At Treeline we offer both contingency and retained search services. Many of our clients have asked me what the difference is and I thought it prove to be useful for many of you hiring executives that are looking for a resources to assist you in a particular search. Please note that both types of search are proven and very successful.
Contingency Search is based strictly on performance and less expensive for the hiring firm. The advantage to launching a contingency search is that there is no upfront cost. There is no exclusivity so you can use as many firms as you like and it is basically risk free because there is no charged fee unless you hire. The disadvantage if you don't have strong partnerships with your vendors and seek out well known search firms you may not know what kind of message is being driven to the marketplace. You want a trusted ally to communicate your message to the market. Because there is no exclusivity make sure your partners are strong and your comfort level is very high when it comes to there ability to drive your message to the market. Signing lots of firms does not necessarily drive more qualified leads. In many cases it causes confusion in the market. The average contingency search is 25% of base salary, with a 30 day guarantee and net 10 payment terms.
The key to a successful contingency search is to find reputable firms that have the recognition and brand that you can trust. Build a strong partnership with those firms and you will find success. Do not try to negotiate price too strongly with a contingency firm. It will not help you. Never sign a low contingency search fee because you will get no attention. A well known and successful contingency based firm will say no to risky fees. If a good firm says no to your fee you may want to re-evaluate your fee. Remember that contingency firms have many clients and you pay them nothing to start the search. Contingency firms will focus on companies that have the largest fee, the most urgency and the greatest amount of communications and feedback. The key is to commit to your firm. For a contingency firm to succeed, they must find clients that want to build a partnership with them. They cannot afford to work with companies that are not serious about making a hire. It has to be a win-win so make sure you work with the firm not against it. Remember that you get what you pay for.
Retained Search has an upfront cost associated with it and is typically more expensive. The advantage is you have one exclusive partner with dedicated resources to fill your vacancy. Retained search is more consultative. A retained search takes control of the search; they focus on discovery, assessment, research, candidate development, interviewing, consultation and close. You have hired guns protecting your interests by investing the necessary time to help you find the right fit. The disadvantage is that this is very costly and there is no guarantee. Because you have exclusivity with this firm if you find and hire a candidate on your own you still owe the entire fee and if the firm is not producing great results you are bound by the contract. The average retained search is 33% of total compensation including bonus, with a 60 day guarantee and 1/3 payment at signing, 1/3 payment at shortlist of candidates and the last 1/3 at offer.
The key to working with a retained organization is to find a firm you trust. Make sure you know who will be conducting your search and meet those people. Make sure you understand exactly what you are getting and make sure you understand the timeline. If you can find a team you trust and can afford the cost of a retained search then make sure you commit to a strong partnership and you will have a great and successful experience.
What have you found to be successful in your search and why?