There are many good reasons to reject Contingency Search in any form, but for today’s post, I’ll deal with only one reason. Quantity vs Quality. In most cases, by no fault of their own, recruiters are forced to produce poor quality work or get left in the dust by other recruiters with a quicker trigger finger. The inherent weakness of Contingency Search lies in this conundrum: The more you endeavor to vet and qualify your candidates, the less likely you are to get paid for your work. The take home is that if you want to get paid, you had better not take too long in skimming those online resumes and be late to the party.
A basic rule of Contingency is: If the same candidate is referred to the a client by different recruiters, only the recruiter who was FIRST to send the resume to the client gets paid for the referral. Therefore, the most conscientious recruiter will far too often lose out and not get paid for their referral. Why? Because they were too thorough in doing the job of a recruiter. Even if you want to do well on behalf of your clients, you are put in the position to have to race to the resume submission before you should. I am convinced that this is the reason that the best recruiters don’t stay in Contingency Search for long. They either convert their business to a Retained model or leave the business altogether.
Why would a client want a flurry of resumes filling their inbox only to have to spend time sorting them to determine who sourced them only to then begin the arduous task of vetting and qualifying the new resumes? Furthermore, because of the race to the bottom, they have been flooded with all the “low hanging fruit.” These are essentially two kinds of candidates; Physically Unemployed or Emotionally Unemployed. In either case, they are motivated to escape a bad situation giving them an impure motive in many cases. That severe motive can compel such people to embellish their experience and worse, misrepresent who they are in order to meet a basic need they have. If you’ve hired much, you know who this is. Its the guy who turns out to be a very different person than the one you interviewed.
I’ve spoken to many different recruiters who suffer burnout and mental and emotional fatigue from trying to balance doing the right thing on behalf of their clients and getting paid. Okay, money isn’t everything, but its right up there with air. So the problem for many is that they desperately desire to be a good recruiter who does excellent vetting of the people they present to their clients yet they simply cannot accomplish this and thrive or in many cases survive.
The irony in all of this is that usually the FEE that a client is willing to pay for contingency is the same as it would be on retainer. The only difference is the terms of payment. Yet the key benefit to working on retainer is the ability to gain a commitment from one firm with a good reputation that you believe understands your company and the needs of the role and giving them what they need to be successful in the search. In doing this, the company will have a slate of qualified, vetted and interested people with the right motivation that ensures the best possible outcome. This is why it is still a mystery to me that companies think that they are better off working on contingency. What a tremendous miscalculation!