Climbing Mount Retainer – By Ian Pollard

To retain or not to retain, that is the question on many of my client’s lips; and why shouldn’t it be, it’s a worthy question and I would urge every client I work with to ensure they are receiving a level of service which aligns with the type of candidate they are recruiting for!

But what justifies a retained search I hear you say!?

Well, several things…. and these can range from how difficult it is to identify the candidate you are searching for, how much time you want to put in to the search yourself or how much of the market you want to base your search around.

What you get…

Contingent Recruiter will typically target the ‘Active’ market, this is roughly 25% of the candidate market which is made up of ‘job seekers’ and those who are just on the cusp of looking. The recruiter will set up adverts, hit the job boards and check their internal databases & existing networks, covering that whole 25%…but nothing more! They will know that they are up against other recruiters, possibly your internal department and in kind, your role will be one of many that they will have on their books and have their attention spread across.

Retained Recruiter will do all the above, as well as hitting the ‘Passive’ market, which by process of elimination makes up the remaining (you’ve got it) 75% of the candidate market. This is a much more thorough, though time consuming process as the people who are being approached aren’t necessarily looking. What it does provide you with is the absolute certainty that you will receive the very best available candidate for your business/role out of the entire market, not just those who happen to be looking at the time you happen to be advertising. A Retained Recruiter will typically be working very few, if only one role at a time and will be able to give you their undivided attention.

Where are all the good guys at…

Now consider this, most people who are in a job and happy, are likely happy because they are successful (earning, valued, progressing etc.). Something I’ve heard over most of my recruitment career is “the best candidates are never looking for work!”. You could view this statement in two ways…. Either candidates are happy and NEVER look for work, or that they don’t have to look for work as the best roles are brought to them before they even need to start looking and they just never hit the active market; meaning those clients who go retained get the best…. down to interpretation I suppose!

My preference & why…

The assignments I tend to work are the ones where I have the client’s assurance and commitment that they are serious about hiring (meaning time will be made to secure the candidate and the process will be a priority!), but also that I will definitely get paid for my hard work! Too many times a recruiter pours blood, sweat and tears into a search only to be told that “sorry, we’ve filled it internally” or “the MD has restricted our budget” or “we’ve decided that we need someone with more X” or another recruiter pips them to the post or God forbid, your first CV intro wasn’t recognized and the client hired your candidate but has already committed to paying another recruiter! There are a multitude of scenarios where a recruiter can do a tremendous amount of work and get jack (that’s not the name of the candidate by the way!).

A thought…

If you were to jump online to order a takeaway, would you rather:

a) Enter in how many people you were feeding, how many courses you’d like and whether you’d like dessert included and then hit ‘go’ and see which was the first meal to end up on your doorstep from whichever Chicken, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Kebab shop etc. happens to be able to throw the meal together and deliver quicker than the rest. Then pay whatever the cost of that particular meal costs upon delivery.


b) Pick a preferred eatery that delivers, choose exactly what you want, understand exactly what the delivery time will be and exactly what the cost will be and sit back, safe in the knowledge that you know that one of your preferred eateries is handling your order, what’s on the way and when it will get there.

So the question is…

What stops more people from going retained?

Is it the risk of putting all your eggs in one basket, is it the upfront cost, is it a lack of faith in your recruiter(s) or is it the ignorance of the service itself?

If there was an option to claw back your retainer cost if the recruiter couldn’t deliver on an agreed level of accurate CV introductions for example, would this make more people open to a retained service?

Recent Posts