• Contingent, Retained & Informed Search: What’s the Difference & Why is Informed Search Better?

    Discover Informed Search, the next-gen recruitment search model from Duffy Group.

    Choosing the right recruiter is often as challenging as finding the right hire. You wouldn’t go on a date without checking out your options, right? So, why commit to a search model without the same consideration?

    Before you go out on a quest to find “The One,” let’s break down the traditional go-tos — contingent vs. retained search — and see how Duffy Group’s pioneering informed search model might just be the matchmaker you’ve been waiting for.

    Contingent Search

    In the world of contingency recruitment, speed is king. Recruiters cast their nets far and wide, posting job openings across various platforms and channels. They’re in a race against time and competition, striving to swiftly fill positions because their compensation hinges solely on successful placements. It’s a high-stakes game that potentially leads to mismatches between candidates and roles.

    What It Looks Like

    Imagine a tech startup needing to scale up fast. They turn to contingent recruiters who flood the zone with candidates. It’s efficient and can bring a lot of eager faces to the table quickly. But, just like speed dating, it might mean you spend a brief time with many.

    Consequently, the process may yield only a handful of individuals who genuinely align with the startup’s unique culture and long-term vision. What’s more, the sheer volume of applicants can overwhelm internal hiring teams, making it challenging to discern the best fits amid the crowd.

    Pros & Cons of Contingent Search


    • Large pool of candidates.
    • Quick hires.
    • Pay-for-performance keeps costs predictable.


    • Potential for quantity over quality.
    • Less focus on cultural fit.
    • Fast pace might miss deeper candidate assessment.

    Retained Search

    What is a retained search and how does it differ from contingency recruitment? Think of retained search like entering an exclusive dating agreement. You’re committing to one recruiter who promises to woo only the best and often passive candidates for you. It’s bespoke, confidential and tailored, but yes, it comes with a higher price tag and doesn’t always guarantee a successful hire.

    What It Looks Like

    A corporate giant is on the hunt for a new CFO. They engage a retained executive search firm, which pulls out all the stops to find candidates who truly match the company’s long-term goals and culture. It’s thorough, but as with any exclusive arrangement, it’s a bigger investment, demanding 30-35% of the candidate’s first-year compensation, including bonuses.

    More so, flexibility starts taking a hit with an exclusive contract, limiting options if progress stalls. In the quest for the ideal candidate, antsy organizations can buckle under the pressure and settle for someone who’s just “good enough,” rather than the perfect fit.

    Pros & Cons of Retained Search


    • Tailored search with high-quality candidates.
    • Dedicated and confidential service.
    • Comprehensive support throughout the hiring process.


    • Higher costs, regardless of outcome.
    • Contractual exclusivity can feel limiting.
    • Fewer candidates, which could extend the search if the first round isn’t perfect.
    • Might favor pricier candidates to boost commission (a practice often referred to as “uptick“).

    Informed Search

    With approximately 37% of the U.S. workforce — nearly one out of every three people — not actively job hunting but open to new opportunities, there is a significant opportunity to tap into this pool of hidden talent. Unfortunately, many organizations limit their focus to contingent vs retained search.

    Enter Duffy Group’s pioneering informed search model — a customized recruitment strategy that marries in-depth research with a flexible, hourly pricing model. This approach empowers organizations to actively engage those who are waiting for the right opportunity.

    What It Looks Like

    Back in 2019, Lightsource bp was poised for a major leap forward and needed a project management leader who didn’t just bring skills to the table, but also shared their visionary drive and commitment.

    They turned to Duffy Group, not just for a recruitment solution but for a partnership that understood the heart of their culture. Employing the proprietary, five-step Duffy Recruitment Research™ model, the search was as strategic as it was insightful.

    The result? A seamless match that brought a leader to Lightsource bp within five business days who was ready to drive their projects with as much passion as precision, saving the company over 50% compared to contingent and retained search fees.

    Pros of Informed Search

    • Builds a talent pool that not only meets current needs but also aligns with your future goals.
    • Employs deep, actionable insights for smarter, more effective hiring.
    • Ensures candidates match your company’s unique “sizzle” — the essence that sets you apart.
    • Offers savings up to 50% with billing based on actual work, enhancing affordability.

    Build a Winning Team with Duffy Group’s Informed Search

    Tired of the same old contingent and retained search models? Duffy Group’s informed search is the five-step revolution you need. Take control of your hiring process, build a quality candidate database and secure long-term success.

    For a partnership that redefines your recruitment strategy beyond contingency recruitment’s speed-focused approach or retained search’s costly dedication, contact Duffy Group today.

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