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Is Contingency Multi-Agency Recruitment Dead?

Posted on September 2020

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​The contingent multi-agency recruitment model is now outdated. Now flawed. Fact.

What is contingent multi-agency recruitment?

“Contingent multi-agency recruitment (sometimes called non-exclusive) means that the recruiter is competing on a role either with other recruitment agencies or indeed the client, should the client have advertised the role on a job board or their website etc. The recruiter will only get paid should they successfully fill the role and the other recruiters swallow the losses.”

Interestingly, the statement of it being outdated isn’t aimed at recruiters - we already know it has been outdated for a while. This article is aimed at our lovely hiring managers, business owners, people looking for talent of any kind and our important candidates. It is aimed at the humans with livelihoods, family that unethical recruiters play blindly with and piss off daily.

Analyse if you will, the growth in the technical and digital transformations seen in recruitment over the last five years. You can’t? Well, as hiring managers and candidates, it is no wonder you may not have an idea of what those transformations look like. It isn’t your job to! So, it falls on Boxtree to try and open your eyes to what has changed, and what impact that has on you and the talent you are seeking, or the role your hunting for.

To look at the last forty years in digital evolution of recruiters, in what has been achieved and witnessed in our sector, was fairly passive compared to the last FIVE. It’s nothing short of unbelievable. Look at 2020.... then WOW.

Yet still, there is a need to educate and consult clients to try to inform and reform. There is a need for us to support and advice candidates who have been treated like shit.

Why is contingent recruitment flawed?

Unsurprisingly, a global pandemic and lockdown has helped (if not forced) our clients into their own kind of digital transformation and now hiring in ways that recruiters have been hiring for, for 10+ years.

A large part of a recruiter’s job now is to educate why the contingent model (no exclusivity, multi-agency contingent recruitment) just doesn’t make viable or commercial sense anymore for candidates and clients. Not us recruiters who are good at our jobs, we still suffer it until our clients see how we work 😉

To understand why clients think a multi-agency contingent practice is what needs to be adopted, we have to look back to the pre-digital arena of recruitment whereby an individual recruiter had significantly less reach in terms of accessing talent pools of potential candidates. Clients consistency hired in this way, successfully and it became standard practice. 

So back then, we were appointed on a role and here is how we accessed talent:

  • Our memory (literally remembering who is good in the market for this vacancy)

  • Our 1,500 folders in ‘my documents’ saved on the slowest computer in the world 

  • Our manual CV files held in walls upon walls of CV filing cabinets, labelled as ‘brokers’ and defined by geography... OOHH trust me.... when a CV went missing it was HELLISH 😂

  • VERY expensive advertising and filtering applications of good candidates

  • Word of mouth and referrals 

Each ‘specialist’ recruiter would have their own respective talent pool... which would differ from other recruiters and their talent pools. There was also hardly any compliance apart from taking ID.

Contingent recruitment worked in the pre-digital area as a recruiter's reach was far less. It made sense to use multiple agencies to access different talent pools to successfully fill a vacancy.

The levels of digital technology that recruiters now benefit from (for those business where the owners choose to invest in the proper technology), means a recruiter’s reach is effectively as big as the entire market in which they frequent.


So, when we are appointed on a role NOW, here is how we access talent;

  • AI technology with World Wide Web mining & connection software which delivers market mapping, individual insights, salary data and market leading access to literally, everyone

  • AI lead CRM systems which are software stacked into LinkedIn, every conceivable CV database, internal database and internal staff, and ensure compliance at a level expected by the likes of the FCA

  • UK leading IT infrastructure & systems with technical, remote and secure candidate interview, assessment, training, referencing, profiling and tooling.

  • Your expert specialist recruiter (hopefully) who benefits from all the old school ways of being respected in their market, having a fabulous memory,  holding integrity and being able to identify absolutely untrusted candidates from the masses

  • FCA standard compliance process (well, for Boxtree anyway!!!)

The fact is, if a recruiter is given the right technology, the right systems and given the time or space to do their job properly, they will present the right candidates for the opportunity. Fact.

The ONLY reason a consultant won’t put together the right shortlist for an opportunity if they are working on it exclusively for a role, is simple and is one of two things:

  1. That recruiter is not good enough for the job

  2. The client needs to listen to the consultant as to why

A hiring manager can completely avoid appointing a poor recruiter these days in about 40 seconds:

  • Ask them for references & testimonials from professionals you respect yourself

  • Ask them for depersonalised CVs for the role, to assess their specialism and pool of the candidates they represent

  • Ask them what their compliance processes are

So, what are the negatives of adopting a contingent, multi-agency recruitment process for clients and candidates?

In my opinion, expect the quality to be below par. Unethical recruiters will fire as many CVs across, as soon as possible, ignoring quality and compliance but ensuring quantity (throw as much as you can in the hope something might stick). In the hopes of getting a fee.

Expect the lack of compliance from contingent recruiters to leave your business and that candidate exposed legally or otherwise. We’re talking breach of GDPR, right to work compliance failings and professional negligence claims.

Expect to vet, reference & technically interview your own candidates after receiving a shortlist with the potential of finding that none of the candidates are suitable at the end of the process. Your hire isn’t guaranteed.

Expect higher fees. Non exclusive, contingent recruitment fees are between 15 to 30 percent of the assignment’s annual salary and 1st years remuneration.

Expect not to be able to hold poor recruiters performance to account, as it’s difficult to hold a contingency recruiter accountable.

Expect your recruiters to have no exclusivity for their candidates. Poor recruitment ethics see agencies constantly regenerate good candidates to multiple clients and introduce your candidate to multiple clients, to maximise their chances of earning a placement fee when it is on a contingent basis.

Expect a very poor and unwanted PR campaign against your business to quickly take place. Multi-agency (especially non-specialist) only care about fees. Imagine four agencies calling all the same talent, saying all different things about your business and the role. Will that make them feel special? Is that how you want your business represented for serious talent?

Expect quality talent to dislike your firm through no fault of your own(!). One of the most common complaints we see from top talent is that businesses ignore candidates after application but more often than not - it’s the recruiters lacking the communication skills as formalities take too much time for them, not the clients.

Here at Boxtree, we do walk away from business regularly where we are not appointed exclusively or where we are appointed among unethical recruiters who don’t hold the same integrity as us.

I wrote this article with passion because everything I emphasise about other recruitment consultants and poor ethics/behaviour is everything that Boxtree ARE NOT.

We’re not like them.

At Boxtree, we believe in building mutually beneficial, profitable & successful relationships with our partners and we believe in helping clients to understand this new digital landscape.

We believe in #peopleoverprofits and you best bet that we hold our candidates, their income that supports their families and maintains their happiness in a much, much higher regard to any fee we may charge for costs spent in finding them for our gorgeous clients.

Our brokers, insurers, mortgage brokers, IFAs, MGAs, lenders and banks have enough regulation and compliance to contend with.

Best call Boxtree and work with us on an exclusive basis to save everyone the headache.


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