Contingency recruiting is by far the most popular way searches are filled by recruitment firms for companies based in the United States, however this search methodology is much less prevalent in other parts of the world.


Many hiring managers believe contracting a firm on a contingency search basis is the most effective and efficient way for them to fill positions within their organization due to the assumed level of the competition that is created among search firms.

This is actually a misnomer, primarily due to the fact that that when competition increases among search firms the level of talent found and presented is not necessarily increased in direct proportion. In reality, the caliber of identified talent can actually drop precipitously due to two key factors. The first factor being that the candidate screening and pre-qualification often becomes haphazard and/or inconsistent because competing firms are racing to submit their candidates to the hiring manager as quickly as possible. The second factor being that high-end search firms will typically not accept a contingency search unless exclusivity is built into the contract (exclusivity being defined as only one recruitment firm working on the search).


Industry wide, contingency agreements are typically entered into more regularly at either the staff or management level and at a base salary under $100,000. Benefits of a contingency search for an organization include minimal risk and a large quantity of available candidates (however, available candidates are not necessarily the most suitable). Disadvantages of contingency searches can include lack of commitment from quality search firms and generally sub-par or average candidates that are either unemployed or searching job boards – as opposed to high-quality “A” level candidates that are happily employed and not necessarily actively looking for another job.


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