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Job Magician Retained Search Firms ...
and How to Use Them to Find a Job

Retained search firms often confuse job hunters.  Many have the mistaken impression that if they speak to someone at one of these firms, that consultant will look at a screen of 50 or 100 jobs and pop them into one that is appropriate. Or they think that when a firm learns that an attractive executive is available, they'll place calls to their key clients and work at placing the executive.

Retained search firms don't work this way. Retained firms are contracted by their client company to fill a specific position, and are paid even if they don't fill the position.  Typically, they are paid 1/3 of the first year's compensation plus expenses to fill the position, with one-third of the fee paid at the start of the engagement, the next third due after 30 days and the final third due after 60 days.

  • Instantly email your resume to all major Retained Search Firms
  • Search 10,000 six-figure jobs
  • All for only $94 a year

Each consultant at a retained search firm (this is the type of firm that I run) works on only a handful of positions in a given year (6 to 25 tops), with very specific requirements. A typical assignment would be for a VP/Sales for an aerospace components manufacturing company that makes components of 1" in diameter or less (so if you are not working in a senior sales management role for a company that does exactly that, the retained firm will not be interested in you). Retained firms never take your CV/resume after speaking with you, decide you are a marketable candidate, and start contacting potential employers on your behalf, as many contingency firms will. You will probably get the cold shoulder when contacting retained firms cold, for job-hunters are rarely candidates for current assignments. Even if you reach a consultant at a large firm, and the firm is working on several hundred positions at a time, the individual consultant will be focused only on his searches, and will probably be unaware of what his colleagues are working on.

Our recommendation is to join RiteSite (click here to go to RiteSite) and use it to email your resume to every retained search firm on their list. They provide a list of 600 true retained firms - there are no contingency firms mixed in, or pseudo-retained firms (some firms take on an exclusive contingency listing and call it a retained search, but they get paid only if someone is hired).  Email to every retained firm, regardless of specialty, as most firms work outside of their listed specialties. Rite Site is run by John Lucht, author of Rites of Passage at $100,000, and provides many other benefits for its $94 a year membership fee, but being able to automatically email your resume to the nearly all of the true retained firms for $94 is worth the membership fee alone.

Kennedy Information sells the Directory of Executive Recruiters (The Red Book). You can use this to get more detailed information on search firms. They also have lists available that will enable you to mail your resume to recruiters.

If, however, one of your contacts is close enough to certain retained recruiters to connect you with them, then you should contact these recruiters. You probably won't fit any of these recruiters' personal assignments now or in the near future, but a couple of positive things could come out of this. If the recruiter is at a large search firm and your connection has a strong relationship with her, she might check to see if there are any positions her colleagues are working on that would be right for you (bear in mind that this is unusual, and this will only happen if the person who introduces you has spent a lot of money at this firm). In addition, recruiters are active networkers and can be good networking contacts for you.

Developing relationships with retained search firms will be far more helpful to you if you do not need a position right away. To learn more about how to develop these longer-term relationships, click here to read, Cultivating Relationships with Retained Search Firms.

A note on trying to get work through contingent search firms:
Tread gently here.  Most are ethical, but there are some who will merely mail your resume out for you (without your knowledge or permission in some cases).  Do your best to learn about the firm you’ll be dealing with before sending them your resume.  They are generally limited to the more junior, sub-$100,000 positions anyway, so are not good resources for executives.



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