The overwhelming advantages of retained recruitment

By Lucy-Claire Allen, Founder, Trifecta Consulting Services

From my first day working in recruitment back in the early 2000 I have always worked on a retained basis, so naturally, I am a believer in the method and the results it delivers. There is a disinclination to this method. Not because of the results, they can be proven, but the payment method, that’s where potential clients have the most resistance.  So why if you know the method works would you reject a recruiter offering this service just because of the first-stage retainer fee? Consider the following benefits and advantages before deciding on what a retained recruiter offers and whether it will work for you.

Retained assignment

Firstly, let’s look at what constitutes a retained assignment. The perception may be this service only works for executive level or board positions only.  However, it also lends itself to sourcing candidates who are performing at a high level, unlikely to be looking at job advertisements or registered with agencies. Roles which require a particular level of skills, from a technical, sales or managerial perspective or a combined skill set can be hard to find, especially when you are waiting for them to come to you. They can be location-specific or you may have a specific individual in mind and find it difficult to make the initial approach. You want the most qualified person who compliments your business objectives and aligns with your vision of growth.

Selecting a consultant

In any retained assignment the consultant you choose is a representation of your business and an ambassador of your brand, this should be the principal consideration when selecting a consultant. They should be industry experts, with a high level of business acumen to understand the challenges of your industry and the internal structure of the business to support effective operation. As an advocate, they need to consider the candidate and the candidate’s experience equally. They should be extremely competent at interviewing, incorporating psychology, and body language with proficiency in identifying markers which harmonise with the company’s culture, values, and management style. You should be confident in their protection of your brand. After a deep dive as to your aspirations, growth, and development targets of the business an experienced consultant can advise on the right direction for the search and the likely outcomes.


The methodology and process lend themselves to a targeted selection of perfect candidates. By the time the client interviews the shortlist they have been extensively interviewed, and screened through research to confirm their skills and experience to establish their suitability for the role.  You will only have a maximum of 3 interviews to conduct as all the hard work has already been done. This is huge for any growing business.  It means you can concentrate on running your business and minimise the time costs to you, with the confidence the candidates you do see are more than capable of performing in the designated role.

Because of this process, you have reduced your time burden, mitigated the risk of a bad hire and increased the overall ROI. It also means the candidates are not actively seeking a change, instead, the consultant will be presenting the opportunity to them so there is little chance of them receiving other offers at the closing stages and with the consultant managing the candidates’ expectations throughout, there is a greater guarantee of success.

A good consultant will seek to future-proof and create readiness by understanding the business plan and development of a business and where the vision of the next few years will take you. The skills needed to facilitate that vision can be incorporated into the search.

The retained method also offers confidentiality for the client. This is an advantage in two ways.  Firstly, if you are developing a new channel or changing business direction or even looking for skills to support new innovations. To advertise for the role, is just that, an advertisement to your competitors of your next move. It exposes your plans. A retainer offers you anonymity and under-the-radar selections so you can maintain a competitive advantage. Secondly, if you have lost or have decided to unfortunately replace a key member of the team, descension is essential.

Each search is specifically designed to complement the outcome.  Therefore, you have exclusivity of the consultant who will be focussed on delivering the perfect outcome, without the notion of the best candidates going to the client paying the highest fee, which is a pitfall of other methods.

Retained Fee

Yes, there is a proportion of the fee paid upfront, which is usually the main objection to this method. However, if you believe the person you seek exists, then a good consultant will find them, period! If your expectations do not match the market, the consultant will inform you of this ahead of the assignment.

The placement fee is the end goal for both the consultant and the client. Client and candidate experience will be paramount to the consultant and if they do not make the placement after taking the retainer fee, they will not be in business for long. Delivery is everything! When you look at the ROI, the cost of time spent conducting unnecessary interviews or reduced focus on business needs due to managing an in-house process and bad hires far outweighs a retainer fee.  It is time to change perspective!

Research your consultant. Look at their experience, their education, and recommendations.  Invest a small amount of time for a giant saving to your business.

For more information on retained assignments and how they can help your business grow contact Lucy-Claire Allen at Trifecta Consulting Services, in partnership with GCR Recruitment.


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