Recruiting Advice

Evaluating the Recruitment Solutions That’s Right for You

Within the recruitment world there are many offerings all aimed at making the fee valuable, palatable and worthwhile and they are all variations on a theme of contingent and retained recruitment. This article attempts to explain how the methods differ and which model to select for a particular role. We will start with contingent recruitment and then move through to retained recruitment, which sets the context for some alternative models. Enjoy the read.

graphic of retained contingent recruitment

This diagram shows you what solution would be suitable depending on the assignment that you have, remember it’s the balance between generic, specific, supply and demand which determines what approach you should use.

You should also check on the experience of the Recruitment Company and consultant before embarking on a retained or contained project as with any kind of head hunting the training and skills are paramount in the outcome.

Contingent Recruitment Solution

For the uninitiated; contingent recruitment could be considered a success based fee, in other words once the successful candidate has started in the role then a fee based on a percentage of the salary is paid to the recruitment consultant, this typically involves a rebate payable should anything happen to the placement during a pre-determined period.

Retained is the other most common approach to providing a recruitment solution and is typically employed when the role is of a high value nature. The recruitment consultant in this case is usually referred to as a head-hunter and the process is known as paid search. There are benefits to this and there are some disadvantages.

In essence there shouldn’t be any disadvantages at all as the process is aimed at ensuring the depth of search will be sufficient to source the candidate and the search company shouldn’t take on an assignment, which they believe is a paid search process unless they are certain that the role will be filled.

If we were to look at the two processes in terms of fee then it would look something like this:

graphic comparing recruitment contingent retained


The contingent approach is an effective model, high supply in a balanced demand makes this approach a sensible way to provide a recruitment solution. The client company will typically be working with a number of recruitment companies and the consultant who provides the most suitable candidate in the quickest time wins the race for the placement.

This approach drives quantity and lowers quality over the longer term. You can also expect to have the same CV from a number of the agents as the contingent world is mainly focused on the job seeker in the active market. Fee levels in this market are usually around 10% to 22%, there is little risk to the client in terms of cash outlay but there is risk in terms of time as if the role demands any kind of niche skill or trait then contingent will not resolve the process.

When a role demands a niche skill, culture or trait then contingent recruitment becomes much less effective as the number of candidates is reduced with each and every specific demand. This is in fact the method that head-hunters use to disqualify people, the tighter the search the more definitive the recruiter can be. We now enter the world of the retained search.

Retained Recruitment Solutions

Retained searches have a mixed reputation within the market place; the reason for this is poor delivery of service and management of expectations on the client and candidate sides. To carry out a headhunt takes skill and experience and isn’t something that should be taken on irresponsibly by the recruitment consultant.

The types of challenges the recruiter  faces would be a very narrow market, difficulty in contacting the suitable candidate with PA’s and gatekeepers and high expectations from the client, as promises made to secure the retainer and justify the fee are high.

Significant training should be given before any of the recruitment consultants can embark on a fully retained search and the job role should be analysed in depth to ensure the retained route is the most suitable solution.

One aspect of retained searches, which usually baffles the market, is that retained searches are a much higher fee than contingent despite the fact that the search is much more targeted and the client is working on an exclusive basis. The reality is that the search is very in depth and gaining traction in a particular part of the market is difficult.

For example; I once carried out a retained search for a major FMCG company, the search led me to Italy, as I don’t speak Italian I needed some help with getting past the gate keepers so I employed a local waiter from the Italian restaurant to open the doors for me and get me through to the potential candidate at which point the level of candidate was able to speak English.

So retained searches do take much more time than a contingent CV race hence the higher cost. The fee is structured as 1/3rd on assignment, 1/3rd on short list and 1/3rd on success. The structure of the assignment is such due to the high level of research required to source the candidates and the time required by the consultant to open the market up gently and in a thorough manner.

Contained Recruitment Solutions

Our experience within recruitment led us to develop the contained solution in a demand from our clients to end the CV race, repeat CV’s and low quality that they had been experiencing from their other providers at the time. They wanted a different result and as such they needed to find a different approach in order to change what was happening to them.

graphic contingent contained recruitment

The way in which Contained differs from Contingent is the ‘Contained’ search allows more depth of search than contingent would, this allows the consultant to deal with the more niche elements of the job and person specs which contingent recruitment does not allow.

If you can imagine a pond out in a field, around the pond are a series of fishermen all using their hands to reach into the water to try and catch a fish, the fish they would typically catch would be those fish that swim near the surface, it’s possible that the same fish would be approached by different fishermen and which ever fishermen dipped their hands in the most would probably find the most fish.

Now consider what would happen if another fisherman came to the pond and were to use a fishing rod? This would allow the fisherman to send his line out further and his bait down deeper meaning the fisherman would be working with different fish than those feeding on the top, his approached would be more controlled and the other fishermen wouldn’t bother the fish.

This analogy would try to explain the difference between contingent and contained recruitment. To add Retained to this then the analogy would be a diver and a harpoon, this approach would be expensive and very targeted.

With regard to the fee in a Contained search, the structure is a mix of the two previous solutions, an assignment fee (typically 1/3rd) is applicable to allow for the more in-depth search technique and the balance (2/3rds) is payable on success much the same as a contingent role.

As this type of assignment means exclusivity with the client and consultant the fee level can mitigate this meaning that this method is much more cost effective than retained and usually competitive with contingent. As the balance between candidate and client is specific but not actually niche then the search is more efficient in terms of time which is reflected in the fee charged.

In Summary:

  • The contingent assignment is useful when the role is more generic and the market is balanced well in terms of demand and supply.
  • Contained is very useful when it comes to a candidate driven role when the demand and supply is balanced more toward demand. This method allows more depth of search and some head hunting along with some of the other methods such as DB and boards.
  • Retained is a pure search assignment when the market is totally candidate driven and demand is far greater than supply.

I hope you have found this informative and if you have any questions or if you would like to clarify anything please do not hesitate to call us..

If you would like to discuss this then please get in touch with me and leave your comments:

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Things We Think And Do Not Say

In the film Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise plays a high-powered sports agent who has so many clients that he doesn’t really care about them. I bet that you can see the recruitment angle already….

Tom Cruise - Jerry Maguire

However, one night he has a panic attack in a lonely hotel room, and writes a memo titled “The Things We Think and Do Not Say: The Future of Our Business.”

One of the things he writes is that agents should be less concerned about money and more concerned about their clients. That gets him a standing ovation in the office, but a few days later, when he's fired, he understands why agents do not say those things they think.

He sets up his own agency but loses his entire client base, apart from the wide receiver Rod (Cuba Gooding Junior). Jerry is also joined by just one of his former colleagues (Renee Zellweger), whom he promptly falls in love with, and he builds a fulfilling relationship with Rod, where money is not the only object.

Rod learns to play from the heart and in the final scenes it is clear that their success only came because they cared about each other as people. Rod trusted Jerry with his future.

There are too many parallels with recruitment to mention in this short blog, but in the tradition of Jerry Maguire’s memo, here is one thought from me (that we don’t often say):

Recruitment is transactional because candidates don’t trust recruiters, and recruiters don’t do enough to earn their trust.

Clients in formal meeting

I don’t know where to start, apart from the obvious place…. It is thought that most recruiters are in it for the money. Place a candidate, get a fee, the production line of new “meat” rolls on and that is how it works.

Jerry Maguire felt that he was in the same place. Send a CV, get an interview, manage the negotiation, place the candidate. It is a process – the involved parties either agree on things or they don’t, and you move on. Sounds pretty transactional, doesn’t it?

Yes, it does, but there is always another way. As an industry, we don’t do enough for our candidates to trust us. Clients trust us because we invest time in building a relationship with them, but there are so many candidates coming through our doors that it is seemingly impossible to develop that personal connection with any of them.

Without this relationship with the candidates, it will always be a transaction – recruiters will never be able to foster a true dialogue to find the best possible fit for everyone.

For me, it is all about the small steps. It starts with truly caring about them as human beings. They are coming to a recruiter at a time of great personal upheaval – the least we can do is to make every effort to understand the person behind the CV. If we show them that we care, they will open up that little bit more.

This relationship may not last for longer than the duration of their job search, or even longer than the duration of an initial interview, but if a recruiter tries to care, then the candidate’s trust will be all the easier to earn.

Written by Lee Narraway and Edited by Paul Drury

If you would like to discuss this then please get in touch with me and leave your comments:

Phone: 01925 747 712 Email: LinkedIn: Website:

When Was Your Moment of Fury?

One of the most poignant scenes in recent cinematic history is when the camera pans up from the tank in the film Fury, and you see the hundreds of scattered German bodies around a single Allied tank.

Brad Pitt movie Fury

To give some background, the American tank crew (led by Brad Pitt, who else?) were ordered to hold a crossroads to stop a huge German SS battalion from getting to a supply chain of Allied medical and support personnel. Their tank “Fury” was disabled by a landmine, so they had the decision to leave the civilians to certain death or do their best to stop the Germans in their tracks.

For the five-man tank crew, the decision to stay and fight was in the best Hollywood  tradition, but it captures the heroism of war and what people are prepared to do to when they believe in a cause (or hate a cause – in this case the Wafffen SS). Much of the action in Fury was based around real-life accounts of events in the Second World War, and I would like to briefly remember those who perished. May they rest in peace.

With the utmost respect to those who laid down our lives to defend us, I would like to focus on the one quality of any solider that continues to leave me in awe whenever I think about our guys defending our freedom all over the world. From the elimination of Osama bin Laden to the current fight with Islamic State, they are determined to “get it done.” They won’t stop until it is done.

Fury movie ad with actors

I sometimes wish that, in my own little way, I could have a little more of this determination in my life. I profusely apologise for the glib comparison with someone who is putting their life on the line, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the same thing – how much do you believe in your cause?

How many of us are truly passionate about what we do? Who keeps going through the bad days and the good? How many of us are glad of an excuse to give up or to take an easier path? The answer I would guess is most of us, as unlike the amazing heroes who fight our battles for us, we are “only human” after all.

Am I saying that to be human is to be fallible, well, yes, I probably am? We all make mistakes, we all let people down, and we all fail – with varying regularity. The key for me about determination is the will power to keep going until the very last moment, to keep believing that you can do it until that fallibility overtakes you at the very last minute. However, there is always the chance that it might not overtake you.

There was one American survivor of the Fury tank battle. Everyone has the chance to be superhuman if they are determined enough. The odds may be stacked against you, but if you have courage in the face of adversity, anything is possible.

Written by Lee Narraway and edited by Paul Drury

If you would like to discuss this then please get in touch with me and leave your comments:

Lee Narraway

Phone: 01925 747 712 Email: LinkedIn: Website:

Who You Gonna Call? Ghostbusters!

Your attempts to build a professional presence on Social Media are at risk! Don’t worry, Slimer isn’t about to burst out of your laptop or smartphone and cover it in Ectoplasm. That would be mildly amusing, if not a little scary.

No, I am talking about the Social Media “ghosts” who lurk in the shadows. The people who view your profile anonymously, the false profiles which decide to troll your blog and ruin your credibility, the competitors who set up false profiles on feedback websites to bring down your ratings.

These are just a few examples, but as your social media profile becomes even more central to your business, these “ghosts” could turn from a mere annoyance to something far more serious.

Let’s turn on our proton packs and tackle them in turn:

The anonymous viewers

Firstly, the anonymous viewers. Some people (especially recruiters) would argue that they don’t want to be seen “stalking” prospects. Others (maybe jobseekers) could say the same about checking out a hiring manager.

This is understandable if there is likely to be an element of repetition, but otherwise, why would people do that? I am fascinated by who has viewed my profile and their possible motives for doing so. I always check out their profiles and this in turn gives them more visibility.

Surely that is a good thing, both for recruiters and job seekers. There are some LinkedIn users that even use viewing lots of profiles as a growth tactic – they know that they will get the reciprocal views.

Faces of anonymous groups

False profiles trolling your blog

Now, to the false profiles trolling your blog. This is a tricky one. I have just started blogging and have not been the target of a troll just yet, but I can imagine how powerless you must feel.

It is very easy to set up a false LinkedIn profile, and as soon as one is banned, you can set up another one.

This is perfect for the cowardly trolls, and there may be a future where trolling comes out of the shadows. That is a worrying thought. “Hire me, I’m a professional troll – your competitors won’t stand a chance.” Some scumbags will find that attractive.


Thirdly, websites, which measure customer satisfaction are still worryingly easy to influence. The plethora of small businesses that are springing up at the moment will rely on these sites for new clients, and again, leaving nasty comments is not so hard. These sites will develop means to weed out the ghost comments, but they should not mass delete the negative ones, or their credibility is lost. The ghosts will find their way around any restrictions.

It is about time that something was done about online anonymity. Yes, there will be huge concerns about hackers accessing personal details, so I doubt that there will be extensive changes in terms of having a “personal” login, but there should at least be a orchestrated campaign to name and shame those caught.

Someone should set up a website with the details of the culprits…. would be a great name, but I’ll leave that one to Peter, Ray, Egon and Winston.

If you would like to discuss this then please get in touch with me and leave your comments:

Lee Narraway

Phone: 01925 747 712 Email: LinkedIn: Website:

A Case Study in Automotive

I've written a case study to share with you from one of our projects, this particular project continues to add significant value to our client and it is one that we are particularly proud of. Manufacturer auto industry car


The challenge we faced:

Our client is a global Tier One manufacturer within the automotive industry, turnover in excess of $25 billion annually and they design, manufacture and test a diverse range of automotive systems, assemblies and components for the OEM market and have over 250 sites manufacturing globally as well as many R&D and development sites.

One of the groups UK site had been loss making for a number of years and had picked up a bad reputation within the automotive sector as being a “revolving door,” with new employees coming in and leaving quite swiftly. This didn't reflect the ethos of the company, or other sites. A change of management and site culture was needed.

Senior directors from the company came over to the UK to look at the site and to consider all options for its future. They quickly realised the potential the site had and truly believed they could turn it around to become profitable. They noticed that some processes and behaviours within the site needed to be changed and a new senior management team was required to make this happen.

Manufacturer auto industry car


The most important things needed for the new team were structure, process, and a background within the automotive industry; individuals that had turned non profitable sites into profit making sites and sustaining that change. A belief in the culture and ethos of the group was essential. They consider themselves to have a very dynamic and employee led culture.


The difficult thing the client acknowledged was going to be the issue of trying to sell opportunities to potential individuals in the sector as they would probably be aware of the problems at the site, and would likely be stable within their current positions.

The obvious concern was that candidates could view moving to a company that had a bad reputation and perceived job insecurity, and the potential that the site might not being there in the next 12-18 months very negatively.

This would need to be carefully addressed and the genuine future plans, resources and commitment of the client effectively communicated at the very earliest stages of the search.


After a further meeting with the senior directors, we set up a plan of action and prioritised the positions they were looking to recruit, with the General Manager being paramount. We took details briefs from the directors to understand each of the roles in more depth, as well as the company culture.

We then went to the market to find relevant individuals for them. We used the ProCore four way methodology to full affect, as we knew we would have to approach the passive market to find the right people.

Once we had identified a long list of potential candidates through our research team, our consultants then contacted them confidentially and headhunted the relevant individuals, qualifying them against the roles in great detail.

Within a couple of weeks a short list of thoroughly vetted candidates was presented to the client; after a round of interviews the General Manager was hired, with other key individuals added to the team over the next couple of months.

Manufacturer auto industry

As part of our engagement we also helped the company draw up organisation charts, establish future vacancy requirements and to implement a structured recruitment process. For a short spell one of our consultants spent a day each week with the company to help embed these processes and concepts.


The client was exceptionally happy with the quality of the candidates we provided, and the manner in which we worked. They particularly commented on the professionalism and the discreet way we handled the process, separating the ‘wheat from the chaff’ and the way in which we positioned the client’s plans and objectives.

With the new senior management team in place, the site quickly moved to profitability, the first time in twelve years, and staff attrition rates dropped dramatically. We are very proud of our involvement with the site and were very excited to learn that the GM we placed had been promoted to a wider more responsible role with the company and we wish him very well for the future.

If you would like to discuss this short article in more detail then please connect with me and let's chat.

Lee Narraway

Phone: 01925 747 712 Email: LinkedIn: Website:

Just How Important is Honesty?

With a few notable exceptions, our film industry (and society, in general) loves to play on the stereotype of the bad boy in business. From Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone to Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, we cannot help but be charmed by their seemingly boyish disregard for the rules.

Recruitment pic for blog men women


Life often imitates art and vice versa. Big businesses the world over have “bent” the rules wherever possible for their personal gain. Whether it is offshore tax evasion, sweatshops in the Far East or overstating your profits to your shareholders, there are many opportunities to play the bad boy and win at the expense of others.

For a big, faceless corporation, if it is seen as the “done thing”, then the individuals involved practically absolve themselves of responsibility and go with the flow. This is morally reprehensible of course, and some of the biggest tragedies of the last 100 years have come about for exactly this reason.

People need to stand up and be counted. Otherwise our societies will slide deeper into the mire. If the individual moral compass starts to slide, then we have no more hope for a just and fair society or business climate.

You cannot control others or tell them what to do – they will make their own decisions. However, you can be true to yourself. If you feel that something is wrong, why shouldn’t you speak up? If enough of you speak up on a regular enough basis, that is enough to engender change higher up the hierarchy.

There was a case recently at the UK Retailer Tesco where they routinely misreported profits over a significant length of time. The CEO and a number of Trading Directors were involved. I won’t even speculate as to the origin of this deceit, but the aftermath has rocked a UK corporate giant to the core. The Directors involved have all left the business, and their names will forever more be associated with the scandal.

Not doing the right thing is often an easier choice to make than doing the right thing. However, the consequences of this could be with you forever.

honesty word

Working in recruitment, being honest with clients and candidates is something that should be second nature, Patrick Broderick the first trainer I had in recruitment once said to me “all you have in recruitment is your ethics”.

We are dealing with the hopes and dreams of people – they deserve a truthful opinion. Our clients rely on us to find the best possible candidates for their roles. In a candidate-led market, we ensure that they find the best-fit person for them and never overpromise like many of our competitors.

If a candidate has certain weak points, I will tell them. If they are over-ambitious, I will tell them. I will give them feedback as to why they may not have got a role and help them to make the best career choices.

Collage pics core values recruitment


If a client is unrealistic with their expectations, we will set them at the right level. If they don’t understand the nature of the market, we won’t sugar coat it. If they insist on perfection, we will even walk away. We’ll do our best, but, in our industry, perfection is a pipe dream.

With an honest person, what you see is what you get. No frills, just plain old common sense. When two honest people are working together, the optimal result is always possible.



If you would like to discuss this short article in more detail then please connect with me and let's chat.

Lee Narraway Phone: 01925 747 712 Email: LinkedIn: Website:

Try the Disney Way……

The Diversity of Disney

Workers in Disney diversity

Going to Disneyland is a magical experience.

Much of the enjoyment comes not only from the wonderful settings and characters but also from the people that work there. There are a wide variety of people from all over the world, at all age groups, all doing a mixture of activities with a common thread. They all try their best to give great customer service in whatever role they are involved with.

I am unfortunately not party to the Disney recruitment criteria, but you can be sure that diversity is high on their agenda. As long as you have the right “you’re going to have a great day today Sir” attitude, you’ve got the job, no matter whether you are 18 or 80, Chinese or Mexican, male or female. One thing is for certain, I bet being a “recruiter” for people at Disneyland is a lot of fun….

They have a laser focus on people who will give great service, and all the other criteria (such as age, gender and ethnic origin) come a distant second.

It made me think.

Workers in Disney Mickey

Working in the technical recruitment market as I do, a common issue that I come across is how to open the market up to source more candidates for a particular position. In the technical space, we are very niche in the way we view the skill sets required and the sectors we chose from. From an experience point of view, my clients are looking for very specific competencies, which makes it even stranger that the “older” professionals sometimes do not get considered as often as they should.

We have to be more focused on the requirements of the roles and let the other criteria fade into the background. An ambitious 25-year-old who only stays for 18 months would not be as good a hire as a 55-year-old who can utilise his experience not only in his role but also in a mentoring capacity for others. The lack of hiring boundaries for Disney was a real eye-opener for me.

What is also clear is the level of trust that Disney put in their workforce. It was very evident in everybody I met who worked there. From the guy who seemed convinced he had been born and raised in Fantasyland to the lady who was encouraging me to dance with the parade. They all operate freely and have obviously been trained very well and had the vision of the organisation expressed very clearly to them. Irrespective of background, you felt that they were part of the Disney family.

I agree that the skills required to work at Disney are more generic than many businesses, but the Disney “cast” are a shining example of true diversity in action.

Industry could learn a lot from the organization, training and culture that exists at the most magical place on earth.

Written by Lee Narraway and edited by Paul Drury

If you would like to discuss this then please get in touch with me and leave your comments:

Lee Narraway

Phone: 01925 747 712 Email: LinkedIn: Website:

So Have You Met Shrek?

Don’t Judge a Book By The Cover

I shook him by the hand, but something didn’t feel right.

As a recruiter, I am used to listening to my gut feelings, but on this occasion, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I have changed some of the details in this story to protect the individual’s identity, but it was one of the biggest eye-opening interviews that I have ever conducted.


I was in my first year of recruitment. At that time, interviews were still as nerve wracking for me as they were for the candidates, and I was admittedly a little green. Nonetheless, I prided myself on my intuition (gained from my previous career in industry) and had made a decent start in the profession.

Then, one day, Steve (name amended) walked into the room. He must have been the largest guy that I have ever met. He avoided my eyes as he walked in, and, with a sweaty handshake, he slumped in the chair, muttering something about the traffic under his breath. He couldn’t have seemed less interested to be there if he tried.

However, he had a perfect CV, so I set about trying to get some sense out of him. Any reply that I did get was delivered in a monotonous voice, and he kept looking at his watch. Something wasn’t right, but I continued the interview for the next hour, getting increasingly frustrated by the lack of communication.

I did the worst thing possible. I made the assumption that he didn’t have the right personality for the company that I was recruiting for. I didn’t think to dig further into the circumstances of his mood, and I switched off, discounting him from any of my possible searches. I judged him based on minimal evidence, but with absolute certainty.

If it hadn’t been for his email the next day apologizing and telling me about his serious personal problems that day, I would have been none the wiser.

Job interview candidates

I felt like an idiot. Why didn’t I care enough to dig that little bit deeper under the surface? It was obvious that something wasn’t quite right, but why did I judge him without understanding the bigger picture?

We do this all the time - making snap judgments based on someone’s appearance, gender, nationality, religion, etc. The media fuels this suspicion, which all too easily can turn to hatred. Walking down the street, every Muslim is a terrorist, every youth in a hoodie is a drug dealer. There are so many people, who don’t get their fair chance in life because they are a victim of these unfair prejudices.

If Shrek walked into my interview room, I’d like to think that I would hear him out. Not sure what sort of an Engineer he would make, but you never know unless you dig a little deeper….

Written by Lee Narraway and Edited by Paul Drury

If you would like to discuss this then please get in touch with me and leave your comments:

Lee Narraway

Phone: 01925 747 712 Email: LinkedIn: Website: