Key Differences Between​​​​​ Executive Search and Contingency Search​​​​​

The hiring and retention of top talent in today’s competitive marketplace remains extremely challenging for employers. Experts predict that hiring and retention will remain the biggest talent challenges in 2017 and beyond.When seeking new talent more and more organizations today are looking to external consultants for assistance when filling critical positions. This information explains the fundamental differences between Retained Executive Search Consultants and Contingent Recruiters to help you determine which option will best serve your particular needs.     
Executive Search Consulting Firms are highly specialized management consultants retained on an exclusive basis by clients in an advisory capacity. An executive search consulting firm typically partners with a client to identify, assess and select the very best possible client.They offer a more consultative approach.
Contingent Recruiters are hired to present a pool of candidates that fit certain criteria. A contingent recruiter generally works the front-end process, leaving the assessment and selection work to the client.
Executive Search Consulting Firms operate on an exclusive, client centered basis and work on a limited number of assignments at one time.  Executive Search firms are often skilled in finding passive candidates with diverse backgrounds. They are engaged in all aspects of the process, from  defining the search through candidate integration. They charge a consulting fee (retainer) for the assignment consistent with their more in-depth advisory work and to support a more in depth, comprehensive search, that may be global in scope. Executive search consultants deliver extremely high-quality services, a slate of highly qualified candidates, and develop long-term relationships built on trust.
Contingent Recruiters generally seek to place as many candidates as possible in the shortest amount of time. They tend to work with many assignments and clients concurrently. If a current assignment is not getting traction, contingent recruiters have less financial incentive to continue. Contingent recruiters offer their service with no up front cost and are only paid for candidates that the client actually hires. Fees are lower, reflecting the more limited scope of work and involvement. Contingent recruiters deliver broad access to a larger number of candidates.

Executive Search Consultants begin the process by conducting an in depth analysis of their client’s industry, business strategy, markets, competitors, goals, culture and business plans. They employ highly sophisticated methodologies including competency-based interviewing, 360 degree referencing and due diligence processes that may be augmented by psychometric testing and assessments. They identify a slate of the most qualified candidates that fit well with the client’s culture and offer the best background for the designated opportunity. Their success is defined by the long-term commitment and impact of the person selected, therefore they are highly motivated to help secure a lasting, successful executive hire for their client.

Contingent Recruiters leverage networks, advertising, social media and online databases to identify a large number of candidate resumes` that will most likely fit the client’s criteria. Resumes` are shared with the client who then takes a more hands-on approach to reviewing and evaluating the candidates. By virtue of the payment upon placement nature of this business model, contingent recruiters are more financially motivated to get more resumes’ in front of many clients as quickly as possible.




Executive Search Consulting Firms are typically used for senior-level executive suite positions and board directors. Assignments are generally for positions that are more challenging to fill and to place. These candidates can be more difficult to persuade to make a change, and where the potential impact of success or failure for the client organization is greatest; therefore they may require greater persuasion skills and finesse of the consultant. 

Contingent Recruiters are most often used for mid-level professional positions or positions that have a larger number of qualified applicants, giving more options to employers. They tend to focus on candidates that are actively seeking new roles, and positions that are of lower potential impact within the client organization.
Executive Search Consultants often access senior executives who may not be actively seeking a new position, and must employ an extremely high  level of confidentiality and earn the trust of both the candidate and client organization. 

Contingent Recruiters access candidates more commonly who are in mid-management roles, most of whom are actively seeking a new position. They must still employ a high level of trust and confidentiality but not quite the same level. They generally have a stronger sales orientation and concentrate on working with a large number of client companies and candidates, which can be advantageous for candidates looking for a new opportunity as well as companies looking to fill a large number of positions.

In today’s marketplace many people have come to use the terms Recruiter and Executive Search Consultant interchangeably, when they are, in fact, very different roles with a completely different focus. Which is right for you? It depends on your needs. When seeking to fill top-level executive, senior or board positions an Executive Consultant is the better option, particularly if you prefer a more in-depth and thorough analysis and assessment of candidates. When filling multiple lower or mid-level positions, a Recruiter might be just what you need. 

HR Advisory Group Ltd offers both options to our clients, based on their particular needs. Still not sure? Contact us for more info.

Source: The Association of Executive Search Consultants