We get this question a lot and if a client doesn’t ask, we still want to explain the difference. Retained or the “retainer” is paid upfront by the client to start the search. Typically half or 1/3rd of the fee. The rest is paid when the work is finished. No different than any other professional service; lawyer, accountant, consultant, etc. Contingent means the fee is paid only if the search firm finds someone. Now if you compare that to any other professional service, you know any reputable firm won’t work for free until the work is done. Would you want your CPA firm or lawyer working on your behalf, hoping they get paid in the end? No, of course not, because that brings up quality assurance concerns. Search firms are no different. Make sure you do your due diligence when selecting a search partner, verify whether they have expertise in your field and always check references. The search firm you choose is your company’s brand ambassador.