When is it time to engage a retained search firm?

When looking at filling a permanent physician role there are many factors that you have to weigh as an in-house recruiter. Some questions that must be answered are:

  1. How much revenue will be lost per day if this position remains vacant?
  2. How many other physicians will have to pick up the slack and potentially get burnt out by  having to cover these shifts?
  3. How long does the average placement take nationally for this specialty?
  4. How long did the last placement you had to make in this specialty take?
  5. How many permanent contingency firms do I work with and how confident do they feel in their ability to produce qualified candidates in a timely manner?
  6. What internal resources do I have access to that could lend some additional fire power to filling this position?

Once you have asked yourself these questions you will have a strong sense of how important the need is and how quickly you might have to reach out beyond the above pillars to engage with a retained search firm.

Having worked for and with both contingent and retained search models I often get asked what really is  the difference in results and is it worth the up front and typical ongoing costs. In looking at it I would say there are two main benefits to a retained firm that should lead to a faster position fill.

The first benefit is accountability. Unfortunately most contingent firms will send you candidates they are already working with that might be a fit but they will not actively engage in dedicated sourcing of candidates for your particular need. Often times if these at-hand candidates do not work out the contingency firm will move on to another order. Retained firms on the other hand will be held consistently accountable both for their results but also their ongoing activity. Knowing that they will need to report to you on a weekly basis exactly what has been done and what the results are has retained firm recruiters committed to delivering results you just too often won’t find with a contingency firm.

The second benefit of working with a retained firm is that due to the relationship being exclusive they are able to go all-in on your search with everything they have without fear of losing out. Comparing once again to a contingency firm who might be looking to fill a position for a client who has engaged numerous other firms, a retained firm knows that they are the sole source of your candidates. Since there is no concern that all their work will go in vain if you accept a candidate from another firm they are able to give 110% to their efforts because they know if they find qualified candidates you will process them accordingly.

Like most things there is a good and bad side to working with retained firm, namely results vs up front cost. It is therefore important that you properly evaluate the need and likelihood of filling it using the questions above as a starting point to determine if and when you should reach out to a retained staffing firm.

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