RTRS – Retained, Contingency & Exclusive Searches Explained

Much like engineering has its own buzzwords, so does recruitment. You want to work with an agency that understands your requirements and provides an irresistible selection of engineers who perfectly fit the bill, but navigating recruiter jargon such as retainer search, contingency search and exclusive search can be confusing. RTRS is here to help.

We have specialist recruiters from backgrounds in contingency, retained and exclusive search. Here, we explain the differences and, more importantly, help you to understand which search will fulfil your needs.

Retained search

Retained searches are longer-term projects that involve you and RTRS working on an exclusive basis (i.e. no other agencies). You will be assigned an exclusive head-hunter who will spend time working collaboratively with you and the key people within your business, to understand company culture, requirements, needs and strategy. We’ll create an agreed approach to sourcing candidates, including a rigorous search, screening, interview and referencing process, all before they even reach your desk.

Retained searches also involve a thorough analysis of our database, network and relationships, to target high-calibre passive candidates that other agencies may struggle to reach. You will be presented with a small but perfect selection of engineering talent to shortlist, interview and appoint – making the most of your limited time.

  • Best for: Senior positions, niche roles and sensitive openings
  • Advantages: Less time sifting through CVs and more time interviewing quality engineering candidates
  • Avoid: If you have already instructed agencies to fill your role

Contingency search

Contingency searches often involve a number of agencies working on one particular engineering assignment; this is much faster-paced than retained search. Your RTRS contingency consultant will work with you to understand your company and the position and then present CVs that match the required culture-fit, competencies and experience. You can then shortlist the CVs to decide who you want to interview and proceed from there.

RTRS’ extensive engineering network and resources allow us to present quality candidates, quicker than many of our competitors. In contrast to retainer search options, fees are paid upon offer and acceptance, meaning less of a risk for you but the same standard of applicants.

  • Best for: Positions requiring a quick appointment
  • Advantages: A faster approach
  • Avoid: If you already have a significant number of agencies working on the position, or prefer a more personalised or in-depth recruitment approach

Exclusive search

Exclusive search is, in a nutshell, all the features of a contingent search but on an exclusive basis. Under an exclusive search, we will receive an agreed period of exclusivity to work on the role alone, providing us with more time to identify the best candidates and you with an increase in quality engineers; saving you time. This also avoids duplication of candidates and diluting of the brief – aspects some companies dislike about a simple contingency approach.

  • Best for: New vacancies
  • Advantages: Preferential terms and less time spent on duplicate CVs
  • Avoid: If you have already instructed other agencies


Whatever method of search you choose, you can be assured that our consultants are dedicated to matching your vacancy with the best candidates. We have a proven track record in contingent, retained and exclusive searches, all of which guarantee:

  • Access to our extensive candidate database and network
  • Understanding your business requirements, inside and out
  • Representation of your brand
  • Collaborative partnership

To find out more about how we can help with your recruitment process, register a job with us today and we will be in touch very soon.