What Is a Retained Search?

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22 September 2015
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There are two major types of partnerships that strategic recruiting firms offer their clients: contingency search and retained search. There are pros and cons to both, and the type of arrangement you choose will depend upon your unique needs. This is the second installment of a two-part series that examines these two types of recruiting partnerships.

Part one of this series examined contingent search. But what about a retained search? In this type of recruiting partnership, the employer pays the recruiting firm a predetermined fee to fill an open position or positions.

How Do Retained Searches Differ from Contingent Searches?

Retained search partnerships are typically more consultative in nature than contingent searches. The recruiter must get to learn the client company well so that they can truly assess the needs for the positions they are to fill.  The first phase of the partnership can involve an intensive process of meetings, calls, checklists and questionnaires.

Some employers shy away from retained searches, believing that the recruiter has little incentive to deliver results, as the client is obligated to pay no matter what. However, it helps to reshape your thinking. While contingent recruiters have a monetary incentive to fill a position, retained recruiters have more than just an incentive to deliver – they have an obligation to meet their clients’ needs.

How Retained Recruiters Work

While there are retained search firms that cover a variety of focus areas, they usually employ recruiters who have built up extensive expertise and talent networks in specific areas. For example, a big data search recruiting firm may cover a variety of areas ranging from development to engineering to analytics, but each team of recruiters focuses on one or two specific subject areas.

When you partner with a search firm on a retained basis, they commit to making your positions a priority. They dedicate a team of recruiters to the project, set target dates for deliverables and then deploy a variety of very deep-channel search methods to deliver candidates.  Many high-level candidates will only work with a retained search firm because they know that the recruiter has a real relationship with the employer, and they also know that the recruiter is focusing most – if not all – of their energy on that particular project.

As you investigate retained search firms, you may come across a hybrid model that lies somewhere between a contingent search and a retained search. You may hear this called “engaged” search or “retingency” search. In this model, the employer pays their fee in two parts. The first, upfront portion may be called a “retainer” or a “container” fee. This is often around one-third of the total cost of the search. The second portion, similar to a contingent search, is paid once the hire has been made.

When Is A Retained Search Right For Your Company?

Retained searches are ideal when a company is looking for top-level talent, or very specific, technical skill sets. Companies choose retained partnerships when they have a need to fill a position efficiently, but they are also looking for a candidate with staying power. Retained recruiters are often highly skilled and extremely knowledgeable in their niche.

Retained searches are typically more expensive than contingent searches, which is why they are usually reserved for high-level, high-skill positions. However, they are also true partnerships.  While a contingent search can be approached by the employer as a “set it and forget it” situation, a retained search will involve active and ongoing communication with the recruiting team.

If you want to learn more about different approaches to big data recruiting including retained search and engaged search, reach out to OnBoard Recruitment Advisers  today. We are experts in big data recruiting – specifically big data and analytics. We can help you fill your highly skilled positions and improve your long-term retention.

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