What to Expect When You Manage Your Recruiting Process

Using gears to show the importance of knowing the different types of recruiters.

What to Expect When You Manage Your Recruiting Process

Within our blog series on the recruiting process, we’ve discussed the ins and outs of recruiting, what a recruiter does, and the benefits of using a recruiter. In our last blog, we took an even deeper dive into examining how much control you want over the recruiting process. Now that we’ve explored what it means to own or manage your recruiting process let’s take a closer look at what each actually entails.

As previously mentioned, determining whether you want to own or manage the recruiting process greatly influences the kind of recruiting firm you decide to hire. The best part is no matter what path you choose, there are recruiting vendors that will support you. Today we will discuss your options from a ‘managing’ standpoint. 

Just a quick review, if you’re choosing to manage your recurring process, that simply means you want to be active in the end result, but you don’t necessarily need to know how the sausage is made. Your options for a recruiting partner include executive, contingent, and staffing firms. Each of these options has its own unique role to play when it comes to recruiting. However, it’s not unusual to have all types operating together. No matter what option you choose, it’s important to always have a point person on your side. A designated liaison through which all information can flow. Not having a designated point person leads to dropped communication, missed deadlines, delays in the hiring process, and worst of all, the loss of the perfect candidate. 

Types of Recruiting Firms 

1. Executive Search Firms

Executive search, or colloquially “head-hunting,” refers to the hunt for an executive, i.e. CEO, CFO, Vice Presidents, and in some cases, director-level talent. These firms are known for their research and client care/feeding – high touch processes required to find a candidate to oversee a large organization, portfolio, or budget. Although every firm has a methodology, every search represents a unique challenge. It, therefore, requires a custom approach involving hours of developing the job specifications, the hunt strategy, and days, weeks, and months approaching dozens of candidates on your behalf looking for the exact right match. You should expect their hunt to be extensive, but you are not likely to see any more than five candidates and often three or fewer.

For these one-of-a-kind searches, firms have a compensation cut-off — $150,000 in annual salary is typically the lowest required, but most won’t take a search for under $250,000. These firms will charge anywhere from one-third of the compensation package to a firm, or a fixed fee that could be as much as 100% of the compensation, depending, of course, on the difficulty and importance of the role. Fees are generally paid in thirds – one-third at the start, one-third at the presentation of candidates, and the final third when the candidate starts. Others charge monthly for the service. Generally, expenses such as travel and meals are extra. Firms offer guarantees ranging from 90 days to a year. Should a candidate leave before the end of the guarantee period, the firm will provide you with another candidate at no additional cost.

2. Contingent Search Firms

The most popular kind of search firm is the company that takes your search, and their fee is “contingent” upon them finding the right candidate for you. Contingent firms work mainly in mid-level roles. However, they can tackle executive search, especially if it’s in their area of expertise or if they have your confidence as the client. This is a highly competitive marketplace, and typically firms specialize in competency areas like finance/accounting, marketing, sales, technology, IT, or industries like startups, nonprofits, hospitality, and government contracting. Often, the firm’s leader has a compelling track record in a particular area and builds their practice around that expertise. They typically have a database filled with candidates with backgrounds in this area.

Fees for a contingent search start at 15% of compensation and top out as high as 35% for the most hard-to-find roles. However, the majority charge 20%. Often if you expect to do a lot of work with one firm, you can negotiate the first few searches and have the remainder paid at the higher rate. Fees are paid when the candidate starts. However, many firms will not take your search if they know you are contacting multiple agencies. Depending on the hunt, some will weed out clients by charging a deposit which can be applied to the overall fee. However, if you decide not to go with their candidate, they keep the fee; this is often called a “con-tainer” – a blend of contingent and retained search. All will offer you a limited guarantee, some will decrease the fee they might owe you as the time goes by, and others will provide another candidate if the candidate leaves. It is essential to read your agreements and contracts carefully and know you can potentially negotiate. Negotiation is more successful with smaller firms than it is with larger firms, still, it never hurts to attempt to negotiate.

3. Staffing Firms 

Although you may not think of a staffing firm as part of your search mix, many offer candidates on a temporary-to-permanent basis, an arrangement that is especially prevalent in the administrative arena. It represents an excellent way to try out a candidate before entering into a long-term commitment with them. The key to a successful “temp-to-perm” relationship is to ensure that the candidate in the arrangement is genuinely interested in joining you. It is as much your responsibility to assess the candidate’s interest as it is that of the firm. Your interview before the engagement starts must be as extensive as a regular interview for any other role in your firm. Failing to recognize this could result in lost time and hourly rates that are well in excess of your compensation budget for the role. It is important to note that, like contingent firms, staffing firms are industry and role-focused.

Fees for temp-to-perm arrangements involve a certain number of hours the candidate must work at the hourly rate plus a finder’s fee. Often a percentage of the temporary hours can be applied to a finder’s fee. For example, if you hire the candidate the first week, you might owe the full fee. If you hire him or her after six months, the fee could be nothing. Like contingent recruiters, fees are variable and only paid when the candidates start. Fees range from 10 to 25% with a minimal guarantee because the assumption is that you had enough time to vet the candidate before hiring them.

To Sum It Up

While some models can overlap, the important thing is to look at your needs and figure out what works best. Always read the fine print and look at this as a relationship, not just a transaction. Remember, you are trusting a firm to bring you someone that will enhance your workplace culture, not harm it. 

Join us for the last installment in our recruiting blog series. We’ll cover what it means to own your recruiting process and how Talent Front fits into this puzzle. Don’t miss out – stay tuned!

About the Author


Marcia is the founder and CEO of TalentFront. She leverages her executive background in talent recruitment, leadership development, performance management, sales, and marketing to provide insightful recruitment solutions to a diverse range of clients. Her experience on both sides of the hiring equation helps her fully understand the struggle in finding and retaining top talent – and the reward in finding that just-right person.