I used to think that a Contingency Search was the best way to find talent for your company.


I have been on all sides of the table in Orthopedic companies.  The Contingency model is broken. The fundamental flaw is that…   your goals of hiring the best talent and the goals of a Contingency Recruiter are simply not aligned.

Let me explain.


 Contingency = low commitment

The bulk of recruiting in Orthopedics is Contingency Recruiting.  It’s easy and LOW COMMITMENT for both sides. Your Contingency Recruiter is a hard-working person and seems to be on top of things.  When you get a steady flood of resumes coming in, it feels like progress towards that great hire.


You are being misled into believing that you are seeing good talent.  You are not. Multiple contingence recruiters are competing against each other in a contest that prizes speed over accuracy.

5 shortcomings of using a Contingency Recruiter.

1) Lower Quality Talent
A Contingency search will not bring you the best talent available. Contingency Recruiters target active candidates, but the best candidates are typically passive.  Active candidates are unemployed or about to be unemployed.  Passive candidates are currently doing a great job at another company with no plans of making a move. They are well-paid star performers and are not looking to make a move.  You want to see passive candidates.

2) Less Commitment to Your Search
Contingency Recruiters will only give you a tiny fraction of their time. Contingency Recruiters do not have time to conduct a thorough search.  Contingency recruiters must be first in order to get paid.  It is a race against the other Contingency Recruiters who are trying to fill the same position and a race against the incoming resumes flowing in from online job posting . Contingency recruiters often flame out quickly on your search and go to the next one.

3) Less Vetting
Contingency Recruiters don’t have time to do a deep screen of the candidates who they are presenting. It’s a numbers game and they are working Contingency searches at 10-30 companies at the same time.  How about this resume? Ok, then how about this resume?  Ok, then…   The net result is that you are getting lower quality resumes from Contingency Recruiters because they don’t have time to vet the candidates because it’s a time race among the Contingency Recruiters.

4) Not Objective
Contingency Recruiters will coach or prep candidates for the interview at your company, so often you are not seeing the real person. They are biasing their candidate over the other Contingency Recruiter candidates in order to win the race.

5) Lack of Loyalty 
This is a hidden problem.  Contingency Recruiters will present your candidate to other companies at the same time.  This forces you to compete for the candidate versus other opportunities. This lack of loyalty undermines the relationship between you and the recruiter. I have been that burned hiring manager that lost a good candidate for another company because the recruiter shopped him/her around at the same time.


Retained = high commitment

The less traveled recruiting method used in Orthopedics is Retained Recruiting.  The goals of your Retained Recruiter are aligned with yours. It is based on a HIGH COMMITMENT relationship.  I believe that the Retained approach is better for your key positions that have a significant impact on your company – a transformational position.  And I believe that Retained approach is better for smaller companies where each position counts.

8 advantages of using a Retained Recruiter.

1) Higher Quality Talent
A Retained Recruiter doesn’t go after the job seekers (active), they look for the best candidates (passive) who may be currently doing a great job at your competitor.

2) More Commitment to Your Search
A Retained Recruiter will allocate a large portion of their time to your search.  Retained Recruiters know that you are serious because you have paid a retainer up front and they are exclusive to your search.  Since you have skin in the game, the Retained Recruiter is committed to your success.  The Retained Recruiter will attack your search with laser focus.

3) Careful Vetting
Retained Recruiters invest the time to “know” the candidates who are presented.  You will see fewer candidates, but much higher quality candidates.

4) Totally Objective
Retained Recruiters will never coach or prep candidates for the interview. In fact, they will be careful to not dress up the candidates. And an even more refreshing aspect of the retained process is that the retained recruiter will highlight warts and flaws of each candidate because he wants you to make the best choice among the lot.

5) Loyalty
Retained Recruiters will never present your candidate to another company.  You will not see candidates who are being shopped around to other companies.  The Retained process is a partnership with your company. He wants you to find the best.

6) Less Noise
With a Retained search, you only have to deal with a single recruiter.  Also, you will have fewer fully vetted candidates to review. With a Contingency search, the hiring manager and HR must deal with multiple Contingency Recruiters simultaneously and a flood of resumes coming in.

7) Longevity of Hire
I cannot prove this with stats, but anecdotally I know that Retained hires stick longer than Contingency hires.  The quality of the search process and vetting results in more career longevity.

8) Cost
Surprisingly, a Retained search will cost about the same as a Contingency search even with the upfront retainer.