Skip the Retainer and Get Ahead: The Benefits of Hiring a Specialty Contingency Firm

October 23, 2014

Five businesspeople at boardroom table smiling

Earlier this year, Argentus president Bronwen Hann wrote a post about the popular but frequently overrated role of retainer firms in the executive search process. In short, there’s a time and place for them, particularly at the C-suite or for discreet replacements. But opting for a specialty contingency firm is worth its weight in gold, and here’s why:

Better Quality for Better Value

When you hire a contingency firm, you pay for results. It’s as simple as that, really. This method comes with two key benefits that impact the bottom line on the recruitment side as well as the client side. Instead of paying a retainer fee upfront, your company only pays a contingency firm their fee upon the completion of a successful placement. So when your business uses the services of a specialty contingency firm like Argentus, there is no financial risk, and we do not receive compensation for “the hunt” until we achieve your company’s hiring objectives – in our typical client’s case, placing mid- to senior level roles in supply chain management, procurement, logistics, and operations. And because our fee is then tied directly to performance, it’s also a strong motivating factor for our recruiters who work on a contingency basis: only successful searches guarantee fees.

Take Advantage of a Deep Niche Network

In the recruitment field, there are companies that brand themselves as generalists or specialists. If your business is embarking on a specialized hunt, then a specialized focus will likely lead to better (and more swift) search outcomes. That’s where a specialty contingency firm is your best bet as an alternative to retainer firms, because you’ll be able to leverage their rich network of both active and passive job-seeking candidates in a narrow vertical. For example, our expertise is strictly on recruitment for the supply chain field. We leverage our supply chain specific industry expertise and recruitment experience to optimize your hiring strategy by better targeting crucial time and resources on the right people.

Get the Right Person, Right on Time

Another factor to consider when opting for a specialty contingency firm is the urgency of your organization’s hiring needs. Retainer firms operate at a slower pace because C-suite hunts require a substantial amount of long-term research and reporting. Milestones are built into the process and it makes sense to keep track of progress this way. However, when hiring for other mid- to senior level roles (Manager, Director, VP) time is of the essence and a specialty contingency firm will be able to fill those roles more quickly, with less risk of the search being jeopardized by business changes.

If You Want to Be Exclusive, Invest Well

On several occasions now, we have heard disappointing anecdotes from frustrated clients about their past experiences with retainer firms that could unfortunately not deliver on their recruitment search requirements – either on time, by supplying the correct niche candidates for an industry, or at all – resulting in a financial loss and talent deficit. A productive and efficient alternative to this risk is opting instead to establish an exclusive relationship with a specialty contingency firm. That way, you have a dedicated recruitment team to tackle your hiring needs but aren’t fronting any costs until you see successful results with a new hire. This translates into a stronger return on your search investment by leveraging better quality and value throughout the process.

What has your company’s experience been with retainer vs specialty contingency firms? Any pertinent success stories to share about selecting a high-caliber hiring process that met or exceeded your business needs? Let us know in the comments.

— Rachelle Williams


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