Retained vs. Contingency Search
A retained search is a very intensive industry search for appropriate candidates. Most prospects a recruiter will talk to for your search are not now looking for a new opportunity and are recruited for your position, and only your position. A face-to-face meeting with your key people who will be involved in the interviewing process is essential. The recruiter will then extensive industry search for the right candidate. He will also personally interview all finalists before making his recommendation. A retained search usually takes from 45 to 60 days before you start interviewing the top candidates. Of course with a retained search you will need to make an up-front financial commitment to the recruiter.
A contingency search has the advantage of paying no fee until the position is filled. A recruiter can usually provide potential candidates in one or two weeks, and will continue to refer additional candidates, as they become available until the search is filled or closed. The downside is the recruiter knows you will most likely be using other sources for candidates and he has to be careful not to commit to much time unless he is reasonably sure he can fill the position and receive a fee. Also he knows that the recruiter who refers the candidate first gets the fee. So there can be a tendency to refer all candidates even if they are not a perfect match.
Contingency or Retained should be discussed with the recruiter to best determine the most effective way to fill your opportunity.