How to Choose and Work with a Recruiting Firm

How to Choose and Work with a Recruiting Firm


What’s the difference between contingency and retainer firms?

Contingency firms represent either candidates seeking jobs or clients seeking candidates to fill an opportunity. Fees are paid upon the successful placement of a candidate. NAPR’s Code of Ethics prohibits member firms from charging candidates fees for their firms’ services. Client organizations do not pay an up-front fee to contingency recruitment firms. Usually there are no expenses involved with this approach.
Retainer firms represent clients who are seeking candidates to fill a client’s opportunity. Some or all of the fees can be paid in advance, or often over a specified amount of months, or paid with an initial retainer and the remainder of the fee paid upon the successful placement of a candidate. Retainer firms offer a more committed approach and daily attention to a client organization’s search. The client pays for the cost of sourcing to identify prospective candidates. These reimbursed costs which are incurred by the recruitment firm usually include a specified number of recruitment calls per day, direct mailers, advertisements in specific journals, website advertising, email blasts, attendance/exhibition at specific trade shows or scientific assemblies, residency program presentations, and more.

Should I use a Large Search Firm or a Small Search Firm?
There are no assured advantages to using either a large or small firm. The deciding factor for any client should be how comfortable the client is with the search firm based upon the search firm’s credibility, success rate, and understanding of the client’s needs.

What Should I Know About Fees and Contracts?
Whether you work with a contingency or retainer firm, the amount of the fee is specific to each firm. Some firms charge different amounts for primary care, surgical specialties or because of the difficulty of a certain specialty.

Common elements of a search firm contract include:

  • Specialty to be recruited.
  • Fee and payment schedule.
  • Expenses reimbursement (usually in retainer agreements).
  • Length of time a candidate referral is valid (usually one to two years from the date of the original referral of the candidate).
  • Replacement guarantee (language stating what occurs if the candidate fails to start or stay a certain period of time).
  • Exclusivity (requiring the client to use only the firm contracted to conduct the search).
  • The laws of the state which will govern the terms of the contract.
  • The client’s commitment to pay for candidate interview expenses.
  • Term of contract and conditions outlining when or how the search contract can be terminated.

What Should My Expectations Be? Is There a Standard Length of Time to Fill a Search?
There is no standard time to fill a search. However, the search firm should be able to give a projection based upon its assessment of the client’s location, candidate specifications and market for the particular specialty sought.

Who is My Contact Person?
Since interpersonal relations between the search firm and client are critical for strong working relationships, the in-house recruiter should ask if the person who sold the search is the same person who will be working on the search. If he or she is not the person who will be working directly with the client, then the client should be given a biography of the person who will be their search consultant and request a conversation with the search consultant to be sure there is a comfortable chemistry and confidence.

Should I Ask the Search Firm for Client References?
Retainer firms and contingency firms should provide the names of client references, if asked.
Clients may contact the National Association of Physician Recruiters, 800-726-5613, to inquire if a member firm is in good standing.

How many search firms should I work with?
The number of search firms a client chooses to work with is subjective. If the search is conducted on a retainer basis, there should be only that one firm involved. Clients who work with contingency firms may work with as many firms as they want. However, choosing a small core group of firms with which the client is comfortable will reduce the volume of calls from uninformed recruiters, and more importantly, reduce the possibility of duplicate referrals and potential fee disputes.
The firms with which the client chooses to work will do their utmost to find suitable candidates. Candidates who are seeking a certain geographic area may be represented by numerous recruiters. Candidates should be referred properly and formally.

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