Articles & Research


Retained Vs Contingent

Which Firm Is Right For You?

 All search firms are structured in one of two operational models, retained or contingency.

The choice of which to utilize depends entirely upon the culture of the healthcare entity, the level of service desired and the amount of time one has to devote to the search process. 

Generally, a contingent firm is a CV service, or resume referral service. The service received is typically very limited.  No payments are made to the firm until or unless the candidate accepts a position. Contingent firms work primarily through phone solicitation with candidates that are currently looking for a job. Recruiters with contingency firms are usually paid on straight commission and have little to no loyalty to the client they are working with. 

A retained firm primarily works with senior level administration to fill needs within an organization. The service received is usually extensive and retained firms seek physicians nationally that are not necessarily looking for a new position.  Their searches are typically more thorough as is the screening process of candidates which results in a more qualified candidate being presented.  There is a retainer or engagement fee charged and a progressive payment process, such as monthly consulting fees or hourly billings as the search unfolds and then a completion fee paid once the right candidate is secured.  Search consultants are usually paid a base salary plus an incentive program.  Their success is directly tied to the client whom they are working with.


  • Obtains retainer or engagement fee when search is assigned. Fees billed throughout the process, usually with a monetary and/or time limit. Completion fee paid when physician is secured.
  • Out of pocket expenses are reimbursed.
  • Makes trip to visit client to learn firsthand about opportunity and community.
  • Represents the client, not the candidate. Works in the best interest of the client.
  • Utilizes targeted procurement methods such as direct mail.
  • Candidates are generally not in the active job market.
  • Will interview candidate and spouse in person prior to the on-site client interview.
  • Detailed presentation of candidate to client. Will generally include extensive documentation including references and background check.
  • Typically will replace the physician if the physician leaves within the first few months of the practice.


  • Fee is based upon making a placement. No retainer required. Out of pocket expenses are not reimbursed.
  • Typically there is no replacement clause or guarantee.
  • Recruiter represents the candidate, not the client. Works in the best interest of the candidate with little regard to which facility candidate places.  Will routinely refer candidates into more than one facility.
  • Candidates generated by phone only. No procurement system. Limited resources.
  • Shares candidates with other contingency firms for a split fee. Seeking quickest placement.
  • Generally represents candidates that are looking for jobs.
  • Does not visit candidate or client in person. Knows little about candidate and community.
  • Presents candidates with very little supporting documentation.
  • Recruiters generally work on straight commission.
  • Considered to be a CV or resume service.


  For more information about this and other topics of interest, please contact 
MD Network, Inc.
 (800) 705-7055  
 Source: MD Network Research


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