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Retained vs. Contingency

Is Retained Recruiting a Better Fit for Your Company?


There are two alternatives to strictly in-house recruiting: contingency recruiters and retained recruiting services.


Both of these models of recruiting can be highly effective, however certain company structures, growth stages, and open position types lend themselves to be a better fit for one vs. the other.

What is Retained Recruiting?

Retained recruiting is typically an ongoing service provided to a client for a set fee (retainer) paid at set points during the search process. The recruiting company is paid their ongoing fee regardless of when or if a candidate is placed.  The fee is typically not strictly a percentage of the offered salary and instead covers a host of services around the recruiting process that are provided to the hiring company.


The biggest advantage of these types of agreements are that they are exclusive (the recruiting company is not shopping your candidates to other companies they are working with). In a highly competitive market, where qualified talent is either hard to find or snapped up quickly, this is often the difference between placing a candidate and endless rounds of interviews that never fill a position.

The second key advantage of retained recruiting is that the recruiting company is a true extension of the client company’s HR department and hiring staff.


Most firms, like Silver Tiger Consulting, offering Retained Recruiting Solutions also offer various outsourced HR Solutions to complement an internal HR team, so their knowledge of labor law, talent development, the labor market, and HR systems in general is much more in-depth than a contingency recruiting company.  This is called HR Outsourcing, and is a core service Silver Tiger Consulting provides.

The retained recruiting company takes on a much bigger role than just sourcing candidates. As a result, they have in-depth knowledge of the hiring company and its culture. This not only saves a tremendous amount of time on candidate screening, but it helps “sell” the position to a wider audience of potential candidates much better so that the overall pool of candidates the hiring company is considering is of much higher quality.

Services such as creating a company's marketing for the position, setting up and administering a company’s applicant tracking system, enhancing or setting up an internal employee referral program, negotiating salaries on behalf of the hiring company with the candidates, coordinating with international search efforts and contingency recruiting efforts, handling candidate rejection discussions, and assisting with new hire onboarding and acclimation are just some of the services that can be included in retained recruiting agreements.

How is Contingency Recruiting Different than Retained Recruiting?

In a contingency recruiting relationship, the recruiting company typically only gets compensated if and when a candidate is placed. The fee is typically a percentage of the total annual compensation and varies greatly based on position level and industry.


Contingent searches are not exclusive. A contingency recruiter is typically shopping their own candidate pool (that they own) to a number of their clients. Good contingency recruiters will typically always have two to three alternate companies in the works for their candidates to choose from. This ensures not only an actual placement that allows them to get paid, but allows them to spend time on open positions at hiring companies based on responsiveness of the hiring company. Since the contingency recruiter is compensated only if a candidate is hired, they typically do not invest as much time in developing the relationship with the hiring company or on ancillary consulting services.

When to Choose Contingency Recruiting

If you are a newer company, or your company is not actively growing headcount (you may only have only one or two low- to mid-level positions to fill in a given year), contingency recruiting is likely a better fit if you have an internal HR department.


This lower volume of recruiting, if you have an established HR department that can actively follow up on all incoming resumes and source resumes themselves as well, can likely handle 1 -2 open job requisitions in a given year. Managing multiple contingency recruiting relationships is typically not challenging for an existing HR department when hiring only 1 or 2 candidates throughout the year.


When to Choose Retained Recruiting from Silver Tiger Consulting

If you any of these four scenarios apply to your situation, you may find retained recruiting services more beneficial:

1.  You have an established company and are continuing to grow headcount by three or more positions a year

2.  You do not have an internal full-time HR department with full-time dedicated internal recruiting resources

3.  You are looking confidentially for a higher level candidate

4.  You have not been successful in hiring quality candidates

Retained recruiting relationships are typically ongoing and are hiring for the same company, for multiple positions over the course of a year or several years.


This pairs equally well with an internal HR department that does not have time to handle the bulk of the recruiting process, as well as smaller companies that do not have an internal HR department.


Both the retained recruiting company and the hiring firm benefit from the ancillary services provided, as the overall strength of the recruiting process is greatly enhanced due to the ongoing and exclusive nature of the relationship.  Ownership of the developed and continuously fed candidate pool also typically lies with the hiring company exclusively, so hires for similar positions at the company can be made faster and faster over time.


For more examples of specifics included in our retained recruiting agreements, please check out our blog post on this subject here.


We bill a low-cost set monthly fee paid by the 1st of the month that services are to be rendered, and there is no long-term contract. Initial contracts are a three month commitment, then convert to month to month.

We have a team of skilled resources recruiting for you that manage the entire recruiting process so your internal staff is is freed up to work on more strategic and beneficial projects. Our services minimize interruptions and lost productivity associated with recruiting for your hiring manager and your existing internal HR staff, compared to just using internal resources and contingency recruiters alone.


We specialize in entry-level through senior-level technical positions and entry-level management to C-level positions in a wide range of industries.

Should you decide to extend the retainer agreement to cover additional months and/or other positions, you'll also be able to take advantage of one of our key features: we are building a constantly fed warehouse of candidates for your positions for you on systems you own. We significantly reduce your costs over time compared to not only contingency-only recruiting options but also in-house recruiting methods and processes.


If you are expanding your search internationally, we have partnered with a number of specialty recruiting partners who not only extend Silver Tiger Consulting's reach globally, but also work with us so that you have a complete turn-key solution available to you for all your recruiting needs. These specialty recruiting services are billed separately on an as-needed basis.  


Silver Tiger can also supply optional on-boarding and new hire employee services as part of our Human Resources service packages, for an additional fee.


Interested? Please contact us at for more information.

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