EMPLOYERS: Retained searches are not a good idea. Here’s why.

What is retained search

Retained search in recruitment is when a recruiter or recruitment company is paid to find and recruit a candidate for a specific job. A retained search recruiter gets paid at stages of the recruitment process prior to the candidate being placed.

This is as opposed to ‘contingency searches’, where a recruiter is only paid if a candidate is found and hired (i.e. what we do at Medijobs Australia).

Retained search recruiters basically sell themselves as amazing recruiters to employers who are desperate to hire someone. Why? Right now there’s a massive shortage of Allied Health staff, and as we all know, no staff means no work, which means no billing, no money, no growth, no nothing! With the job market the way it is right now, you can understand why an employer would be looking for hectic measures to solve a problem.

The retained search promise

Retained search recruiters basically promise to find you the exact candidate you’re looking for in the timeframe you need them. Sounds good? Of course, so you sign on.

These recruiters are so confident that they charge you before they’ve even gotten to work! Usually, 1/3 of the fee is required up front, 1/3 is paid upon the presentation of a shortlist, and the remainder is paid upon candidate placement.

The retained search reality

As you can see, there is a lot of money paid to a retained search recruiter before any work has actually been done. And herein lies a problem: How do you know that a recruiter is genuine if they haven’t delivered?

We’ve heard of a recruiter who has signed employers up for retained searches and then left the country! A candidate is never presented, yet the recruiter’s been paid. Our understanding is that this recruiter continues to do this.

Money down the drain.

The biggest problem with retained search is that there is no guarantee that they will find you the right person. That’s because they don’t need to – you’ve paid 2/3 of the fee before you’ve even held an interview!


If you really need to place a candidate in your organisation, but we’ve managed to scare you off retained search recruitment, here’s what you can do instead.

Don’t lock in to 1 recruiter

When you sign up for retained search recruitment, you’re locking into 1 recruiter. As far as we’re concerned, in this market (which is exceptionally candidate short), this just isn’t smart.

If you have a job that urgently needs to be filled, you need to throw everything at the problem! Go to several different recruiters, do your own recruitment and use your in-house HR team – get as many people on board as possible. There’s no harm in doing this!

Sure, we acknowledge that there are recruiters who have done a great job with retained search in the past, but at the moment it’s so candidate-short that it’s just risky.

Don’t believe promises

What if your retained recruiter can’t find the person you need? Sometimes the person you’re looking for just doesn’t exist right now. You can’t get your money back if this is the case.

At Medijobs, we never promise timelines! It’s impossible to predict how long a job search will take. So many recruiters make promises but can’t deliver. There is no guarantee, so if someone offers you one, know that it’s a lie. No one can guarantee they’ll find a candidate.

We do the best we can, which is find our employers high calibre, optimal candidates, but we can’t promise miracles.

Be aware

Know that this is a thing, and it needs a light shone on it. You may be under-pressure to fill a role, but be smart about it!

We’re finding that the issues with retained search recruitment is driven by the level of desperation that we have in the market at the moment. It’s preying on people. If you’ve had a good experience, great. But that’s not what we’re hearing from most employers. Desperate times lead to desperate measures, and there will always be people who will take advantage.

If you’re an employer who’s been burned by a retained search recruiter in the past, get in touch. Our 5-star Google Reviews will tell you everything you need to know about how we deal with people.

If you’re having trouble placing candidates, you might like our blog The job benefits Allied Health employees want.