Every time a contingency recruiter asks me how to write a retained
search, I turn the question around and ask the recruiter, "Before I say
anything, first tell me why you think a retained search would be in the
best interest of your client."
In other words, forget about how much you'd like to write a search
contract and get some money up front. Put yourself in your
client's shoes and consider how a retained search would benefit
whoever is writing the check.
Don't get me wrong. Cash, commitment and control are pretty nice perks.
But they do nothing to address your clients' needs. They're worried
about how they can fill key positions, not how they can fill your bank
Don't Play Dr. Phil
What's really astonishing is how many contingency recruiters want to
write retained searches so they can control -- or even punish --
companies they feel have mistreated them. Unfortunately, fancy contracts
and up-front fees can't improve a dysfunctional relationship,
any more than putting wallpaper over a bumpy surface will smooth out the
wall. The veneer may be new, but the imperfections will eventually show
Effective consultants look first for the value they can add, then the
cash they'll receive -- not the other way around. If you're thinking
about offering retained search services to your clients, the first step
is to understand the reasons why an organization might choose retained
search over contingency. These include:
1.Tradition. Since most high-level searches have been
done on a retained basis for as long as anyone can remember, why try to
reinvent the wheel or fix something that isn't broken?
2.A proven track record. In general, retained search is
considered the best way to improve the quality of leadership in a timely
and cost-effective way.
3.Depth and breadth of service. Retained search is a
multi-faceted discipline that involves the type of research,
problem-solving and analysis that's beyond the scope of services offered
by many contingency recruiters.
4.Clarity of roles and responsibility. Given the
importance of filling a key position, the last thing a company wants is
confusion over who's doing what or who has the authority to refer
qualified candidates. That's why 99 percent of retained search contracts
specify that the search firm that wins the contract becomes the
exclusive provider of services.
5.Partnership, not competition. Contingency recruiters
often face potential conflicts of interest, in that what benefits the
recruiter may not necessarily benefit the client.
For example, if you're a recruiter trying to fill the same position with
three different companies, two of the companies may lose their access to
the very best candidates.
Or, if you're marketing a hot candidate, and two of your clients are
interested in hiring the person, it may set off a bidding war
that artificially drives up the price of talent.
Bear in mind that not every position will call for the services of a
retained executive recruiter. However, if you decide to offer retained
search, always put your clients' needs first. That way, you'll build
your reputation and your business at the same time.