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  • Writer's pictureSunrock

Is Contingency or Retained Recruitment the Way Forward?

It is imperative for clients and recruitment agencies to have a trusted relationship with one another when working on a job spec. Depending on the client, they usually prefer to use either contingency or retained recruitment.

For those of you who aren’t aware, contingency recruitment is when a client works with multiple recruitment agencies on a job spec. The agency who finds the successful candidate gets paid, while the others don’t get any remuneration.

With retained recruitment, the client only works with one recruitment agency. This agency is paid in advance regardless of how long they take to place a candidate, if they manage to place one at all.

We will take a more in-depth look at how both methods of recruitment work for clients, and for recruitment agencies.

Contingency Recruitment:


This can be a quicker process as the client can use multiple recruitment agencies at once to find a candidate. However, whilst there are many recruitment agencies to choose from, they may not provide such a great service as they will be rushing to get ahead of other recruitment agencies to place you a candidate. This may in turn affect the quality of people put forward.

Also, finding recruitment agencies to source you candidates for every new job spec that you have can be time-consuming.

In some cases, clients may not have to pay anything if they beat the recruiters to find a new hire which can be a major plus.

Recruitment agencies:

For the recruitment agency who has placed the successful candidate, contingency recruitment tends to be less drawn out than retained recruitment. Though the hiring process is quicker, the recruitment agency may have to wait longer for the payment to come through, and this can vary greatly depending on the client.

In some cases the competition which contingency recruitment brings can bring out the best in recruiters. However this can also prove to be demotivating as there is no guarantee for their hard work. The need for agencies to rush may mean that they select the first candidates they come across.

The relationship between the recruitment agency and the client across these types of placements is impersonal. Even the successful agency will not necessarily get priority in the future, even though they were responsible for sending the candidate through.

Retained Recruitment:


Retained recruitment allows the client to get a service from someone who they can trust to deliver high quality results. This payment method means that job candidates will only ever get contacted by one recruitment agency during the hiring process, which has the effect of both saving them hassle, and saving the client potential embarrassment.

The downside for the client is that if the agency is unable to deliver a candidate despite their best efforts, this pre-agreed payment may be a gamble which could prove costly. Also, the client is only working with one recruitment agency so this could potentially limit choice.

Recruitment agencies:

For the recruitment agency, this method shows a level of trust with the client, and it opens up the possibility of working together on future placements. Both parties know where they stand throughout the process.

A big draw for recruitment agencies is that they are safe in the knowledge that they will be paid for their efforts.

Arguably, retained recruitment could give the recruitment agency more pressure as the client is placing all their expectations on them. If anything goes wrong, the spotlight is on the agency.

Final thoughts:

We at Sunrock Recruitment prefer to work with the retained method. In an industry where you are not always guaranteed to be paid for your work, this offers us some stability, and the ability to plan ahead more. It also gives us the breathing space to find better quality candidates.

Which method of recruitment do you prefer to use? Let us know on our social media pages.

Want More?

Have you seen our regular blog page? We have previously covered topics including when the hiring process takes too long, 5 reasons to choose a headhunter and the employment triangle.

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