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Retained Recruitment - Save Time and Money (Really)

Daylight Savings
almost 3 years ago by Gareth Foden

There is an ongoing debate between recruiters, hiring companies, and people who have dealt with recruiters as to whether the retained model actually benefits the customer or whether it's just a way for the recruiter to make a quick buck. My view is, it can be both. With the right recruiter, it can save you a significant amount of time, effort and money. With the wrong recruiter, it can be a costly exercise that ultimately yields zero results (and I’m not just talking about finding a candidate).

Retained recruitment essentially involves a hiring company paying an agreed amount upfront and then either staged payments through to completion or a final completion fee, depending on how both parties choose to work. In theory, this model is designed to guarantee the recruiter's time. Simply put, rather than working on a no-win-no-fee assignment, the recruiter is now focused and their client is committed to the result. This should mean that companies have a better chance of hiring the right person, but actually the benefits shouldn't stop there.

Retaining a recruiter should give employers assurances around deadlines. It should offer transparency about when they will have a shortlist completed, when they will have suitable options for discussion, and what date it's likely that an offer can made.

Working on a retained basis should also offer guarantees relating to quality. Do the applicants meet the brief but also the cultural alignment of your business? Has the recruiter actually met these people face-to-face and have they understood and communicated your value proposition correctly?

Thirdly, it should offer assurances around the employment market and what is actually available. Ultimately, your retained recruiter should be able to offer you an honest picture of how attractive your proposition is to every candidate approached, as concerns the offer of employment as a whole, not just salary and package. You should have this information when retaining a recruiter.

Retaining a recruiter should give them time. This is the crucial part that most employers overlook. When you throw a job out to eight recruiters, there is a huge assumption that eight people working the roles must equal eight times the results. Wrong. Usually what happens is that recruiters work on the roles that they find easiest to fill. So, if your job isn’t easy to fill, then it goes to the bottom of the list. When it’s a retained role, that assignment is their number one priority and it should have dedicated time allocated to it.

The retained model should also give candidates a better experience. They should understand your brand, your challenges and if they aren’t a fit, they should understand why not. The right retained recruiter should create a positive impression for anyone who comes into contact with your brand.

Most importantly of all, working on a retained basis should give you insights as to how to solve your problems. A really simple example (and one I personally don’t like) relates to salaries. If you need to pay more that’s all well and good, but when you have retained a recruiter they should provide evidence of the benefits, such as “if you pay X then you can instantly start talking to Y number of candidates”.

I hear lots of horror stories and encounter resistance from companies who are struggling to hire but don’t want to pay a retainer simply because of bad experiences with other recruiters. What I've outlined above is just a snapshot of what you should expect, but I honestly believe that working with the right recruiter in the right way will save you lots of pain, effort, time and money. It’s not just about the right hire: recruitment can be an imperfect process, but it is about solving problems rather than simply throwing enough at a wall hoping some will stick.

If you want to have a call on how to work in a better way, contact Gareth on and we can talk about whether retained is the right option for you.