What are the Upsides of Using a Retained Search Process?

What are the Upsides of Using a Retained Search Process?

  • There are several benefits of using a retained process. As in many walks of life, you get what you pay for when purchasing a specialist consulting service.
  • Working with the best Search firm in the market and having access to their time is priceless.
  • A retained search instruction has another benefit many companies don’t appreciate: the impact on candidates.
  • It demonstrates to the candidate that the client is serious about hiring. The role is real and it’s not a company resume or CV shuffling to see if anyone is worth hiring.
  • Candidates understand that the client has already invested in the process, which elevates the entire candidate, client, and recruiter experience and process.

Access to a Skilled and Passive Talent Pool

  • The current hiring market is challenging. Navigating a tight labour market, skill shortages, hard-to-reach candidates, and happy employees who aren’t actively looking, though they are listening, are all in the day-to-day work and skill set of an experienced Search partner that offer retained search solutions.
  • The fact is experienced Search firms have extensive networks and resources to identify and attract high-quality candidates into their personal talent pools that they are constantly building their network for clients.
  • Certain specialisms have highly developed skills in key areas vital to their success. When it comes to Search Firms, they are exceptional networkers who are talking to key players in a market daily. An experienced Search Firm will have mapped the market and roles identifying candidates’ skills, wants, and needs should the ideal position become available.
  • This means they have established relationships with potential candidates that are both passive and active (not a skill every contingent recruiter has) that will fit your expectations for the role and are also an ideal cultural fit. 
  • This benefit alone is worth weeks and months of your or your internal recruitment team’s time.

Deep Sector and Subject Matter Expertise and Market Insight

  • A team will deliver a retained search and leverage experienced professionals inhouse with deep industry subject knowledge and expertise.
  • They have a finger on the pulse of the job market, including salary trends, talent availability, and industry-specific challenges. 
  • An additional plus point here is that certain Search Firms are known for their sector knowledge and expertise, and by default, that will attract a certain level of candidates.
  • This insight enables them to provide valuable guidance to the hiring organisation throughout the recruitment process, giving you the confidence to attract and engage the talent you want.

Targeted and Customised Approach

  • Retained Search Firms work closely with the hiring organisation to understand its specific vision and values and its hiring goals and requirements. 
  • The process is extremely detailed and delivers the creation of a unique approach and tailored strategy for each company.
  • This often involves using the latest technology, sourcing tools, and marketing campaigns designed specifically for each role.
  • Depending on the role and skill set required, a Firm that offers retained search will often be able to identify an ideal candidate from another sector with transferable skills that would be a great hire that contingent recruiters wouldn’t have the knowledge or connections to deliver.

Time and Resource Efficiency and Support for an Inhouse Team

  • Hiring for executive-level positions is both time-consuming and resource-intensive. Engaging a retained Search Firm transfers the burden of sourcing, screening, and shortlisting candidates to the recruiting firm you work with, which naturally frees up often stretched internal resources. 
  • A retained search is delivered so comprehensively that no stone is left unturned.
  • In-house teams, of course, have a place. However, when considering a confidential and senior role, an internal team won’t have the networks, connections, or capacity to deliver a shortlist of candidates in the time frames needed.

Confidentiality and Discretion

  • Hiring will always have a level of confidentiality required during the process, and a retained search instruction will take this to another level.
  • Your recruiting partner understands the importance of maintaining confidentiality, particularly when recruiting for sensitive or high-level positions. 
  • They follow strict protocols and N.D.A.s to ensure the privacy of both the hiring organisation and the candidates. This can be particularly crucial when filling positions where internal promotion may not be an option or during transitional periods in your organisation.

D.E.I Compliance 

  • Firms that provide a retained search process operate at an elevated level in all parts of the process.
  • They will often be fully trained in the D.E.I process aligned to recruitment, with many operating a de-biased approach using the latest software.

They will have cultivated a diverse candidate pool you can access as a client.

Succession Planning and Building your Talent Pipeline

Depending on the department, roles, and growth plans, many Firms offering retained services will also offer a consultancy package, including helping you develop your employee value proposition and the ongoing steps to build your talent pipeline, including succession planning.

Salary Negotiations and Counteroffer Management

  • The retained search process is detailed and often at a deeper level than a contingency search. As such, the salary expectations are benchmarked ahead of time with both the candidate and the client.
  • Selling the role and opportunity to a candidate is a superpower of a skilled and experienced retained search consultant. On the flip side, they also can analyse, within reason, if a candidate might be unpredictable when negotiating an offer or accepting a counteroffer from their current employer.
  • Bringing the offer and acceptance across the line is the role of a retained search consultant and is part of their process and guarantee.

Successful Placements and an Improved Bottomline

  • The retained search process is designed to deliver successful placements by presenting the hiring organisation with a shortlist of highly qualified and well-vetted candidates. 
  • Hiring is not an easy business process; however, using a retained search process reduces the company’s risk.
  • Retained recruitment might have a higher upfront investment, but in the long run, it’s more cost-effective because the shortlist will be highly qualified candidates for the role.
  • Several costs, such as advertising and screening, will be included in the retained fee.
  • By leveraging their expertise, resources, and network, retained search firms increase the probability of securing top talent for critical roles. This ultimately contributes to the organisation’s long-term success.

The Investment for a Retained Search

Using a retained search for business-critical roles is a worthwhile investment in the current skill-short-hiring landscape.

It is a well-known phrase in leadership circles that people grow organisations and consistently deliver results to the bottom line.

Therefore, reducing your risk by finding the right people to stay is a sensible use of your time and resources.

The total investment is generally based on the role seniority, timeframes, and any other consultancy requested during the process, for example, creating an E.V.P., Though most companies include all parts of the process, screening, and marketing within the fee.

The percentage fee will be based on the final total compensation. Different Search Firms use other payment structures, and many offer a guarantee. 

Some companies will require an engagement fee upfront and the remainder on the start date. While others will split the fee across different parts of the recruiting process, for example, initiating the first search, delivery of a shortlist, and successful offer. 

Utilising a retained search process offers significant benefits regarding access to talent, customised approaches, market mapping, efficiency, confidentiality, expertise, and successful placement.

These advantages make it an attractive option for organisations looking to fill key positions with exceptional candidates.


​If you are considering retained search for your organisation and you need help attracting the right talent – we can help.

For more information on how we can help you recruit the high-performing individuals you need, get in touch with Paul Hudson on 01580 857179 or email us here.


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What is The Difference Between Retained Search and Other Recruiting Services?

What is The Difference Between a Retained Search Instruction for Tech and Other Recruiting Services?

The most common recruiting options in the current permanent recruiting market are retained search and contingency-based recruitment with or without exclusivity.

Let’s share more detail about each.

Contingency Recruitment

Contingency recruitment, sometimes called non-retained recruitment, is a common method companies use to hire employees across many different sectors and roles.

As the name implies, contingency is a possible future event or circumstance that cannot be predicted with certainty. 

In the context of recruitment, contingency recruitment refers to a situation where a recruitment agency only gets paid if they successfully fill a position. 

The payment (fee) is contingent, or dependent, upon the successful placement of a candidate. This could be a set fee though more usually a percentage of the role’s salary.

The fee varies depending on the individual recruiter and sector and can be anywhere from 10-30% of the salary of the role in question.

Contingency recruiters typically work on multiple job vacancies at a time. It is logical when you consider that a recruiter puts in time and effort to source candidates who may or may not be hired; consequently, they may not be paid for the work involved in sourcing candidates.

In addition, recruiters often compete with other recruitment agencies to find the right candidate for the role. 

While contingency recruitment can be more cost-effective and quicker than other methods, it may not always deliver the highest quality candidates since the process might prioritise speed and competition between agencies, which in the case of recruiting rarely ends well.

Contingency With Exclusivity

Contingent recruitment can also be delivered on an exclusive basis. This refers to the fact that the recruiting process is still contingent on paying the fee; however, the recruitment agency will work the role exclusively, not competing with other recruitment agencies.

Many recruitment agencies with experience and expertise in a market will only work a role contingent if they have exclusivity on working the role.

Retained Search

A retained search, also known as executive search or headhunting, relates to the fact that the Search Firm works exclusively with your company and has much more involvement and responsibility throughout the recruiting process. 

I’ll share more detail about the fee structure later in the report, and as the name retained implies, the Search Firm is always paid a percentage of the fee on engagement.

In a retained search, the Search Firm is exclusively contracted to complete the recruitment process from start to finish. This typically includes defining and consulting around the job role, market mapping, and sourcing, with exclusive access to candidates, the recruiter has access to that others don’t.

A retained search involves a different level of ongoing marketing of the role; video interviewing and behavioural profiling will occur.

This method is typically used for senior, high-level or confidential and focuses on delivering highly qualified candidates. A retained search is a high touch point, high-level service, and an exclusive partnership between the hiring company and its Search partner.

This is a strategic partnership about the desire to increase the probability of finding the right person who stays with the company and continually contributes to the bottom line.

In the current skill-short market, where business-critical roles must be filled promptly, this recruiting process is becoming the preferred option for many companies.

Contact Paul Hudson, Managing Consultant at Opus Resourcing, for a discovery session to discuss your hiring needs and fuel your growth.

Book a call with Paul Hudson