Never Pay a Retainer, Unless…

After talking with executives from prominent manufacturing companies, I have found that the current status quo is to use Retained Search Firms for only C-Level positions. Their beliefs were that giving a contingency firm an exclusive relationship or having multiple firms compete to find the best candidates was the ideal strategy to find top talent.

I would like to challenge the status quo by pointing out that the majority of hires are made in the mid-to-upper level of the organizational chart rather than the C-Level. So, why not retain for these positions as well?

Take a moment and think like a contingent recruiting firm. They can’t create sales unless they fill a position, and the good firms only fill around 30-50 percent of their searches. The cold hard facts are that they will need to take on more work than they can handle in order to achieve their sales goals. How can you guarantee they are committed to working on your search exclusively knowing their need to overbook? And does it motivate them when told they are competing with several other firms? Not likely.

My thought is this: Never pay a retainer unless you trust a firm and want them to represent you. On the same note, if you don’t trust a firm enough to retain them why would you let them represent you at all?

In 2010, this wouldn’t even be a discussion because the market was soft, but today there is an all-out battle for top talent. Companies are dealing out extreme counteroffers to keep their best people. As a business partner to clients who have repeatedly come back to do business with me over the last decade, it makes sense to work on retainer with them.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]By working in a retainer, my clients gain my full bandwidth which allows me to add services such as video interviews, candidate video recordings and daily activity logs to enhance engagement.[/perfectpullquote]

Point blank, retainers allow me to focus my time on my vested clients and eliminate the need to overbook.

Paying a retainer is like tipping the host at the most exclusive restaurant in town to ensure you get the best table. When you pay to play with a recruitment firm that you trust, you are enabling them to become a vested partner with you. Once a retainer has been made the firm is on the clock to find top talent for your position – even if it is the hardest search of their career. With this commitment, they can afford to invest uninterrupted time and resources needed to make it happen for you.

Go the extra step and pay a retained fee to a firm that you trust on your next search. What do you have to lose? It doesn’t cost more. Anyway, we all know the difference between cost and value. As Warren Buffett once stated, “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”

In my practice, I have designed a retained model that is fully transparent and built to gain trust. I have the ability to show daily logs of our work so there is 100 percent confidence that we are working with a sense of urgency. Ask your other prospective search firms if they are willing be as accountable! If you are motivated to learn more I’m willing to show any new and qualified clients how this retained model works on a trial contingency basis. Contact me at

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