Why Companies Should Move from Working with Contingency Recruiters to Partnering Executive Search Specialists?

We have explored some frustrations of working with contingency recruiters and why you should partner with executive search specialists

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Recruitment is in many ways a strange industry. We see so many companies talking about how important their people are to them, how their strategy is dependant upon attracting, acquiring, retaining and ultimately developing the best talent available. However, so many of those companies don’t reflect that message in the recruitment methods they use.

A lot of companies that rely upon external agencies to source the best talent, utilise contingency database agencies for most of their recruitment. A contingency database agency effectively works for free throughout the process, and only earns their fee upon a successful placement. Working on large amounts of vacancies, they spread themselves thinly, typically working with active candidates who are proactively looking for a new opportunity.

From my experience, companies that work with contingency database agencies tend to have the same frustrations - just some of which I have listed below;

  • Agencies committing to fill their role but going missing after a couple of weeks of limited success.
  • Several agencies submitting the same candidate.
  • Pressure from agencies to take one of their candidates as opposed to the right or best candidate.
  • Candidates looking strong on paper, but disappointing at interview.
  • Getting to the end of the process and having to compete with other companies. (Becomes a bidding war)

It can also be frustrating for recruiters too, as being up against several other recruitment agencies means that they are pressured to find a quick solution as opposed to the right solution. They are set KPI’s relating to how many candidates they have at interview (working on a ratio that they will place xx in 5) rather than being measured on the quality of the appointment and the impact the candidate has on the client’s business in the short, medium and long-term.

But if we refer to that earlier message, about companies wanting to attract the very best talent - this strategy just doesn’t cut it. Customers want to negate all the above frustrations whilst ensuring that they find the best people.

Fortunately, there is a different, and, more importantly, a better way that removes all the frustrations and gives customer peace of mind that they appoint the best people for their businesses.

Executive or retained search focuses on working with a recruitment agency as a sole partner. I have found that clients have a misconception that working with lots of agencies guarantees that they cover the market and access the best candidates, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Working with lots of agencies dilutes the effort of the agency, as they must limit the risk of not placing a role by working on lots of roles and prioritising the easiest vacancies.

Over the past couple of years, I have transitioned my clients from a contingent approach to retained and have had brilliant success in ensuring they employ the best candidates, in both leadership positions and the building of niche technical teams. The main benefits for my clients have been;

Working with an agency that is truly committed to filling the vacancy.

One agency means one point of contact, who will approach both the active and passive candidates.

Pro active headhunt ensures the client picks from the best talent backed up with data from the industries we have agreed to research and entice candidates from.

Being retained exclusively means I can commit more time to my search, ensuring my clients are confident that we have approached everyone in the target industry(s).

Covering the market allows additional time to gather market intelligence (competitor landscape, salaries, team size, benefits etc)

Working with a dedicated partner reduces the time needed from the client and removes the need to keep educating different recruitment partners on your culture, vision, values etc…

My clients have noticed a significant improvement in both the quality of candidates and the overall experience when recruiting with a sole partner. Commitment is important in any relationship, its difficult for one to work without it. Recruitment is no different.

About the author
Doug Mackay
5 min read

Having started his career in Executive Search in 1998, Doug set up Collingwood in 2005 alongside his wife, Claire Mackay.

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