Retained Recruitment: What are you scared of?

A couple of weeks ago I had a Twitter discussion with a well known NZ recruitment industry figure Jonathan Rice about selling retained versus contingent recruitment. Jonathan made the point that, “[many recruiters] provide an excellent service but are too scared to ask for some money up front, probably missing a trick somewhere there!”

It was immediately obvious to me then that many recruiters’ supposed inabilities to sell retained assignments is simply then a question of Mindset.

When I started my recruitment career almost 15 years ago, I was fortunate to work for a consulting company that only worked on retainers. In fact, it was some years before I even learned what a contingent assignment was. My mindset was therefore that you ONLY sold and worked on a retainer. Therefore that was the only solution we proposed to clients and the only one they bought.

Many years later, this is the mindset that we have within the Mindset Group and it allows us to deliver quality retained sourcing and selection assignments to our clients.

Conversely, a recruiter who has the mindset that their clients will NEVER work on a retainer is doomed to live in contingency land forever. Consultants that have come to work for Mindset have learned that their previous contingent clients WILL pay retainers. They just have to sell the concept, demonstrate the value and ask for one!

The founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano, once said “those who think that they are going to lose have already lost”. This has never been truer than in selling retained recruitment.

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Comment by pam claughton on May 25, 2011 at 7:20am

Hi Aaron,


Could you please expand on this a bit? How do you sell the concept, demonstrate the value and ask for the retained search? Especially when hit with the objection, "we already have this out to several contingency firms and they're showing us some good candidates?"


Thank you,


Comment by Aaron Dodd on May 25, 2011 at 7:54am


First off we only take exclusive assignments, so if they've already got the role out to all and sundry realistically they'd have to tell them all to cancel their activities.I guess it's in the timing. Develop a close relationship with them so the next time they have a role to fill they give it to you on a retainer. Forget about the non-exclusive work and move onto something more profitable.


We've had several incidents (including one today), where a client was not getting candidates via a contingent recruiters so he told them to stop and committed to us. His words were "when the agencies can't fill the role we go to the real recruiters" In Australia, the talent shortage coupled with record low unemployment has made this scenario very common.


Selling the value, concept etc, is the topic for future blogs!



Comment by Dr.Larisa Varenikova on May 25, 2011 at 11:02am
Dear Aaron, thank you, absolutely agree with your point of view.
Comment by Recruiting Animal on May 25, 2011 at 11:25am
But those who think that they are going to win won't necessarily win
Comment by pam claughton on May 25, 2011 at 4:26pm

Hi Aaron,

Thanks. I already mostly work on an exclusive basis. My question was more around how do you sell the retained search to a new client that you are prospecting? Would love to hear more about how you sell the concept...but as you mentioned, that may be in a future blog. Will keep an eye out for it.

Comment by Aaron Dodd on May 25, 2011 at 5:14pm

Hi Animal

Agree, but it will certainly massivelt lift their chances!!!!


Comment by Aaron Dodd on May 25, 2011 at 5:21pm


We've certainly turned down retainers as well, but for us that means turning down the assignment completely. As part of maintaining your own quality of delivery, you have to realise that sometimes there are clients that simply aren't good enough for you to work with. Walk away...if you can't forge a working "partnership" with your client, don't work with them!

You may also be intereested in this post of mine from ast year; The Recruitment Partnership; You get back, what you put in!





Comment by Aaron Dodd on May 25, 2011 at 5:39pm
Yes Bill...I do get a lot of pocket calls!..the joys of being at the top of everyone's contact lists!
Comment by Suzanne Levison on May 27, 2011 at 1:22pm
Hmmm, We have contracted both retained and contingency. Again, it depends upon the client, the position need, and our experience with the prospective client.


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