Why choose retained executive search vs. contingency

ByHanover Team
Posting date: 11 April 2022

One of the most fundamental aspects of executive hiring is a positive candidate and employee experience - it’s something that should be actively championed by whoever is responsible for your recruitment.

But without your talent search stemming from a bespoke partnership, how well do your recruiters represent your organisation and secure the best talent?

This is one of the biggest disparities between retained executive and contingency search.

With retained executive search, you’ll enter into a dual approach with recruiters who partner with you on an exclusive basis to map the entire market. They’ll get directly in touch with a wide pool of top-level talent, filtering it down to those with a comprehensive cultural fit and specialist skills.

By contrast, contingency search means multiple recruiters are invited to look for the right talent, often leading to a diffusion of responsibility and limited access to only those handful of individuals who are actively looking for work, rather than those who might be the right candidates for the position.

In business terms, the reality of contingency search is that a recruitment firm will dedicate around 20-30% of their time to finding your talent. They could potentially be swayed by a more lucrative deal, or drop out completely should the talent be tricky to find. This is a direct contrast to the comprehensive, dedicated and tailored approach of a retained executive search.

The benefits of retained executive search

Retained executive search is a bespoke partnership between your organisation and the recruiter. Working closely with you to build trust, the retained approach leverages global connections and expertise, producing diverse shortlists of only the highest calibre.

Any executive recruitment agency should begin with an entire market mapping exercise, covering off the whole industry. This exercise will typically identify 50-70 excellent individuals who are then screened and interviewed. This narrows the pool down to a top-tier selection of five candidates - all of whom you’ll want to hire.

This is in stark contrast to the contingency process, which sees only the publication of an advert that solely attracts those who happen to be actively looking, and therefore are perhaps not at the top of their game. It’s my strong belief that you can only secure the best candidates by proactively headhunting them.

By committing to a relationship with one recruitment firm, you’ll benefit from an in-depth exploration of the market, where no stone is left unturned. There’s an increased focus on your exact needs, as well as finding someone who fits your company culture and DE&I agenda.

The contingency search process very rarely contains a face-to-face interview, which means there’s a substantial risk that the selected candidates will lack the necessary hard skills and fail to be a desirable cultural fit - and you won’t find out until it’s too late.

How we carry out retained executive search at Hanover

Diversity, equity and inclusion is of paramount importance throughout the search process with Hanover, ensuring that you get a diverse shortlist. We also ensure absolute efficiency to minimise downtime and get your ideal candidate in place as soon as possible.

A great example of this is a client I’m currently working with. Last year, I successfully appointed a head of sustainability for them. The managing director also expressed an interest in me assisting their portfolio manager to recruit an investment specialist. But in an attempt to cut costs, talent acquisition opted instead for a contingency search, which began in February 2021.

By to December 2021, they still hadn’t found a desirable candidate and the position had been vacant for almost 12 months. They then returned to me to ask for a retained executive search, which is currently in the interview process after selecting the best 47 candidates and forwarding the top five for interview. None of these candidates had even turned up during the contingency search, because none of them were actively seeking a new role. But they were still the best candidates for the job.

I understand that cost is often a deciding factor in this process, and the perception is that retained executive search is more expensive. However, the upfront retainer cost is often offset against placement invoice, making it a comparable cost.

The conclusion? You get what you pay for

Retained executive search is a comparable cost with contingency, but provides completely incomparable service and results.

In my experience, it’s common for a client to approach us for retained executive search services after trying to do it on a contingency basis, which has proven unsuccessful. This loss of time and extra cost could easily be avoided by taking the retained approach in the first place.

Partner with an executive search firm and move the dial  

The same approach to your talent challenges will only garner the same results. If you want to move the dial, you need to tap into the knowledge of executive search specialists. We offer bespoke executive consulting, taking the time to understand your businesses challenges. get in touch with me and let’s arrange a time to chat about your executive search needs.

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