Over the last 4 years, I have managed to work on both Contingent, Exclusive and Retained models and saw very compelling differences on how the business relationships were operating. Here I highlight some key differences.

When you want to hire a critical position in your company, you have to think about more than just the right candidate. You have to think about how they’ll fit into the company’s culture, what their career goals are, diversity background and how much they’ll cost. This can be a lot of information to take in all at once! Time is of the essence, you are starting to feel the impact and its keeping you up at night trying to think of a solution.

To help you navigate this process, we’re going to look at two different types of recruiting: contingent recruitment and retained search. While both have their pros and cons, we believe retained search is the better option for executive searches and critical hires.

Here’s why..

  • Retained search has a higher success rate. (At Hyperion, our Retained searches have a 91% success rate vs typical contingent search which on average is <35%).
  • Retained searches are more cost-effective in the long run (no need for posting on job boards and other recruitment marketing platforms) while also saving you time.
  • We work with you to find candidates who will excel in your company’s culture and help it grow.
  • Succession planning, where we can assess internal and external talent.
  • Like true partners, we build long terms relationships with clients and candidates, in order to find the best fit for your company.
  • Retained searches are more transparent and reliable than contingent searches. On average, contingent searches typically work on 10+ roles at one time, retained focus on 2-3 positions.
  • We work with you to develop a custom plan for finding and hiring the right people, helping to achieve different business goals like scaling and diversity.
  • Retained search has proven to have a lower rate of attrition and more generous rebate periods.
  • Retained search has a strong emphasis on quality. The candidate pools may seem smaller vs contingent, but they have been heavy screened.
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8 examples of Retained Executive search

However, this solution is not for every customer because..

  • Retained search at face value is a more expensive process, though, provides greater value in the long term.
  • Retained Search requires the company to pay a portion of the fee upfront to cover the cost of the Search Firm’s hours on the search (man hours on research, shortlisting and conversations, advertising, networking etc.).
  • Contingent search has a preferred model of speed and volume over quality, and focuses largely on those more active in the job market or “low-hanging fruit”. Retained search is typically used to extract heavy passive talent.

This is why retained search is a preferred solution to Board Member, C-Suite, Executive and Middle-Upper management search. Pivotal positions for companies especially at start-up and scale-up level, where the individual is critical for its success.

Contingent, especially Exclusive, can provide quicker results on a more active talent market typically for Junior to Mid-level positions.

For more information on Retained vs Contingent search, you can reach out to me at anthony.heaphy@hyperionsearch.com or connect on LinkedIn – Anthony Heaphy | LinkedIn.


Anthony Heaphy