build an effective partnership.”

I finally asked Ryan to conclude regarding the two types of search.

“I guess the main points I was trying to make throughout this interview was that if you choose good search firms you will get good results regardless of the type of search. It’s often frustrating for us as recruiters because people assume the reason for us pushing retained search is to quickly line our pockets. Of course it’s nice to work with that comfortability, but at the end of the day we want to provide the best service we can in order to build a mutually beneficial partnership, retained search is the only way we can really do that. I hope the points I’ve made have educated those wanting to know more about executive search and that they might change some people’s perception of the two services and recruiters in general!”

Let us know your thought on Ryan’s points, we’d be interested to hear people’s experiences working under these two search models, good or bad!

Jeremiah Bavington, Marketing Manager.