• The Angus Group

Partnering with a Retained Search Firm vs. a Contingent Recruiter


Hiring the wrong person can be one of the biggest ‘hidden costs’ for any organization. Depending on the role, it can negatively impact your business for years. The battle for top talent in today’s market often makes it difficult to find the right people, so it’s even more critical to make the right choice the first time. When conducting an external search, the process and lack of results can be frustrating and drive up the cost of a key vacancy. This is where an experienced search consultant can help.


Working with a retained search firm versus a contingent firm is particularly important when the people you need are now employed at competitors or other similar organizations; the candidates with the right experience are not actively looking; the search is expected to be difficult to complete; or when the search is confidential. A reputable retained firm has a shared and vested interest in finding the right long-term fit for your company. Your vacancy should be handled by an experienced consultant who will work directly with you to ensure the successful completion of the search, no matter how difficult it is or how long that process takes. Contingent recruiting; however, is quite different.


The contingency model is volume driven where recruiters basically work for free 75% to 95% of the time. That may sound enticing on the surface, but it leads to them being encouraged to work quickly at the expense of thoroughness, sending CV's/resumes to any company that may hire a particular candidate. This doesn’t allow for the type of attention and dedication necessary to find someone who is a match for your specific needs, culture, and industry. The result is that contingent recruiters only successfully fill a role 8% to 25% of the time on average (according to industry sources & publications). That’s not a recipe for success when trying to fill crucial positions for your organization. To exacerbate the problem, mixed messages can be sent to the target market.


Whether using one contingent agency who assigns multiple junior level recruiters to the project or an all too common strategy of engaging multiple agencies, they’re all fishing from the same pond in the market. This pond is typically made up of only those people who are actively searching for a new position, when the candidates you seek are likely employed and thus are not looking. With recruiters all having access to the same job boards and social media platforms such as LinkedIn these days, this increases the likelihood that they are all trying to attract the same individual(s). Then the race is on to get resumes to you first as opposed to finding and qualifying the best people for the position. Instead of getting skilled candidates who’ve been personally interviewed, more of the same results are produced thus defeating the purpose of using a recruiter in the first place. Additionally, potential candidates receive different messages about the role itself and often about your organization. This creates confusion and concern out in the market, which can adversely affect your ‘employer brand’ taking months or years to recover from.


When looking to fill key roles in your organization, partnering with a retained search firm could be the difference in successfully filling the position with someone who can make an impact in your company over the long haul, or driving up the financial and opportunity cost that comes with a hiring mistake. The decision to use a retained search firm is often based solely on ‘cost-per-hire’ but it is important to remember the impact on business growth and profit potential when hiring at the executive level, or even for key individual contributor roles, as opposed to focusing on short-term-cost avoidance. The advice? Truly partner with a search firm who can provide a consultant with the functional or specific industry experience needed to lead your recruiting efforts, not just the firm who has the biggest name or lowest bid. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.


Here are some points to consider when choosing to retain The Angus Group versus using a contingent agency. First and foremost, your search will always be led by one of our Practice Leaders, who average more than 20 years of expertise in their specific functional areas. They will handle all aspects of the search from beginning to end, not passing it off to others behind the scenes. Our clients find this to be an important difference when working with us.

  1. We partner with our clients and truly share the investment in a successful hiring process. Our firm does this by customizing the search to your organization, specific role, and unique culture while taking ownership of the results. With a sense of urgency and focus on in-depth research, networking, pure recruiting, and innovative assessment tools, we are able to evaluate and present the most qualified candidates with relevant experience, not limiting you to just those people actively searching for a new position. Additionally, we present candidates to you exclusively, not to multiple opportunities and companies. This increases the odds of successfully hiring the chosen candidate.

  2. In the current market, the best candidates are in high demand and currently employed. A common question these people will ask is if the search is retained and exclusive. This indicates to them that the company is serious about filling the position and the opportunity is worth investing their time in, which is key to enticing a desirable yet “reluctant” candidate to move forward. As such, it is critical to streamline the recruiting and hiring process and remember that highly qualified candidates are evaluating your organization as much as you are evaluating them. We help keep the search on track so that you can focus on your core duties and business.

  3. Exclusivity guarantees that candidates are contacted by only one firm and one recruiter, our practice leader. When a candidate hears about a position from numerous sources, it indicates that the company may be in an emergency situation, or not serious about conducting a thorough search. Another real pitfall is that the candidate may receive differing messages about the position. Each source can tell the ‘story’ in their own way with no consistency in the message or the quality, accuracy, or qualifications. This leads to them concluding that the company doesn’t really have the position well defined or is disorganized, all of which results in a bad experience for everyone involved.

  4. Since the people you hire are critical to the success of your business, it makes sense to partner with a firm that takes the time to learn and understand your unique culture and needs. A dedicated relationship means that we will take the time to meet with people involved in the hiring process to fully understand the requirements of the role, beyond the job description. We provide you with a written description, ensuring that we’re all in agreement regarding the desired qualifications and experience.

  5. Our client’s best interest is always at the core of our efforts. Quality in our research, recruiting, evaluation, and management of the process are never compromised. We are fully invested in the search and committed to finding the right person for your organization, developing a long-term consultative relationship. Our goal is to help our clients win the services of the best talent from a closely screened pool of qualified and interested candidates. We are not transaction driven trying to win the race to place a person, we are relationship driven and focused.

  6. We have a vested interest in working with you to the successful conclusion of the search, no matter how difficult the assignment is. With our customized and proven 9-step process, we invest the necessary time to research, network, recruit and attract top talent to your organization. This has led to more than 50 years of success ‘meeting the people of needs of business.

To learn more about us and our process, contact The Angus Group today.

"I’ve called upon The Angus Group several times for top-level executive leadership searches and I am repeatedly pleased with their expertise in asking the right questions about the sought-after candidate; questions that I may not have thought about when putting the job description together. The Angus Group understands the business-culture of my client companies and the fit that is needed. Just as importantly, they have deep professional relationships in the business community and the ability to find people that you could not find on your own. I will continue to use and recommend the Angus Group."

- HR Director & Consultant at an industrial equipment manufacturer

THE ANGUS GROUP, LLC

By understanding your culture, The Angus Group recruits highly talented people who can quickly impact and enhance your organization. Learn more about The Angus Group difference. 

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Phone: 513.961.5575

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