Types of Firms

Comparing Retained vs. Contingency Search

Employers engage search consultants with different intentions.  The information below will help you understand the differences between retained and contingency search, as well as what to consider when working with an executive search consultant.


Retained Search

Contingency Search

Companies Use this Type of Search When

  • They are filling senior to top management positions typically paying at least $150,000 or more.
  • Confidentiality is a must.
  • They have a strong relationship with a particular firm or recruiter.
  • Search is for entry to mid-level management typically paying $75,000 or more.
  • Skills and experiences are well defined.
  • Speed is of utmost importance.
  • Recruiters send unsolicited resumes for open searches.

Advantages  to You

  • You will not be presented to companies without your prior knowledge.
  • You may find it the only way to be presented for a specific position.
  • Confidentiality is maintained.

  • They can show you multiple opportunities at once.
  • They may have access to openings that are not publicly advertised.

Disadvantages to You

  • The typical process takes 3-6 months.
  • You will only be considered for one of the firm’s assignments at a time even if they are simultaneously recruiting for other similar positions.
  • Retained firms have a "hands-off" policy, which typically means they will not assist you if they perform searches for your current employer.

  • They do not necessarily have a relationship with the hiring company and may not have “insider” access.
  • If they present you to a company and you are hired, they will demand a fee from the company. This fee adds costs to your candidacy and may eliminate you from consideration.
  • They may float your resume to many companies with or without your permission. It is important to ask that a contingency firm NOT release your resume to a company without your prior consent.


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