The Difference Between Retained Recruiters and Contingency Recruiters

© auremar - Fotolia.com
© auremar – Fotolia.com

What’s the difference between a head hunter, recruiter and an executive recruiter? In short, nothing.

These professionals can all be an integral component of your overall career management, and staying in touch with them can bring you value for many years to come.

What happens when you are approached by different recruiters about the same job? How is that even possible? It seems confusing, until you understand the difference between retained recruiters and contingency recruiters.

Normally, contingency recruiters are remunerated by their clients (your prospective employers) only after a successful search, once the candidate has been placed and performs successfully. So a contingency recruiter can invariably work at no charge for awhile, and will have a number of search projects going on simultaneously.

Typically, it is companies looking for talent at the lower-management and mid-management level who choose a contingency search. At that point they may send the job specifications to up to eight different search firms. That’s why you may be approached by more than one.

Contingency recruiters are more locally-based and search from the candidate pool from within their own geographic area (versus retained recruiter who may search globally, depending on the specifications). For that reason they may be easier to build long-lasting relationships with.

Like retained recruiters, contingency recruiters also specialize in particular functions such as accounting, manufacturing, finance, and engineering.

Depending where you are in your career, you should build and maintain dialogue with both contingency and retained recruiters. Here are three tips that will help:

  1. Your initial conversation with a recruiter will be optimized by a referral, versus a cold call.
  2. If a recruiter contacts you about a job you’re not interested in, always see if you can provide a referral to a peer or former colleague. This reduces the recruiter’s search time, and solidifies your relationship with them. They will remember you when another job appears on their project list.
  3. Never, ever, ever pay a recruiter. They are paid by their clients at the other end, either upfront (retained recruiters) or after a successful placement (contingency recruiters). If asked to pay, run a mile in the other direction.

Regardless of how they’re getting paid, remember that recruiters work for their clients, not for you. If you can help them see that you have the talent to meet their clients’ needs, they can help you advance in your career.

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