EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

There is a great deal of fuss made out in “the world” about the difference between retained and contingency recruiters. If you want a full discussion about their differences and differing motivations, a very good source is “Rites of Passage” by John Lucht.

All recruiters handle jobs in which you might have interest. And, when they appear in our newsletter under someone’s name, you should give it your best shot by writing a proper cover letter and perhaps even customizing your resume to a degree.

You see, when you are responding to a job lead handled by either group, you are in a competition. Unlike networking where you may be the only candidate, this opportunity has been exposed to a wide audience (all 37,000+ of your fellow members of The FENG) as well as most likely lots and lots of others. Trust me, if you aren’t a reasonable fit, your odds are low. Furthermore, in keeping with our “qualified members only” approach, I hope you will hesitate for a few seconds before you click and shoot your resume off. Remember, the only way we get them coming back is by holding back.

Contingency recruiters deal in volumes. They have to because they are often competing with other recruiters to get THEIR candidates in front of the client first. Our newsletter works for them because all of you diligently read the newsletter and do your best to respond quickly.

Retained recruiters have a typically different approach to filling opportunities. They get paid to find the right person and aren’t allowed to give up until they do. Contingency recruiters will give it their best shot, but since “time is money” the value of continuing a futile search limits how long they will keep at it. However, both have an incentive to get their work completed as quickly as possible.

What is not so obvious is the kinds of searches both groups tend to get. This is where money comes into play. Retained recruiters typically charge more and their fees are guaranteed. Contingency recruiters work for free unless they find someone. Guess which group gets the harder searches? If you guessed the retained folks, you guessed right.

The retained search approach is to do lots and lots of research on the industry, find the key players and then convince them to leave their secure jobs at good companies in nice locations for other companies who may be second tier or in less desirable locations. If it was an easy search, why would anyone pay more? The answer is they tend to only get the tough ones.

My point here is primarily that you can’t win. By that I mean, asking whether a firm is retained or contingency impacts you as a job seeker differently than you might imagine. While there is some snob appeal to being sought after by a retained firm, it simply doesn’t benefit you as much as you think.

They are being paid to find the proverbial left handed monkey wrench turner. Their clients are not likely to settle just for someone who can “do the job.” They want someone who fits a broad range of very specific criteria, or else!

As an organization we are at times plagued by what I call the “Rice Krispies Treats problem.” Simply put, it is just too easy to post with us and get a talented slate of highly qualified candidates without breaking a sweat.

What is not well accepted even within the search community is that it isn’t the search that they really get paid for, but rather helping their clients select the right person. That is actually why they get “the big bucks.”

We can help both groups get their searches done more quickly. Even if it doesn’t end up being one of our members, by posting with us they get the benefit of our knowledge, experience and referrals.

This is what WE sell. So, the next time you get a hard time from someone in the search business about posting in our newsletter, sell the idea that we can shorten their timelines significantly, even if they don’t want one of our “been there and done that” members.

As far as I know, the rule that “time is money” hasn’t been amended.

Regards, Matt

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