CMA Services
Executive Search Services


Retained Search, Modified Retained Search, Contingency Search, Operational Reviews and Executive Evaluations

In the recruiting industry searches are typically conducted using retained, modified retained and contingency search models.  Understanding the differences between these models is critical in determining which level of service is needed for a particular search. CMA engages in retained, modified retained and contingency searches for both professional and executive-level search assignments.

Retained Search

A retained search is preferable in cases where a company has a pressing executive level need that requires a candidate who will hold key leadership responsibilities, and whose services are integral to overall organizational success.  Given the strategic importance of these positions, there is often a degree of urgency and/or confidentiality that accompanies this type of search.  Retained searches are given priority status in terms of the level of consulting talent assigned to conduct the search, and the time and resources that are dedicated to the project.

CMA takes great care in working with a client company to formulate a clear and objective outcome-driven job description.  Furthermore, using collaboratively derived criteria, CMA carefully identifies and screens potential candidates based on their interpersonal styles, attributes and work histories in order to insure the greatest potential for “a culture fit” and positive organizational impact.

The fees for a retained search are typically higher than in contingency assignments, usually 30-33% of the candidate’s first year’s annual compensation, given the level of energy and resources that a search firm invests in sourcing quality candidates.  These fees are usually paid out over three set time periods (1/3 upon signing of agreement, 1/3 when a selection group is forecasted and the final 1/3 when the search is completed) as previously established “deliverables” occur.

The advantages of a retained search are significant.  First, retained searches take precedence over contingency assignments due to the mutual commitments that are involved in the search process.  A client company is essentially securing a commitment from the search firm to prioritize the search.

Modified Retained Search

A modified retained search offers several benefits to both the client company and the search firm, in that many of the strengths of the retained search model can be captured while at the same time reducing the financial risks for both parties.  In a modified retained search, the fee is typically divided into two parts.

The first part is paid at the beginning of the search and is typically one fourth of the anticipated search fee.

The last part (remaining three-fourths of the search fee) is paid when the search has been successfully completed.   While a client company will not get all the benefits of a retained search using this model, the results are usually more satisfactory than a straight contingency search. CMA offers customized services for specialized search assignments tailored to the needs of individual companies.

Contingency Search

A contingency search by definition means that the search firm will only collect a fee if it finds and place a suitable candidate for the position in question.  This type of search may or may not be structured contractually with the client company and 100% of the fee is due after the hire is made.  Therefore, regardless of the number of qualified candidates presented, if none are ultimately hired, the search firm in question earns nothing.

A strict contingency search means that there is no exclusivity to the arrangement, and therefore the client company is free to use other search firms or source other candidates on their own.  This arrangement begs the question as to whether the search firm actually has such a “client”, given the absence of any stated or written commitments for exclusivity.  It also explains why contingency searches are often given less energy by recruiting professionals because of the increased risk of no return on invested energy and resources.

In a contingent search, the search process is usually less structured and less about a precise candidate “fit”, and more about getting potentially qualified candidates in front of the client so that the client can make his or her own final assessment.  Often candidates in such searches are drawn from a search firm’s existing database.  While these methods can certainly uncover good candidates, such approaches leave a vast pool of talented passive candidates untapped.

With less time spent on securing a clear job description and the candidate sourcing methods that are often employed in a contingency search, the chance of a candidate/client mismatch is increased.  Many good candidates get hired for the wrong reasons; and therefore care should be exercised when embarking on a contingency search to ensure that there is a well-defined job description clearly communicated to and understood by the recruiter conducting the search.

Fees for contingency searches usually average around 25%, although this varies widely depending on the geographic location being sourced, the industry and specific talent being recruited, and the number of positions being filled.

Operational Reviews

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Executive Evaluations

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