We Need New Lingo

Lingo word cloudThe traditional differentiation between retained vs contingency recruiting has been about fees schedule and structure. The executive search profession is changing, and because of that, we need to rethink the lingo.

It’s no secret that search firms are facing increased competition from in-house recruiters; it’s a trend that’s being well recognized in the main stream media, particularly in articles published by BloombergBusinessweek, the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. Search firms need to adapt to the realities of the market, and an obvious way to do that is through fees.

The traditional retainer of one-third, one-third and one-third billed on a schedule rather than deliverables is fast fading in client popularity; and firms are obliged to be flexible in order to retain business. However, a fee structure based on deliverables smacks solidly in our preconception of contingency recruiting. The challenge is that “contingency” has not only conjured images of a certain fee structure, but also that of a process model that is not designed for high-touch and high-quality experience for either candidates or clients.  Herein lies our challenge.

In addition to traditional contingent and retained executive recruiting, we have a breed of search sired by the deliverable-based fees typical of contingency recruiting, but damed by the client relationship and candidate development practices typical of retained recruiting. It is a model where the fee schedule is contingent upon deliverables, but the services, processes and procedures are more consistent with those of retained search.

We need a new word to differentiate this model. I’ve heard the terms “retingency” and “container”, but surely we can find more elegant nomenclature.  Any thoughts?

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