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Retained Search or Contingency Recruitment?

Whether you’re looking to make a single hire or rapidly scale team, when hiring talent, you may be thinking about working with a recruitment agency.

Depending on the needs of your business and the role(s) you are recruiting for, there are two different ways in which recruitment agencies work. Retained search and Contingency recruitment.

So, what’s the difference and which one is right for you? Find out here. 

Whichever way, working with a specialist recruitment agency will help you understand which method is best applied to your industry. Take a look at the pros and cons of retained search and contingency recruitment.

Retained Recruitment 

In retained recruitment, the recruiter will charge an upfront fee to the client to conduct a search. The recruitment agency will operate on an exclusive basis and the job will only be filled by this company.


  • Due to exclusivity, the recruiter will work very closely with the client, be rigorous in their search to find the very best person for the job
  • Suits highly qualified senior positions where the right fit is imperative
  • Better relationship and trust between client and recruitment agency



  • Usually a longer process due to finding the right person
  • Work is more extensive and expensive
  • Taking a risk placing all trust in one recruitment agency

Contingency Recruitment

Contingency recruitment works on a no win, no fee basis . Meaning, the service is performed by the recruitment company for free until a candidate is placed with the client. Multiple recruiters may be invited to look for the right talent, so finding the best talent before anyone else is crucial for the successful recruiter!


  • Contingency recruiter will be a lot quicker
  • Pay only when position is filled
  • Wider pool of candidates due to multiple recruiters working on vacancy



  • Unsuitable for senior positions with hard to fill, niche skills
  • Without exclusivity the recruiter unlikely to devote fully to the search
  • Inconsistencies in the client message due to multiple recruiters

At MARS Recruitment we provide both exclusive and retained recruitment depending on your needs and resources. Our services cover: Exclusive Permanent Hire, Retained Hire and Contract and Interim Hire. Find out more on our services here.

Whether you have a formal job specification or just thought of a new role – when you register a job with us, one of our specialist consultants will contact you to introduce themselves, explain how we work and take further details from you.

Want to read more? Check out these other helpful interview articles: 10 Smart Questions to Ask at Interview, Video Interviews,  Advice for the Hiring ManagerWhy Our Hires Stay

MARS Recruitment is a leading Recruitment Agency in Oxford. If you would like to engage a Recruitment Consultancy which really goes the extra mile to understand and ensure that we’re placing the right individuals into your business, please do not hesitate to get in touch for an informative discussion around your recruitment challenges.

Or if you’re considering your next career step, search our current IT Jobs and Engineering Jobs.