Appointing leadership

Contingent recruitment and executive search – what is the difference?

EquiP is committed to finding the very best CE talent to perform leadership roles in the local government sector. Rothley, as a valued partner, complements EquiP’s capacity to further service the sector, providing recruitment solutions for tier 2 and 3 management roles, as well as specialist hard-to-fill roles. EquiP and Rothley will collaborate on certain assignments to provide targeted and bespoke solutions for key sector leadership roles.

When appointing leadership, specialist talent or critical positions, hiring managers have a choice: they can keep the recruitment process in-house, or look for outside services. This isn’t where the engagement choice ends however, because hiring managers can choose either an executive search firm or a contingent recruitment company to work with. This article focuses on clarifying the differences between the two.

By definition, executive search firms are management consultants that work on an advisory basis for their clients, with fees linked to the delivery of agreed professional services and milestones. Engaged on an exclusive basis, a search firm partners with their clients to uncover, assess and select the very best possible candidates. With competition for the best people so intense, finding the right person may be only part of the task. Effective search consultants will present prospective candidates with a compelling story about a great opportunity. Executive search firms operate a client-centric model, and therefore work on a limited number of assignments at any given time. As a customer, you should expect a high level of proactive service, a slate of highly qualified candidates, and a consultant who develops a long-term relationship with you that is built on trust.

Alternatively, hiring managers can engage a contingent recruitment company. Contingent recruiters are generally hired to present a pool of candidates as quickly as possible. They will refer candidates swiftly, and most of the assessment and selection work is left to the client. Candidates are typically sourced from advertising or people already known to the recruitment company. Contingent recruiters seek to ‘place’ as many candidates as possible, in the shortest possible timeframe. Fees are charged on a ‘fee-for-candidate’ basis, meaning that the consultant only gets paid when their candidate is hired. This means that when assignments are difficult, there is no incentive to continue - the job is often put in the ‘too hard basket’. For this reason, fees are generally lower and reflect the limited time invested in the process. By virtue of the ‘fee-for-candidate’ nature of this business model, contingent recruiters are motivated to get many resumes in front of many clients as quickly as possible. This often leads to less than satisfactory results.

Which service should I use?

Executive search firms are typically used for mid- to senior-level leadership positions, through to CE and board director appointments. They should be used for critical appointments, where the best candidate is harder to find and persuade to make a move, and where the potential impact of success or failure is the greatest.

Contingent recruiters are generally used for lower-level positions where there is a large volume of qualified candidates, and a low potential negative impact resulting from the wrong hiring decision. Contingent recruiters have a strong sales orientation, working with a lot of contacts, which can be an advantage to low- to mid-level candidates looking to make a move quickly.

Before engaging a firm make sure you:

  • know what support you need;
  • know what you are paying for;
  • understand the firm’s methodology;
  • check their credentials and track record; and
  • have confidence in the consultant you are engaging.

When it comes to the most critical and senior hires, ensure that you know you are appointing the best possible candidate in the market. The only way you can be sure of this is to pay for a robust search and selection process that guarantees the most appropriate person is identified, attracted and retained.