Although many of my third-party recruiters might not like making this information public, please allow me to take you behind the veiled curtain and share with you what goes on once you assign your job opening to multiple search firms on a contingency basis.

Disclaimer: This is not a blog citing what goes on at ENSEARCH.  Rather, based upon my 30 years in the business and networking with numerous firms in our industry, this is an overview of how most search firms treat contingency–based recruitment assignments


In a pure contingency search model, an employer’s job opening is routinely given to numerous firms with a pre-contractual understanding that a fee is only paid to the search firm who provides the candidate selected and hired. The overarching belief by employers is that if they assign their opening to multiple firms, they thereby multiply their odds of receiving more candidates and in a more timely manner. 

To a certain degree, that is correct, since there are only so many qualified candidates out there and now they are all competing for the same talent. However, the recruiters know that in order to have their candidate be “accepted” by an employer, they must be the first firm to submit that candidate for consideration, otherwise they will be “priored” if that same candidate was previously submitted by one of their competing firms.

As a result, a couple of important factors will likely occur:


Quantity vs Quality

In those situations, contingency searches are really a race to quickly source & present candidates vs. a thorough and in-depth vetting of candidates. As such, it is off to the races.  Speed becomes more important than quality. In order to protect their financial interests, recruiters will oftentimes submit a candidate’s resumes (or even just a profile) before they are fully & properly screened to ensure they are the referral of record.  So, conversely, it actually works against an employer’s best interest to work with multiple third-party recruiters on a pure contingency basis. 


Your Reputation

As of the last count, there were only about 6,000 certified NNPs in the entire country, making the candidate pool very lean. When you turn loose multiple search firms on the same assignment you are inviting those NNP candidates to be contacted several times about the same opening…your opening. So, put yourselves in the shoes of the candidate who has heard from three different recruiters in the same week about the same job…your job. What are you likely to think of that job and that employer. If you are like most candidates you will think that employer is desperate or there is something wrong with that job/facility …or both.

Studies have shown that some of the biggest concerns HR professionals have with outside recruiters include:

  • Poorly screened applicants
  • Applicants who do not match the requirements of the search
  • The recruiter who takes on the assignment…and then vanishes, never to be heard from again
  • Or worse, the recruiter who calls you every day (sometimes even multiple times per day) to follow up on their candidate

I agree; these issues would be an annoyance to me as well.  But can you see how this dynamic is self-created by the employer?

Wouldn’t you rather have a recruiter who understands your culture and needs? Someone who is committed to finding you the most qualified candidate for your opening and will effectively partner with you during the recruitment process?

If so, rather than utilizing multiple firms, asking them to work for free and making it more about speed vs. quality…..consider selecting one recruiter, assign them the assignment on an exclusive basis and possibly even give them some $$ up-front.  All this makes for a shared-risk relationship, committing each side to the other.  


I can promise you, that if you utilize my advice – and select an appropriate firm – not only will you be more satisfied with the results, more than likely you’ll end up with more qualified candidates from which to choose.


What are your thoughts? Have you used a third-party recruiter in the past that has sworn you off of the idea?