The model through which a recruiter gets paid (contingency or retained) shouldn't worry you too much, Venus Staffing's experts say, because you most likely won't have control over which type of recruiter you're working with. Contingency recruiters are paid when they make a placement, while retained recruiters are paid, usually up front, regardless of the search results. Darrell Gurney, author of Headhunters Revealed! offers a good explanation of the difference and notes that you won't have much say about which kind you align with.
"Which recruiter you work with depends primarily on your professional level, not how good you are at what you do," Gurney says, explaining that retained recruiters generally work with executive candidates who earn $200,000 a year or more.