Search Solution – Retained Search

Retained Search

What is Retained Search and why is it used?

The Origins of Retained Search

Retained Search, sometimes called Executive Search, originally, a company needing to fill executive level positions would Retain the services of an Executive Recruiter. Over the past 30 years or so there has been an increase in specialist and professional jobs.  The work place becoming more technical due to computers and the Internet, Brought this about.

(Before going further this is not a definitive history, just a brief overview to give some perspective.)

Perhaps as a result of this , career paths started to change. In the past a person would work for a company for many years, maybe for their full working life. But in recent times this stability has gone, and people now manage their own career paths. Companies are no longer fixed institutions, many spring up and are acquired, or larger companies merge with others. Many more fail than previously. All of which has created a very fluid market place, where people are changing jobs several times in their lives.

Birth of the Recruitment Industry

This resulted in the need to find people for jobs and the recruitment industry was born. Or rather evolved out of what was already there, Staffing business that had provided secretarial, or administrative people on a temporary or part time basis. These adapted to also providing full time permanent positions but generally targeting the lower end of the market. There were already companies that provided executive level recruitment. But there was a massive gap that had previously not existed to provide mid to senior level, professional and managerial recruitment.

To service this gap, initially consulting businesses started to provide a specialist recruitment service. At the outset these used and adapted the Executive Search processes and followed the same fee structures. Hence Retained Search and Search and Selection were born.

From this sprung up a new type of recruitment business specifically to service the mid to senior market. At the same time there emerged a need for short and medium term employment of specialists. Working on specific projects, or new technology introduction into a business and thus the contracts market sprung up.

The Retained Search Model

From the outset it was understood that many of these professional & managerial roles are highly specialised and the skills and experienced required would be very difficult identify. As new technology came on line then few people would have any experience of it. Companies wanting to adopt this technology would have urgent need for these skills so demand for experience was high.

Servicing these technologies led to setting up specialised companies and they were very hungry for skilled resources. The active job market was unable to satisfy the demand to find the right people and the only way to fill your jobs was to poach from your competitors.

The Head-Hunter


Enter the Head-Hunter; a very specialised recruiter who would actively hunt the market for someone with the skills needed. Skilled at identifying and then engaging with the specialised talent that was not actively looking for a career change.  Highly skilled Head-hunters are adept at selling their clients businesses and opportunities and persuading their contacts to consider a change.

To engage the Head-Hunter you would need to pay him and up front fee, (usually a third of the total fee) when he delivered the shortlist, you pay another third of the final fee and then, on Acceptance of an offer his final fee is invoiced.

For this you were getting an exceptional service, that would deliver you the person with the skills you needed, often from your competitor, so doing them damage. And nobody baulks at the 33% of first years Guaranteed salary that is charged.

What has Changed

If I were writing a full history, then this is where I would start to discuss:

  • The proliferation of recruiters. The UK recruitment industry is probably the most saturated in the world, according to Recruitment Buzz there are over 31,000 recruitment business in the UK.
  • The introduction of job boards, the evolution of the internet, email, social media, sites like LinkedIn, Xing and Viadeo.
  • The rise of Recruitment Process Outsourcing, Contingency Recruitment, the Internal recruiter.

All have some part in the story.

But in short, there is simply a lot of choice and along with the choice, companies are far more cost sensitive. If a company offers to find you resource for 12% to 15% of base salary, from a cost point of view that has to sound more attractive than 25% to 33% of Guaranteed earnings.

One thing that hasn’t changed though.

Companies still need to find in-demand, highly skilled and experienced specialists and evidence suggests they are failing.

Glassdoor has the information-technology industry with  263,586 open jobs worth $20.9 billion. (This in the US but the scale is similar for the UK)

For your peace of mind, we offer 125% money back guarantee on the Retainer for a Retained Search Assignment. 

Retained search is not appropriate to all recruitment. Where the skills or experience required are common in the market or there is strong candidate interest for the role. This is when Contingency Recruitment is ideal.

When Would you use Retained Search?

global retained search

  • The role is critical to your business interests and not getting the right person will has a severe impact on your ability to make or save money. The reputation of the business is at stake or the business is at risk.
  • For predictable recruitment when you need to be able to plan your business with confidence.
  • All senior management positions, these roles are almost always critical.
  • There are usually only a handful of senior managers who are actively available. To ensure that the market is suitably explored it is necessary to make direct contact with a sufficient number. Doing this will ensure you get the right person for your business.
  • Where the skills or experience required are in high demand and short supply in the Market. When you are targeting very specific skills or experience, perhaps in a new technology. Perhaps there is a strong market trend toward a type of technology or solution. For example the current trend toward Cloud Services or the insatiable demand for Cyber Security People.
  • When the reputation of your business would be adversely damaged by cheapening of the search. This can occur when multiple recruiters call the same candidates time after time. Retained and Exclusive searches ensure a methodical and controlled access to the market.

In short when you simply cannot afford to take a chance on getting the right person and where you need to be able to make firm plans for this person in your business. 

We offer a 125% Retainer Guarantee – If we fail to deliver, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain – It’s Zero Risk Recruitment (Virtually)

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