This article will take a quick glance at contingency recruiting to better understand the stigmas that are placed on this industry. This article will explore whether or not contingency recruitment is worth it.

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What Is Contingency Recruiting?

Contingency recruiting is the process of contracting out recruitment for a given job for a fee. This is similar to a staffing agency, recruitment firm, recruiting agency, or contract recruiter.

Advantages of Contingency Recruiting

Contingency recruiting has unique advantages that make it a valuable tool in many circumstances. The following advantages are helpful in discerning if contingency recruiting is right for a company.

  • Access to their network. Staffing agencies and contingency recruiters brand themselves as having extensive networks. An advantage to working with a contingency recruiter is gaining access to the vast network that they have built. If your organization is not a household name, is opening a new location or doesn’t have a robust marketing presence, then utilizing the talent networks of contingency recruiters maybe your best option for finding the right hire for smaller or newer organizations.
  • Access to tools and resources. A contingency recruiter often has access to resources that may be out of your organization’s budget. A good indicator to see if working with a contingency recruiter or staffing firm will be advantageous for your organization is to understand the tools and resources currently available to your team in-house. If your team does not currently have access to the necessary tools and resources to get the level of talent you are looking for, then you may want to look at contingency recruitment.
  • Industry knowledge. Contingency recruiters build their reputation and career on placing hires quickly with a high-quality threshold. Understanding your current team and their limitations will help you know if you need the additional knowledge and expertise of a contingency recruiter in order to fill a given job requisition.

Disadvantages of Contingency Recruiting

Although contingency recruiting has a strong pull based on its advantages, it is not always the right fit. The following disadvantages are helpful in understanding if contingency recruiting will help your organization reach its objectives.

  • Limited knowledge of your company culture. Contingency recruiters do not have first-hand experience of the distinctive traits and characteristics that make your organization unique. In-house recruiters have a stronger understanding of the talent that will match or add to the existing culture.
  • Lack of dedication to your roles. Contingency recruiters make money by placing hires quickly and successfully within organizations. To maximize efficiency and productivity, many contingency recruiters and staffing firms are working on multiple campaigns across different organizations. Depending on your budget, you may or may not be at the top of this contingency recruiter’s list. This could lead to taking longer to fill a role and lacking the quality you are looking for. Even if the contingency recruiter has the policy to replace a hire that does not work out, this will cost time you may not have.
  • Lack of personal familiarity. Unlike your in-house recruiters, a contingency recruiter is unknown. You won’t have a true understanding of their culture and personality until you are already in the middle of a contract. Though contingency recruiters bring a strong network, an impressive track record, and a wealth of knowledge, this isn’t a guarantee it will translate successfully to your organization.

What To Look For in a Contingency Recruiter

Your organization is unique, so not all contingency recruiters or staffing firms will be the right fit. Here are a few key questions to consider as you search for a match to help your organization reach your objectives..

What Industries and Roles Do They Specialize In?

Some contingency recruiters and staffing firms work generally across all types of roles, while some specialize in specific roles, industries or verticals. Before deciding on a staffing agency or contract recruiter, have a conversation on the types of roles you need help filling. The contingency recruiter you choose may change depending on the type and scope of the roles you need to have filled.

What Tools Do They Utilize in Their Search?

Many contingency recruiters will keep some of this information confidential, but asking this question will give you a sense of what their recruiting process is like. Dig in with follow-up questions if their answers are vague. You can ask the following questions:

  • “What percentage of your network is in the industry we are hiring in?”
  • “How do you keep the people in your network warm?”
  • “What percentage of your network would you say is ready to start a new role at this time?”

Getting a solid understanding of the tools they have at their disposal will help you find a contingency recruiter or staffing firm that will be a beneficial partner.

What Is Their Vetting Process Like?

While they may not be able to share all of their vetting processes, you should understand how many touchpoints they will have with a candidate and what those touchpoints entail before they send you the candidates. A good contingency recruiter will specifically calibrate with you on what the vetting process should look like.

Checking in with the candidates they send you to see if that agreed-upon process is taking place is a good quality check and makes sure the recruiter is cutting corners.

What Are Their Accomplishments?

Contingency recruiters and staffing firms are very experienced in selling themselves so it is important to understand which of their accomplishments will be relevant to your specific expectations and needed outcomes. Ask beyond vague accomplishments for a further understanding to see if their accomplishments match with the outcomes you need.

You can ask:

  • Have you filled roles for our direct competitors?
  • How recently did they fill the role you were looking for?
  • Has the recruiter who will be working on our account filled this role recently?
  • “How much of your experience is in our industry?”
  • Have they filled the same role for other companies in your industry?

How To Work With a Contingency Recruiter

After finding the right contingency recruiter or staffing firm, having a successful partnership requires strong vendor management. Here are practical steps to ensure a good working relationship with your recruiter.

Tip 1: Set Expectations

Setting clear expectations lets the contingency recruiter know what you mutually expect from each other. This can be time-consuming but the improved results pay off throughout the partnership.

This is more than an intake call where you discuss what you are looking for in a specific job requisition, this is where you will set expectations on preferred communication style, communication frequency, hiring process, timelines, people involved, and anything else they need to know.

Once you’ve communicated your expectations, check-in with the recruiter to make sure they’re understanding. Clarify any questions or miscommunications that arise.

Tip 2: Set the Tone

It is up to you to set the tone for this relationship. If you communicate with clarity and urgency, your contingency recruiter is more likely to communicate in the same fashion. If you indicate you are too busy to communicate, you may not get the clear communication you need. Your attitude and demeanor will largely determine how they prioritize your recruitment jobs.

Tip 3: Over-Communicate

Since the contingency recruiter is unfamiliar with your company culture, over-communicating is important. This could include feedback from your hiring manager and the details discussed with internal stakeholders.

Tip 4: Follow-Up

Schedule a time to follow up so you can check in on their progress and on their process. Once you employ a contract recruiter it is tempting to just assume that those contracted roles are being filled according to the established deadline. Even if they report being on track with the deadline, understanding and encouraging the process will help guarantee timely results.

Tip 5: Keep Them Up to Date on Changes

The only information that a contingency recruiter has is the information you tell them. You are potentially the only person within your organization that they have any communication with, so do not assume that they will get an update unless you specifically tell it to them. Even if the update is small, communicating it keeps your recruiter in the loop so that they can successfully fill the positions you need.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Contingency Recruiting

Retained recruiters are paid an agreed-upon fee up front and work exclusively for the employer retaining their services. Contingency Recruiters are typically paid a commission upon the successful hire of a contracted role. Contingency recruiters may present the same candidate to several employers to get them hired as quickly as possible.
Any size business can utilize contingent recruiting. If an organization is too small to have an internal recruiter, contingency recruiters could be a great option. Large enterprises with a robust recruiting team can utilize contingency recruiters during hiring ramps when an internal recruiter is on leave, or when a specialty role or executive-level hire is needed.
Contingency recruiters are typically paid by commission when the role is filled. This type of compensation is often called “no win, no fee” compensation. The commission is often structured as a percentage of the first year salary for the hired positions. The percentage could be anywhere between 5% to 50% of that salary. The typical range is 10% to 30%
Tyler Fisher
Tyler Fisher, PHR

Tyler empowers Talent Acquisition professionals, HR business leaders, and key stake holders to develop and execute talent management strategies. He is igniting the talent acquisition process through: team building, accurate time to fill forecasting, driving creative talent sourcing, and fine-tuning recruiting team effectiveness.

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