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A contingent search is when the search firm is paid only upon the successful completion of the search -- typically when the candidate accepts the position, thus shifting the search risk almost entirely to the search firm. The fee is paid by the hiring company. Contingent search firms generally rely heavily on their contacts. Clients often prefer to work with recruiters who have successfully performed for them in the past.

A retained search is when the search firm enters into an exclusive contract with the client and is paid in advance for their services. In a retained search the fee is for the time and expertise of the search firm. Fee payments may be made in thirds, 1/3 of the fee paid on initiation of the search (retainer), 1/3 paid thirty days later, and the final 1/3 paid thirty days after that or upon placement of the candidate. The firm is employed to conduct the entire recruitment effort from startup until the candidate has started working. Retained recruiters work for their clients, not for job candidates seeking employment.

Providing Solutions to your Short-Term or Specialized Employee Needs. Contract placements provide flexibility for your staff when their workload becomes too heavy, you have a temporary staff vacancy, or you require a specific skill set for a special project. This type of short-term staffing provides a skilled employee to perform valuable work for your company without an up-front long term commitment.

Contract-to-hire works exactly the same as contract placements with the added value of providing the option of hiring the contract candidate as a full-time employee at the end of the contract assignment. This is advantageous in determining if an employee is the right fit for your company since they are providing services on-site and you have the opportunity to evaluate their skills in the actual work environment.