This is the top rung of the recruiting business in that these firms fill the top positions at most companies. They work on retainer, which means they get paid a fee for finding people who someone in the client company has directed them to find. The word 'headhunter' was coined here. These recruiters get paid for finding qualified candidates and arranging 'meetings', not for hires. This is the key difference between Retained Search and Agency and Contingency Search. Once they get the retainer, the competition with other firms is over; they have won the deal. Contrast this to Contingency Search firms, which are not only competing for positions but also must continue to compete for the hire, because they do not earn a fee until an applicant they have presented starts at the client company and very often must survive a guarantee period.