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Pictured above, our staffing agency's CEO, Ken Sundheim.
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KAS Recruiters

Retained vs Contingency Search Fees

When choosing a headhunter for your company, you're probably going to run into firms who charge their staffing fees two different ways which are typically referred to as contingency or retained search fees. Each type of recruitment billing has its pros and cons and differs in cost depending on the organization which you hire to recruit for your firm.

To fully understand the benefits and hindrances of each type of recruiting fee, it is best to dig deeper into how contingency and retained headhunters work and which you should choose for your next executive search project.

Contingency Search Fees

Contingency recruitment is a pay for performance fee where the recruiters whom your organization chooses to hire only get paid upon successful completion of that staffing project. With contingency contracts, if a recruiter does not finish the job, they do not get paid.

On the surface, this sounds much more amicable when compared to retained search contracts, however it is more complex than many think. First, contingency recruiters are not bound by any contract and, thus if your firm gets picky with the employees you wish to hire, you will begin to see these headhunters move on to another project.

By the time you establish relationships with other contingency executive recruiters, you are looking at a significant time lapse and a high opportunity cost. Another problem that many employers have with regards to using contingency staffing services is that many contingency recruiters are not as effective as retained headhunters.

In addition to this, their fee structure is tempting to many other hiring firms, thus you may find yourself managing these recruiters more than the staffing firms are helping you. With retained recruiting contracts, the executive recruiters work for your company. With contingency search, you are almost convincing those headhunters to take on your account.

Retained Search Fees

If you find the right recruiters, retained search is an expensive yet highly viable option as you are contractually guaranteed that a recruiter will be working on your account. In the end, you're going to have to pay the same fees (sometimes higher costs) for contingency recruitment with no guarantee that your account will be taken seriously.

One downside to working with some retained recruiters is that they charge too much money and provide no guarantee with regards to satisfaction. Often, firms don't do their research on the retained executive search firm and the individual recruiting professionals within that agency prior to signing the agreement.

Though, if you do your research and pick a job recruiting firm that is well-known and is comprised of competent, dedicated and knowledgeable recruiters, you may end up saving a lot of time and headache by opting to go with a retained search contract.


KAS Placement is a sales recruitment and marketing staffing agency helping job seekers and hiring companies throughout the United States with the executive recruitment of business development and marketing professionals.

More specially, KAS Placement recruiters for outside sales, inside sales, sales management, sales engineering as well as executive level sales personnel. When it comes to our marketing recruiters, the recruiting team at KAS Placement helps companies find employees in product marketing, digital media, social media, marketing management, e-commerce marketing and more.

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