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Transactional vs. Partner Recruitment

When you boil it down, there are two main recruitment styles in the world: Transactional and Partner recruitment. While these terms can vary by region and industry, the fundamental differences between them are consistent. One of the main differences that comes to mind when talking about these two types of recruitment styles is the payment method, pay only on hire or paid upfront or scheduled fee. But there are other important parameters that sets these two models apart.

Definition and Overview

Transactional Recruitment

Also known by terms such as contingency recruitment, success-based recruitment, or fee-on-placement recruitment, this traditional model focuses on filling positions quickly and efficiently. It typically involves a straightforward process where recruiters seek candidates to fill specific roles, often within tight timelines. The emphasis is on volume and speed, ensuring that vacancies are filled as soon as possible.

Partner Recruitment

Known as headhunting, direct search, executive search, or retained search, partner recruitment has a more strategic and personalised approach, emphasising building long-term relationships with both clients and candidates and championing clients’ employer brand. This method involves a more consultative way of working, where recruiters work closely with organisations to understand their culture, goals, and long-term needs. The focus is on finding candidates who not only fit the job requirements but also align with the company’s values and vision.

Key Differences

Approach and Philosophy

  • Transactional Recruitment: The primary goal is to fill positions quickly. Recruiters operate on a project basis, focusing on the immediate hiring needs of the organisation. The process is often driven by metrics such as time-to-fill and placement numbers.
  • Partner Recruitment: This approach is more strategic, with a long-term perspective. Recruiters aim to establish enduring relationships, ensuring that candidates are a good fit for the company’s culture, values, and long-term objectives. Success is measured by the quality and retention of hires rather than just speed.

Candidate Interaction

  • Transactional Recruitment: The interaction with candidates is usually limited to the front end of the recruitment process. The work usually ends after transferring the candidate’s CV to the employer who takes over the process.
  • Partner Recruitment: Recruiters maintain continuous engagement with candidates, throughout the entire process and even post-hire. This ongoing relationship helps ensure long-term satisfaction and retention, fostering a network of trusted professionals.

Client Relationship

  • Transactional Recruitment: Engagements are typically short-term and ad hoc. Recruiters focus on filling current vacancies without a deep understanding of the client’s broader needs, values, or culture.
  • Partner Recruitment: This method involves a long-term partnership, with recruiters acting as strategic advisors. They work closely with clients to understand their evolving needs, providing ongoing support and consultation beyond the initial placement, supporting the client to achieve their business objectives.

Cost and Pricing Models

  • Transactional Recruitment: Fees are usually based on a per-placement model, allowing organisations to review candidates for immediate hiring needs with no up-front costs.
  • Partner Recruitment: The pricing structure often involves a retainer or ongoing fees, reflecting the depth of the partnership and the continuous support provided. While this requires more commitment from both parties, this method can lead to greater long-term value.

Outcome Focus

  • Transactional Recruitment: Success is primarily measured by metrics such as time-to-fill and the number of placements. The focus is on achieving quick, quantifiable results.
  • Partner Recruitment: The emphasis is on long-term outcomes such as quality of process and hire, employee retention, and satisfaction. Success is measured by how well hires integrate into the company and contribute to its goals over time.


  • Transactional Recruitment: In the transactional recruitment model, revenue is generated through successful placements, leading to a strong focus on volume. To maximize the chances of generating revenue, candidates are often presented to multiple employers simultaneously. This approach typically does not include any investment in the employer’s brand and reputation, nor detailed candidate qualification. The lean nature of this recruitment process increases the risk of hiring the wrong fit and increased employee turnover, as it prioritises quick placements over thorough assessments and alignment with the company’s culture and long-term needs.
  • Partner Recruitment: One of the main concerns with partner recruitment is the potential cost, as clients might pay for part of the service before actually hiring a candidate. This model involves a more thorough and detailed recruitment process, which can be more resource-intensive and take more time to qualify candidates. Although it often results in higher-quality candidates who fit better within the organisation, the fee structure required and length of the process, regardless of the hiring outcome, can be a factor for employers to consider.

Use Cases and Examples

When to Use Transactional Recruitment

Best suited for temporary, blue-collar, and entry-level positions where speed and volume are crucial. This approach allows for quick placements, making it suitable for immediate hiring needs when the organisation has a robust in-house candidate qualification process. 

Example: A retail company hiring seasonal staff for the holiday season can benefit from the efficiency of transactional recruitment.

When to Use Partner Recruitment

This model excels in ensuring high-quality candidates for niche, skilled, strategic, and executive roles. By focusing on cultural fit and specific skill sets, partner recruitment helps organisations secure talent that aligns closely with their long-term goals and values, providing a tailored approach that enhances overall organisational performance and cohesion.

Example: A tech company looking for a specialised engineer with a unique skill set would benefit from the thorough and relationship-focused approach of partner recruitment.

Transactional recruitment is efficient and cost-effective for immediate needs, while partner recruitment provides long-term value through strategic alignment and strong relationships. Organisations should carefully evaluate their hiring objectives and resources to choose the approach that best aligns with their goals. By doing so, businesses can build stronger, more cohesive teams that contribute to their overall success.

If you would like to learn more about how we can support your recruitment process, or just have a chat about the current recruitment landscape please reach out.