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Many recruitment agencies work on a contingency basis, meaning that they get paid if they are successful in matching their candidate to the job, securing an offer.

But some, like Boston Hale, offer a ‘retained’ option. Fees are paid at the beginning of the project, at an agreed midway point and on completion, usually in return for being appointed as the sole agency.

Companies often baulk at the thought of paying up front for a retained service, but in recent months, it’s increasing in popularity with our clients, and here’s why.

Benefits of retained recruitment services.

  • Focus and pre-allocation of resource and time

A recruitment business is a busy environment, where priorities are constantly changing. Retained work usually comes with a guarantee of exclusivity, which enables a recruitment firm to allocate time and resource without fear of losing out.

  • Consistent communication of the clients’ employer brand

The retained model enables the recruitment team working on the project to really get under the skin of the business and its employer brand. Understanding what’s great about the business, as well as the role, helps to define and shape the candidate attraction strategy, and makes sure messaging is consistent with the internal recruitment or HR team.


  • One agency team to liaise with

HR departments or internal hiring managers are stretched for time. Having to deal with multiple agencies takes more time and can be repetitive. Dealing with 1 or 2 people at one agency has several benefits, not least better time management. Business relationships are naturally stronger, with a better understanding on both sides.


  • Greater efficiency and effectiveness

Having one team to deal with also helps the efficiency of the recruitment process, as well as enabling the recruitment agency team to be more effective. The pace is increased and the quality of candidates is positively impacted. Recruiters have more time to spend on the project and can start to add value with market knowledge, benchmarking and advisory services.


  • Freedom to go off-brief

This might sound like a strange benefit, but it’s a very important one. HR and hiring managers have an idea of what sort of person they want, but recruiters can help challenge them by putting candidates forward with a slightly different mix of skills. Stimulating debate and bringing new perspectives to discussions leads to a higher value recruitment process, often with better results.


  • Predictable and transparent costs

Retained work costs what was agreed at the beginning of the project, regardless of the salary or day rate of the candidates hired. With contingent recruitment, realising you can’t get the skills you want for the price you wanted to pay results in a fee increase. With retained, exclusive work, you won’t incur unexpected price hikes, and in some cases, particularly for multiple-hire projects, you could end up making significant savings on the per-hire contingency fee model.


  • Guarantee of completion

There are some roles out there which are just extremely difficult to fill for several reasons. The benefit of retained recruitment means the agency (usually) keeps going until the roles are filled! With contingent recruitment, firms can opt out of the tricky ones if they feel the reward isn’t going to balance the effort they need to put in.


  • Ability to move the goal posts

With multiple hire packages, in particular, priorities can change over the duration of the project. What was the major focus can quickly change. Working with one agency on a retained basis enables customers to shift priorities around, whilst still enabling the recruitment team to have a ‘big picture’ perspective.


  • An executive search approach for senior hires

Retained work doesn’t always mean an executive search methodology, but in the main, this is how Boston Hale conducts all Director, C-suite and other senior roles. Working on an exclusive basis allows the agency to make discreet approaches and present a more professional service to the candidate throughout the process. This model ensures that all possible candidates are long-listed, guaranteeing a complete market search for the client.


Reconsider retained recruitment!

In summary, exclusive, retained recruitment isn’t right for all situations, but companies shouldn’t dismiss it out of hand.

Taking the retained path provides transparency around fees for the customer, whilst enabling the recruitment agency to provide the best service and quality of candidates possible.

With the uncertainty taken out of the process for both client and agency, all efforts and focus are on delivering the best possible outcomes for all customers, at all times.


To talk to us about your recruitment project and whether a retained approach would benefit you, get in touch 020 7048 6970

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