As a recruiter - would you rather take on a search competing with 2-3 other search firms at a fee of 20-25% or have an exclusive search at a lower fee (ex. 17%)?

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Play the percentages.  4 agencies on one req?  You're always flirting with 0%.  Exclusive agency?  It will always be 100%.

The next question is volume.
Retained all day long.  To do the job effectively, maintain a superior level of service and truly offer value add, one must complete an extensive due diligence process and show the client what and how you differ from everyone else in the field.  The issue with recruiting is the low barrier to entry, anyone can do it and most are poor at it.  If you have the chance to remove yourself and seperate you from the competition, than do it.  When you get that chance however, move with diligence.  Impress the client with extras.  And the next time you will get the retainer at the higher rate.
Wooo Sandra what did I miss ... I am still in the office about to leave and I missed it ... Damn ... Oh yes I am going to get killed on the Recruiting Animal Show tomorrow ... I brought 3 nails and a shovel just in case I have to dig my own hole .... Wish me luck ...  Its going to be a Riotttttttttttttt .... !!!
The Bus ... :) LOL to where ? Hell ... !!

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