Can you imagine a world where professional athletes only get paid if they win? In 1960, the Dallas Cowboys didn't win a game. In 1976, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't win one. And as recently as 2009, the Detroit Lions didn't win a single game. In the NBA, the Charlotte Bobcats won just 7 games in 2012...and Michael Jordan was the guy running the team. He certainly knows basketball! Should those players on the NFL teams not receive any compensation when they couldn't win a game? They prepared. They worked hard. It took a big toll on them physically and emotionally. They went to work every day and they did what they were asked to do...except win.
The world of contingency recruiting is highly competitive. It has a 90% turnover rate in the first year...meaning most just can't make it. The biggest issue is the constant and high probability of failure. It's tough to win a game. In the contingency world, a recruiter gets a company to agree to let them work on an open search for them and they agree to only pay them if they fill the search successfully. But the companies who agree to this deal usually have deals with other contingency recruiters as well, meaning they could have 4,5,10 different recruiters working on the same open search. At that point, recruiters are tripping over the same potential candidates and contacting the same people over and over again - and by the 3rd call from a recruiter, the candidate hates all recruiters and the company who enlisted them to bombard them with calls all day.
Even more frustrating is when the recruiter is the first one to contact THE candidate - the one who is most likely to get the job. They get all of the information and get the candidate to agree not to speak with any other recruiters who may call regarding the same job. The recruiter submits the candidate only to hear from the company, "Well, we've put that search on hold for a while. We're re-evaluating if we really need that person or someone with a different skill set." Or, "You know, the timing is just a bit off. The person who needs to make this decision just went on maternity leave and won't be back for 90 days, so we are going to hold off until then." Or, "Wow! That's a great looking candidate, but we were just hit with a hiring freeze so we'll call you next year and see if that person is still available then."
The recruiter has invested time, money, and resources into working on a search that they will not get paid on. They have worked for free. They do this in the hopes that they will fill a handful of open positions every year and survive to the next year. Contingency recruiters understand that they likely will not get paid for the work that they do. So, they want easy to fill searches with quick turnarounds and as few competitors as possible when they take on a new search...this strengthens their odds of winning.
In most cases, a contingency recruiter will work hard on a search for no more than 2-3 days and if they don't see light at the end of the tunnel, they are off to focus on something else. This leaves their "clients" feeling frustrated because they didn't get any solid leads out of it - making all recruiters look bad and making it tougher for all of us.
So, a note to Contingency Recruiters...
Stop working for free! Get paid for your efforts.
I have worked on both sides - contingency and retained. Here are three observations that I've made personally:
As long as people are willing to work for free, some companies will take them up on it. Not all though. The ones who are serious about getting the search filled with the right person, and not just having resumes thrown at them, will use a retained recruiter. Consider which type of recruiter you really want to be.