Retained Process | Network Marketing

Critical position

Senior hire


Why is retained search necessary?

In many cases, contingent recruitment (the usual no win-no fee) works. However, in many cases it doesn’t. When it’s a more challenging position, whether it be time sensitive, a difficult location, a niche skillset, a very senior hire or there are multiple positions to hire, it’s necessary to apply a more rigorous methodology.

Our executive search offering is a deposit led solution. Essentially, a financial commitment from you at the onset enables us to apply a robust search process, and importantly to commit to working with you until the position is filled.

When Retained Search Works Best

Retained Process

Why doesn’t contingent recruitment always work?

When a recruitment agency only works using a contingent model they have to stay close to the fee so prioritise their jobs. Typically they’ll be working on anything up to 15 jobs at a time. Unfortunately the harder to fill positions, especially those where there are multiple agencies working on the same role, tend to get a cursory search. There’s a misconception that engaging multiple agencies duplicates the effort, when in fact it dilutes it.

In a normal market 70% of talent is passive and it takes time to engage them and usually multiple different approaches. Contingency recruitment is about speed so most of this talent isn’t tapped into because it would take too much time. That means you’re likely only seeing the 30% most active candidates in the job market, not necessarily the best. How can you be sure that you’re genuinely getting the best person for the job if you’re not reaching out to more than half of the talent pool? The answer is, you can’t.

How does retained search work?

It’s essentially best practice headhunting and can be broken down into the following stages:


It begins with a full briefing session involving all stakeholders to define and agree on the parameters of the search and process including:

  1. Full role profile
  2. Functional and behavioural competencies
  3. Geography
  4. Target companies (plus any off limits)
  5. Timeline
  6. Process
  7. Employee Value Proposition (EVP)


This is where we essentially cast a net over the entire talent pool and identify every potential candidate over the agreed location (including those most likely to relocate if relevant), that appears to have the right skills and meets the search criteria.


We then systematically approach each and every one using multiple methods, including professional and ethical headhunting to attract as much interest in the opportunity as possible.

Steering meetings

The whole process is transparent, we share with you, every week, our progress as a spreadsheet showing you every candidate. If we’re faced with a challenge, we work with you to re-steer the search accordingly.


Ultimately, a long list of candidates emerges who have been assessed against the brief, both functionally and behaviorally and are interested in the opportunity*.


From this longlist, we jointly agree a shortlist of 3-5 candidates for you to interview.


At the end of the process, you will be absolutely confident that you are making your hire from all of the best talent available to you in the market, at this time.


*For roles where there is a real skill shortage or demand for candidates far outweighs the number of skilled candidates available the longlisting stage may need to be revised to ensure you don’t miss out.

Frequently asked questions

All other agencies work with us on a contingent basis, why should we pay you upfront?

If you are happy with the service you’re receiving, and the outcomes then there is no need to do anything different. However, if you’re frustrated and have one or more of the challenges listed above a different approach may be needed.  The market is changing e.g. fewer candidates respond to LinkedIn messages or emails than ever before. Good candidates are also in many cases more nervous than ever of making a move. In response to market changes, we are having to adapt our approach and methodologies.

Some financial commitment from you, allows us to apply a more robust methodology. It’s derived from the executive search process, but it’s faster, leaner and more cost effective. We are finding ourselves needing to use these new techniques at all levels now to ensure we can deliver the results our clients expect. We work on fewer mandates from highly committed clients which allows us to invest the time needed to get the best people, knowing that our efforts and expertise will be rewarded.

How much does it cost?

The good news is it doesn’t cost significantly more than contingent recruitment. We’d be happy to discuss specifics with you personally. Our structure is 1/3 upon commencement of the project, 1/3 upon agreed shortlist and 1/3 upon confirmed offer and signed contract by candidate. We occasionally adjust this to meet a client’s specific needs. We’d be happy to share full terms on request.

What if you don't fill the position? 

The commitment on this is mutual and we guarantee to work with you until the position is filled. We may face challenges if there is a shortage of skills, but we’ll work with you to re-steer the project accordingly until we reach a result.

If we didn’t feel certain of being able to fill the position we wouldn’t recommend this way of working and we would be honest with you at the onset.

If you’re fed up of agencies being all guns blazing at the onset of a new recruitment project only to find that when things get tough you never hear from them, or have to do all of the chasing you’re either using the wrong agency, or contingency recruitment isn’t the solution you need.

What happens if I get CVs from other agencies? 

In this respect the process is the same as an executive search. We will be covering the market and identifying all candidates that look suitable. If you accept a CV from another agency you could be liable for a double fee. At the onset of the project we share with you a standard template email you can send to other suppliers explaining that you’ve opted to use a search methodology on this particular hire and as such won’t accept any unsolicited CVs meaning you’re fully protected.

What if someone internal applies? 

That’s fine – known and referred candidates are welcome. We would assess them against everyone else and if they end up being the strongest candidate at the end of the process we would offer a discounted placement fee.

Does it improve the candidate experience, and why should we be bothered? 

Absolutely and it leaves them with a positive impression of the business. Not only can we brief them better, we can spend more time with them and we can be proactive in explaining the process to them. We recently had a conversation with a senior candidate with a highly sought after skillset and he said: “I would be extremely wary of leaving a company during these times – wary of dedicating much time at all to the possibility of a move to a new role, where I have no track record of success, to a company whose internal situation I cannot possibly know, and whose commitment to their employees is also unknown.” He went on to say: “Knowing that a recruiter has been paid a retainer tells me that the company is absolutely serious about making the hire. Whether that would entice me to make the move is another question, but at least I’d be willing to listen. I get so many LinkedIn messages from people contacting me about the same roles and businesses that I just block them. It screams of desperation which makes me question what they’d be like to work for .”


Get in touch with us

Leeds: 0113 246 9605

Manchester: 0161 804 0160