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The difference between Retained and Contingent Recruitment

Recruitment companies commonly use two different approaches to hiring candidates for a job, Retained and Contingent Recruitment. Below we will discuss the difference between both methods, as well as the benefits and challenges of each.

What is Retained Recruitment?

Retained Recruitment usually involves an upfront fee to conduct the search, a payment when a candidate shortlist is produced and then a final payment when a suitable candidate is found.

Companies will work with a consultancy on an exclusive basis for Retained Recruitment which is also referred to as Headhunting, Executive Search or Search and Selection.


  • 100% commitment  – As a fee is guaranteed, the recruitment agency has more incentive to fill the position and will use their resources to prioritise job searches for your role..
  • Building long-term relationships – As you will be working closely with the agency, you will build a strong relationship and eventually work together on a number of projects.
  • Cash flow management – The client can better prepare for the future as it is easier to keep track of how much and when money is leaving the business
  • Detailed/Specific job specifications – Working exclusively gives the agency more freedom to be specific and add further details about the company and its culture with candidates
  • Premium job listings – The job role is of high priority so great agencies will be more willing spend more on premium job listings.


  • Upfront retainer– The client will have to pay a sum of money before any work from the recruitment agency has taken place.
  • Risk– You can end up losing money if you are not happy with the shortlist of candidates the recruitment agency has chosen. This is why it is important to work with a great recruitment agency with a great reputation. Check out the testimonials page on their website and see what others have said about them.
  • Higher fees– Most agencies charge more if you decide to work under a retained agreement in comparison to a contingency. Find a recruitment agency that offers excellent rates for both contingency and retained agreements

What is Contingent Recruitment?

Contingent Recruitment means that the recruiter only gets paid when they have found the client a suitable candidate for the job. It is often used when the recruiting company want to cast the net wide and will work with multiple agencies.


  • No risk – No fee is paid unless a candidate is placed at the company.
  • No upfront cost – There is no pressure to hire a candidate on the basis that money has been spent.
  • Faster CV submissions – each agency will submit suitable candidates as and when they identify them, meaning you will receive candidates more quickly.


  • Less resources – Agencies conduct a less thorough search as resources are shared evenly across all jobs.
  • Increased competition – Agencies are competing to fill your position which can result in them submitting candidates without undertaking full screening to the role requirement. This can result in poor matches and time wasted.
  • Sporadic CV submissions – as agencies will submit each candidate as they identify them, you will receive applications in dribs and drabs, which can make providing timely CV feedback to each candidate quite challenging as you need to compare them.
  • No exclusivity – The best candidates will also be offered to other clients with similar job roles.

In either scenario, working with a specialist recruitment agency can help you to understand which model is best applied to your industry. Their experience in your industry will determine which method will result in the candidate that best suits your needs.

At Insignis, we understand the unique challenges you face in finding the right talent to drive your business forward. That’s why we’re proud to offer our specialised expertise in both Contingent and Retained Recruitment approaches.

Let us help you overcome your recruitment challenges and ensure you have the talent you need to thrive. Reach out to us today to explore how we can elevate your recruitment strategy.

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