Contingent vs Retained Search

What is the difference between a Contingent vs Retained search? Well, Every kind of “Recruiter” is different, and these terms are a useful way to show their approaches to finding talent.

Below we briefly outline the approach and specialities of Contingent, and Retained Search Firms and their specialist hires. However, if you want a deeper dive into this, check out our Types of Executive Search” blog.

In this blog, we focus on how Retained Search and Contingent Search Firms differ in terms of their contractual agreements and the impact this can have on the delivery of your search. We also deep dive into how Innovex Retained Executive Search can add value to companies looking to build their leadership team.

Contingent vs Retained Search: What is a Contingent Recruiter?


Most Contingent Recruiters are more commonly known as Hiring Agencies or Recruiters.

Contingent Recruitment Agencies work with organisations to assist with the hiring activities for their operational and entry-level roles. This partnership is agreed upon through a success-only contract basis.

How Does This Work?


A Recruitment Company or a Contingent Recruiter will only receive their payment/commission from an organisation when they have successfully secured a Candidate for their required vacancy.

Whilst there is a contractual agreement, no upfront payment is needed, meaning that until the hire is successful, there is no commitment to the other party.

Organisations can work with as many different Recruiters as they feel needed for one search and will only pay towards the one who successfully delivers the search.

Whilst this may sound like the perfect plan, it has many flaws.

Outsourcing your hire to a bunch of Contingent agencies means you will have the added responsibility of managing these Recruiters to prioritise your search, push them to progress, and receive regular updates, which becomes a massive headache.

Furthermore, the Contingent approach doesn’t only mean you can work with many Recruiters at one time; it also means the Recruiter can work for multiple Clients simultaneously. This system causes delivery delays, as those that work on a no-win, no-fee basis will put their time and energy into the quick-win searchers.

If they aren’t having any luck with your search, they may not continue to bother as it will take time away from the searches they can quickly win.

Also, working within a Contingent contract with a quick win focus from the Recruiter makes the quality of the delivered search questionable. Therefore, there is a higher risk of turnover for hire.

Contingent vs Retained Search:What are Retained Search Firms?


A Retained Executive Search Firm involves Consultants who work with Clients to build their “Executive”, “C-Suites”, and “Heads of” teams for a specific sector/industry.

Unlike Contingent Firms, Retained Search Consultants provide a fee structure that includes an upfront payment, designed to remove the time-consuming, stressful process of the above Contingent system and show the Clients the commitment and loyalty to deliver the search successfully.

What to Expect From Retained Search Partners?


As mentioned, the payment approach of partnering with a Retained Search Firm means you can expect a successful search delivery. But at Innovex Retained Executive Search, we take this one step further.

Here are Just a few Things you can Expect From Innovex as Your Retained Executive Search Firm:

– Honest expert advice regarding compensation packages, interview framework, feedback process and overall hiring strategy.

– Weekly progress calls on your search development – always be in the know.

– 24/7 access to our platform Loxo. So, you can be updated on our search progress at any time but also see for yourself any Candidates we have identified even before we present our shortlist.

– A shortlist for your search in up to 4 weeks after undertaking your initial brief.

– If your chosen candidate doesn’t work out within six months of being in the role. We will undertake the search again for free to find the right fit.

Want to Understand More About the Retained Executive Search Process? Click here

Contingent vs Retained Search: What are the differences?


When building a leadership team, we believe the traditional Contingent ways don’t cut it. You want to know that those leading your business are the best in the market. That’s why we don’t do things the regular recruitment way. We take things up a notch, especially when it comes to:

Commitment to a Search

Contingent Recruiter:

Sends over the first four to five Candidates that apply and then will move on from your search if these are not successful Candidates.

Innovex Retained Executive Search Firm:

Innovex researchers’ market map up to 150 qualified or experienced Candidates for each Client. They will then engage and interview the Candidates to prepare a shortlist that exceeds your candidate brief.

Skill Set

Contingent Recruiter:

Operates with a narrower network at a very broad low to mid-level skill set.

Innovex Retained Executive Search Firm:

Our experienced Consultants have a highly developed global network of Board-Level Executives in the Tech, SaaS, Fintech and Cyber Security industries.

If we cannot provide you with high-level service, we will refer you to another retained firm that can.

Replacement Policy

Contingent Recruiter:

If you want to exit the candidate after three months, you may get a small refund but no additional support to rehire.

Innovex Retained Executive Search Firm:

we care about finding the right Leader to drive your business forward. That’s why if something doesn’t work out the first time, we will replace the candidate for free, up to six months after.

Time Commitment

Contingent Recruiter:

Will only give their Clients a loose time commitment.

Innovex Retained Executive Search Firm:

Our commitment is to provide you with a shortlist within four weeks after our initial briefing with leading Candidates.

Approach to Updates

Contingent Recruiter:

Will send over Candidates on an ad-hoc basis.

Innovex Retained Executive Search Firm:

We give you 24/7 access to our platform Loxo where you can see all Candidates we have approached and are engaged in and the automatic update for each of these.

Furthermore, arrange weekly phone calls to provide you with any updates or feedback on our search.

Read our Types of Executive Search blog to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of Contingent and Retained Executive Search Firms. 

Lets work together