Retained recruitment: cheaper and more effective

The commonly accepted employer view that “agency” or “contingency” recruitment is less costly is flawed. In fact, retained recruitment can be cheaper and more effective.

Why is retained recruitment more effective?


Depending on your timescales the recruiter will give your role top priority and an accelerated process if required.

More screening

Usually part of the agreement is in-depth interviewing (telephone or face to face). This means that you only see CVs and meet candidates the recruiter believes to be suitable. This differs from contingency hiring where they may believe they have no choice but to shortlist marginal candidates. Because if they don’t, another recruiter might, and they might get the fee.

More responsive and better service

You’ve paid a fee which means that you have the recruiter’s attention.

More candidate mining and sourcing

Better candidates and better choice. The recruiter will know that you definitely want to hire otherwise you wouldn’t have retained them. They’ll also know that if they put time into finding good candidates they will definitely get the rest of their fee. The result is they devote time to unearthing “difficult to find” and less active candidates.


There will be a near-guaranteed delivery from a retained recruiter.  A good recruiter will have a success rate approaching 100%.

Market knowledge and integrity

You are working with a trusted partner (if you don’t trust them don’t use them) who will be deserving of the term “consultant”. They can guide you through the entire process from job specification to offer with objective and informed advice. They are as keen as you are to find a great candidate who does well in the job.

Why may retained recruitment be cheaper?

1. Lower fee

If a recruiter has a guarantee of a fee they can afford to reduce that fee depending upon the services expected.

2. Quicker placement

In management consultancy this means someone joining a firm sooner and therefore earning fees quicker.

3. Less client time

Instead of reviewing unsuitable CVs and interviewing unsuitable candidates they can be earning fees.

4. Better rebate or guarantee period

A retained agent can often be persuaded to offer better terms and reduce the risk of your paying for a candidate that doesn’t work out.

In summary

Conventional wisdom is that “agency” or “contingency” recruitment is always a lower fee than retained recruitment. The many advantages of retained recruitment suggest that this is not inevitably true

From a recruiter’s perspective, “contingency” is a lottery and they will fill a small minority of the roles they fill. The success rate is generally around 20%.  A good recruiter will fill nearly 100% of retained roles (unless they are cancelled).

It means that they can afford to spend at least 5 times more time on retained roles, often more. And if they have retained work then contingency roles are bottom of the priority list.

Contingency is a false economy. Employers may be lured by the prospect of only paying a fee if they hire, but the risk is poorer service, weaker candidates and greater cost.

If you would like to discuss how Prism Executive Recruitment can help with your talent acquisition strategy please contact Chris Sale, Managing Director, on 01344 636426 email  [email protected] or use our Contact Us form.

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