April 15, 2024

A Recruiter's Guide to Pitching Retained Search and Securing Commitment

Table of Contents

As a recruiter, you know that landing those coveted retained search assignments can be a challenge. But with the right pitch and a compelling value proposition, you can secure more of this highly profitable business. This article provides a step-by-step guide to pitching retained search to clients in a way that highlights the benefits and secures their buy-in. You'll learn proven techniques for positioning your experience and capabilities, as well as how to sweeten the deal with a 12-month replacement guarantee that makes the offer hard to refuse. Follow this recruiter's playbook for pitching retained search, and you'll be on your way to building a stable of satisfied retained clients.

The Benefits of Retained Search for Hiring Managers

Reduced Time to Hire

With a dedicated team focused solely on your search, retained search firms can typically fill positions 30-50% faster than a company conducting the search internally. This speed is achieved through the recruiter’s deep networks, advertising, and ability to pre-screen candidates.

Access to Top Talent

Retained search firms have extensive networks and connections with passive candidates in your industry. They are able to tap into this talent pool and convince these sought-after candidates to explore new opportunities. Their sole focus on executive roles also means they are experts in pitching these candidates.

Replacement Guarantee

A hallmark of retained search is the replacement guarantee, where the firm agrees to replace the hired candidate at no additional cost should they not work out within a certain period, often 6-12 months. This guarantee provides you with security and peace of mind in your hiring decision.


Internal recruiters inherently have biases as company employees which can negatively impact hiring decisions. Retained search firms provide an objective, unbiased lens to evaluate candidates based solely on your hiring criteria. Their independence allows them to avoid political issues and focus on the best candidates for the role.

In summary, hiring managers gain significant benefits from partnering with a reputable retained search firm for their executive hiring. Access to top talent, speed, objectivity and replacement guarantees provide compelling reasons to consider a retained search for your next critical role.

How to Position Yourself as a Retained Search Expert

As a recruiter, highlighting your expertise in retained search during your initial client pitch can help position you as a trusted advisor and secure long-term work. To do this effectively:

Focus on Your Track Record

Emphasize your experience conducting retained searches for similar roles. Discuss your success placing highly-qualified candidates and your methodical search process. Providing specific examples and metrics, such as your average time-to-fill and offer-acceptance rates, builds credibility.

Explain the Benefits of Retained Search

Educate clients on how retained search yields higher quality candidates compared to contingency placements. Discuss how working exclusively on their search allows you to gain a deeper understanding of their needs and company culture. This results in candidates that are a better long-term fit.

Offer a Replacement Guarantee

To address concerns about “buying a pig in a poke,” offer a 12-month replacement guarantee. This shows your confidence in your search abilities and provides reassurance should the candidate not work out. The guarantee is a powerful motivator for clients to sign a retained search agreement.

Discuss Your Search Strategy

Map out your step-by-step process for conducting a comprehensive retained search. Explain how you will leverage your network, advertise on niche job sites, and tap into your database of pre-screened candidates. Discuss your methods for evaluating applicants to determine the best qualified. This overview of your systematic approach further establishes you as an expert.

Positioning yourself as a knowledgeable retained search expert and emphasizing the benefits will give clients confidence in your abilities. Offering a replacement guarantee and outlining your proven search process helps motivate them to sign an agreement for your services. With the right pitch, you can secure more retained work and build enduring client relationships.

Crafting a Compelling Retained Search Pitch

To secure a retained search contract, you must convey the value of this model to the client. Focus on the benefits of an exclusive, committed partnership and your firm’s capabilities. ###Emphasize Your Expertise

Highlight your firm’s experience in the client’s industry and recruiting similar roles. Discuss case studies showcasing your networks and ability to attract top talent. Your expertise inspires confidence in delivering ideal candidates.

Offer an Extended Guarantee

Propose a 12-month replacement guarantee to alleviate risk. If the selected candidate leaves within a year, you will conduct another search at no additional cost. This commitment demonstrates your willingness to ensure a successful hire.

Discuss a Customized Approach

Explain that a retained search allows for a tailored process aligned with the client’s priorities. You will gain a deep understanding of the role and ideal candidate attributes. An ongoing collaboration enables real-time feedback to refine the search. Outline a proposed timeline, candidate review process, and opportunities for client input.

Emphasize Exclusivity

Note that your firm will dedicate resources solely to the client’s search. Explain that a retainer establishes an exclusive relationship, and your team will proactively network and recruit without competing mandates. Candidates appreciate the client’s commitment to filling the role, making a position more enticing. Exclusivity also affords more lead time to attract top contenders who need discretion or extended notice periods.

The benefits of a customized, exclusive search and your firm’s expertise should compel the client to establish a retained partnership. With a compelling pitch highlighting these advantages and your proven recruitment abilities, you can secure long-term, committed clients. An attractive guarantee and transparent process will give them confidence in your services. Sell the value of a retained search, and you will build a base of loyal clients.

Addressing Concerns and Objections Around Retained Search

As a recruiter pitching retained search to clients, you may encounter concerns regarding the associated costs and risks. It is important to address these concerns head-on and provide reassurance.

High Upfront Costs

The largest objection will likely be the substantial upfront retainer required for a retained search. Explain to the client that the retainer covers the significant time and resources required to conduct a comprehensive search. Highlight that retained search allows you to focus solely on their priorities, and the fee ensures this level of dedicated support. You might suggest a payment plan to make the retainer more budget-friendly if needed.

Uncertain Outcomes

There is always a possibility that the ideal candidate cannot be found within the agreed timeline. Provide examples of your successful track record conducting retained searches. Explain your rigorous process for determining candidate fit. Mention your replacement guarantee, ensuring the client that you will continue the search at no additional cost until a suitable candidate is hired.

Loss of Control

Some clients may feel that signing on for retained search means relinquishing control of the hiring process. Reassure the client that they will be involved in every step. Discuss how you will keep them updated on your progress, get their feedback on candidates, and make decisions jointly. Your goal is to find a candidate that meets their needs, not to force an unwanted solution upon them.

With a strong track record, a clear explanation of your process, and guarantees like a replacement policy, concerns about the cost and effectiveness of retained search can be overcome. By addressing objections directly and highlighting the benefits of an exclusive partnership, you can provide clients with the confidence to move forward with a retained engagement. This will allow you both to work closely together toward the shared goal of securing a high-quality hire.

Offering a 12 Month Replacement Guarantee

Offering a 12 month replacement guarantee is an effective strategy to secure client commitment to a retained search. This guarantee assures the client that if the placed candidate leaves or is terminated within the first year, you will find a replacement at no additional fee.

To present this offer persuasively, emphasize that a replacement guarantee demonstrates your utmost confidence in your ability to source high-quality, long-term candidates. Explain that your rigorous screening and assessment process, as well as your focus on finding candidates with a strong motivation to stay in the role for the long run, gives you the assurance to provide this guarantee. Mention that the guarantee also aligns your interests with the client’s, as you will be motivated to take extra care to find candidates who are an excellent long-term fit.

Highlight that a replacement guarantee provides peace of mind and risk mitigation for the client at no additional cost. Note that while replacements are rare, as an executive search firm focused on long-term partnerships, you want clients to feel fully supported. Indicate that the guarantee applies only if the candidate leaves or is terminated for performance reasons unrelated to changes in the role or organizational restructuring. Explain the specific terms and conditions of the guarantee in a written proposal for the client.

Offering a replacement guarantee, especially for a 12 month period, demonstrates a high level of confidence and commitment to the client relationship. For recruiters seeking to build a robust retained client base, providing this guarantee can be a persuasive final inducement to secure commitment to an executive search. With the guarantee in place, you have an opportunity to prove your abilities by conducting a rigorous search that results in candidates who thrive in their new roles long-term.

Closing the deal

Build urgency and exclusivity

Explain to the client that retained search slots are limited and in high demand. Mention that you can only take on a select number of retained searches at a time to ensure proper focus and results. Let them know that the 12-month replacement guarantee is only being offered for a short period. This will make the opportunity seem more exclusive and urgent.

Discuss the value proposition

Walk through the value of retained search again, emphasizing the benefits to them, such as dedicated time and resources, a 12-month replacement guarantee, and premium candidates. Explain that although the upfront cost may be higher, the long-term value to their organization will be greater due to higher quality hires and lower turnover costs.

Address objections and concerns

Expect some objections and be ready to address them confidently. Common concerns include the higher upfront cost and perceived risk. Reassure the client by reiterating your experience, expertise, and proven track record. Also re-emphasize the 12-month replacement guarantee to demonstrate your commitment to their success. Discuss how the risk of a bad hire far outweighs the initial investment in retained search.

Ask for commitment and sign contracts

Once you have built a compelling case and addressed all concerns, ask the client directly if they would like to move forward with the retained search. Request a commitment to the process and have contracts ready for signatures. Be prepared to quickly transition into the search initiation phase.

Using these techniques, you can confidently pitch the value of retained search to your clients. With a compelling offer of exclusivity, expertise, and guarantees, you will find more clients willing to commit to a retained relationship. This will benefit both them and your recruiting practice in the long run.


You now have the tools to confidently make an irresistible pitch for retained search that secures commitment from clients. By highlighting the benefits of an exclusive partnership and 12-month replacement guarantee, you convey tremendous value that sets you apart from the competition. Approach each pitch conversation with an abundance mindset, leading clients to say "yes" to your premium services. When you provide white-glove treatment that gets results, clients will reward you with repeat business and referrals. Now get out there, make your best pitch, and build those retained relationships that maximize your income and impact.

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