5 May, 2021

Why I Work Retained & The Benefits to My Client

Written by Carl Standidge, Senior Life Sciences Consultant


I'm often asked why I predominantly work retained, and why I sometimes turn down contingent work (mad right?!)

Retained assignments, (or executive search), provides a much better service to the client, and a smoother process for prospective candidates, as well as giving me commitment and assurances, that I can put hours, days, weeks, sometimes even months into a project, to know that all parties are going to reap the rewards at the end.


So, what are the benefits of a retained assignment vs contingent?

Firstly, there is an industry average of c.90% successful placements with a retained approach, versus c.20% with contingent. My own personal statistics, since I began selling retainers, is a 98% placement record, with all but one of those still being with the company 12 months later.


Why such a good record? I could write pages and pages about why I have been so successful in my placements with solid staff retention, but I can try to narrow down the key points;

  • Quality of candidates - targeting those candidates that are in the market, not just those on the market. What I mean by this, is devising a bespoke plan, mapping out the market, identifying top talent, often from competitors or similar organisations, who aren't 'job hoppers' and are regarded as the best in the business by their current employer, peers etc. These people would otherwise not be applying for roles, loading their CV to job portals, being open to opportunities on LinkedIn etc (don't get me wrong, sometimes I get lucky, and the best person can fall under one of these!) No stone is left unturned!
  • Due diligence - having that commitment from a client enables me to really dig into facts, figures, motivations, references and so on. By this I look to interview individuals 3 or more times, meeting face to face (pre-Covid obviously!) I even speak to the individuals’ partner, to ensure they support the move, especially with regards to any relocations.
  • Really understanding what 'great' looks like to my client - I've seen some great candidates over my years, but not only should I consider that they would be a fantastic fit both from a skills and experience perspective, but also understanding a company’s culture and ethos is a huge factor in ensuring a strong synergy between client & candidate. So where possible, I always visit a clients' office/ factory/ laboratory etc to build a picture of if my candidate would fit well.

The above is a very brief overview of why I have been successful in my placement record.


Potential clients can sometimes be skeptical about working retained or exclusive to one agency or person, but overall, the cost is cheaper than that of a contingent placement, due to less risk involved for myself as a headhunter, i.e. not working to a no win no fee assignment. But the main thing as documented above, is they gain a dedicated team of consultants, working tirelessly to identify, engage and qualify the best possible talent in the market.


Similarly, if a client only wishes to work contingently, or with a number of different recruitment partners, with no due diligence on a 'fastest finger first' approach, flooding prospective clients with CVs from those who just so happen to be on the market and actively looking - I can tell you now that if a client does hire one of these, there is a slim chance of this person still being with the company in 12 or even 6 months time! Meaning a new process and another fee for the client to start the process again.


How you deal with potential rejection is very important when discussing and negotiating a retained assignment (worst-case scenario, you can still work the role contingent if you wanted to if you were declined), but explaining in detail the process and benefits to the client is invaluable in securing the deal. How many times have you heard a client say "we have this role out with 5-6 agencies so we won't go retained" believing that this increases their chances of securing the right person? What it actually does is dilute their chances massively.

Look at it as an iceberg; about 30% (the peak) is visible above the water - these are the candidates actively looking, CVs on jobs boards, applying for jobs, open for opportunities etc, where 70% of the iceberg is underwater - this represents the candidates comfortable at their current organisation (but will open up to exciting opportunities), those that are in the market, not on it. Contingent with a number of agencies is very much a fastest finger first approach, who can send the CVs of this 30% to the client the quickest, as you don't want to put all your time and resource into engaging with the 70%. This approach not only affects the credibility of the client, but the candidates and agencies also


I recently watched a webinar about retained search vs contingent that used an analogy I believe summed this up excellently: "if you drove past a house that was for sale, that had 10 'for sale' signs outside from different estate agents, what would your initial thought be?" I know what mine is.


I could genuinely type for hours about how much of a disservice contingent search is, and the benefits to all parties for retained.

If you are a business looking at your next key hire, or you've been let down with contingent searches previously with poor quality and at high fees, then please do reach out to me to discuss how a bespoke, retained search project can benefit your business, both in the immediate and for years to come – A project that is as close as you can get to a 100% guarantee of a successful placement.


carl@mpeople-recruitment.com | +44 (0) 7341 484063

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