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Main Pros and Cons You Need to Know about Retained Executive Search

Main Pros and Cons You Need to Know about Retained Executive Search

What is executive search?

Executive search is a specific recruitment service designed to engage top leadership talent to an organisation. The client pays an executive search firm to find highly skilled professionals for either senior-level and executive positions, and other highly specific and expert jobs. The service is usually utilized to fill strategically significant vacancies, e.g., CEO, CFO, COO, HRD, and CIO.

How does executive search work?

Executive search includes working with a third party, typically an executive search firm, who can find and attract the best C-level talent in the job market to match your business needs.
Executive search is a relationship and network-driven service. An executive search firm will work closely with you to recognise your needs and recommend the most operative strategy to guarantee they deliver the right talent.

An executive search company’ job is usually finding top talents, sending professionals’ profiles selectively to clients, conducting and assessing interviews. But they may also be in charge of negotiating salary and benefits, supporting the elaboration of an offer letter and employment contract if needed. Sometimes, companies partner with executive search companies to fill lower-level positions because there are few appropriate specialists on the job market fitting for those openings.
Executive search consultants usually have a broad network of personal contacts and background of each business area. Organizations and executive search companies typically have continuing partnerships because the demand for applicants will never end.
A decent executive search partner will have an excellent knowledge of the market, rather than just one industry or market sector. They will have profound, functional knowhow in their field that they can convey to every project.

The difference between contingency recruitment and retained executive search projects

Contingency recruitment

This model is the most ordinary method of recruitment within the business. The client frequently contacts several recruitment agencies in order to find applicants for an opening. A fee is only due to the re

Retained executive search

This specific search differs in that the services of a single recruitment consultancy are exclusively used to conduct a more in-depth and systematic search. The executive search assurances that only the selected executive search partner will fill the position. This can often deliver greater results as it offers that the consultant from the assigned agency can dedicate more time to the talent acquisition.
One of the main differentiating factors to this method, is that the retained executive search company is paid an upfront fee, which is a proportion of the expected total fee.

When do you choose an executive search over a typical recruitment service?

The process you apply for depends on the nature of position you have to fill. If you want to find professionals for C-level, leadership, or skilled positions, you may need to consider working with an executive search partner. While choosing an executive search firm is more expensive than an ordinary recruitment service, you will get what you want.
Most businesses choose to partner with executive search agencies because they do not have network and resources or may be because their HR departments cannot attract particular professionals to fill their vacancies.

Everything has pros and cons. And partnering with an executive search firm is not an exclusion.

Pros of partnering with retained executive search

  • More in-depth search

Certainly, the executive search consultants devote more time and effort for your project. They are making money from implementing such a thorough search. Therefore, they are interested in doing it in the greatest way. Simply said, retained executive search brings the best outcome.
Retained executive search consultants work meticulously with you to identify your business necessity and pains. They develop deliberate practice, action stages and an accurate timeline that can support them to perform top practices.

  • Filling the C-level positions

Executive search consultant intent to work in finding top management level and hard-to-fill vacancies such as CEO or sector-specific openings such as IoT Director. They can approach top professionals of the labour market who wish a career change, including bigger salaries, better benefits and higher accountabilities.
Retained executive search keeps a huge network that can make use of it to find proper applicants later on.

  • Assessing candidates

Other types of recruitment firms try to find candidates and send CVs to the clients as quickly as they can. They do not have time to screen candidates before introducing them to the clients. Therefore, it is your job to assess each specialist.
On the contrary, retained executive consultants perform executive searches based on your needs: skills, practice, cultural fits, salary, benefits. As well as conduct many interviews live or remote via telephones, video calls to evaluate if the candidates fit openings. Thus, executive searches usually result in high-quality experts and all you have to do is choose the one you like the most.

  • Support on Transition and Replacement Guarantee

A retained executive search company reviews the employed applicant with the client to ensure that the applicant is performing well and collects feedback from both the employer and employee to improve their service.
Also, retained executive search agencies usually provide replacement candidates to their clients in a few months.

  • Sophisticated and strategic guidance

As part of supporting to drive your company forward, a respectable executive search partner will be able to deliver you with additional care in the form of matters like succession planning and executive coaching. Their understanding of your business, combined with their wide familiarity of the market, means they are well-resourced to offer a more thorough HR and people solution for your business.

Cons of partnering with retained executive search

  • It seems you lose full control

The main con of partnering with a retained executive search firm is that you cannot control everything. This way, you trust more in the consultant.

  • The fee is expensive

Commonly, the fee for retained executive search solutions is higher than a typical recruitment assignment. You even have to pay an upfront fee before the consultants initiate the search. They invest more time and resources for your project, they need to be sure they are paid to maintain a premium business solution. The fees can vary, depending on the solution, influence and good brand of the service provider.


Your executive search partner should be a trusted partner. The ideal partnership means trusting the search company enough to deliver the right talent for your organization. This depends on having complete confidence that your executive search partner knows your business and will act on your behalf to potential applicants in the best way.

Whether you are expanding or replacing C-level roles, choosing an executive search firm can support moving your business forward. For more details on partnership with Horizons Executive Search, contact us today. We are here to help you build a talented team!

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