Retained Search vs. Talent Introduction: What’s The Difference?

In today’s competitive business landscape, finding and attracting top executive talent is crucial for organizational success. Executive recruiters play a pivotal role in identifying and securing the right candidates for leadership positions. Two common approaches used by executive recruiters are retained search and talent introduction. Here at Healthcare Talent Advisors, we’ve helped multi-location healthcare companies leverage both approaches to find and hire the candidates they need to grow and thrive.

But what’s the difference between retained search and talent introductions? When is it best to use one or the other? Let’s dive into what both approaches entail so you can choose what’s right for your needs.

Retained Search: A Nonstop Push For a Specific Role

Retained search is when an executive recruiter is put on retainer to fill a specific opening in a company. The recruiter then works closely with the company to define the role, write a job description, and perform preliminary interviews and reference checks to produce a curated list of 2-3 candidates for the company to interview and choose from.

Here are some key aspects of retained search:

  • Exclusive Engagement: In a retained search, the hiring company engages a single executive search firm on an exclusive basis. This exclusivity ensures a focused and dedicated effort toward finding the ideal candidate.
  • In-Depth Research: The executive search firm conducts comprehensive research to understand the hiring company’s needs, culture, and desired qualifications for the executive role. This involves detailed interviews with key stakeholders and a thorough assessment of the organization’s requirements.
  • Extensive Candidate Search: The retained search firm employs a proactive approach to identify, approach, and evaluate potential candidates who match the specific criteria outlined by the hiring company. This process may include direct sourcing, networking, and leveraging industry connections.
  • Rigorous Evaluation: The retained search firm conducts a rigorous evaluation of candidates, including in-depth interviews, reference checks, and other assessments. This ensures a thorough understanding of a candidate’s qualifications, fit, and potential for success in the role.
  • Fee Structure: Retained search services typically involve a number of payments. The upfront retainer fee, a possible mid-point fee, and the final fee upon the successful hiring of a suitable candidate. Quality executive recruiters also give a guarantee that the new hire will stay in the position for a certain window of time. If the placement leaves within that window, the recruiter will conduct another search at no cost to replace them.

Talent Introduction: A Different Approach

Like a retained search, talent introduction still connects companies with top executive talent, but within different parameters. In this situation, the recruiter will introduce a particularly talented candidate to a company when the candidate themself becomes available…not when there is a specific opening that needs to be filled. This helps companies avoid FOMO or miss out on working with a stellar individual just because they were not performing an active search.

Here are some key aspects of talent introduction:

  • Non-Exclusive Engagement: Unlike retained search, talent introduction does not involve an exclusive partnership between the hiring company and the recruiting firm. While the recruiter will introduce the candidate to the company they think is the best fit, they can introduce to multiple clients simultaneously.
  • Limited Research and Evaluation: In talent introduction, the recruiter relies primarily on the candidate’s existing qualifications and credentials. While a brief assessment may be conducted, it is typically less extensive than in a retained search. Again, this is based on the recruiter’s impressions that the candidate would be a good fit at a company.
  • Not for an open position: Due to the timing of this kind of introduction, the company may not have an open position for the candidate’s area of expertise. Many companies who do not want to miss out on working with these candidates often create roles just for them.
  • Payment Structure: Talent introduction services are usually contingent upon the successful placement of a candidate. The recruiter is compensated through a single fee, typically a percentage of the candidate’s first-year salary, paid by the hiring company upon hiring. There may or may not be a guarantee.

Choosing Between Retained Search and Talent Introduction

Determining whether to opt for a retained search or talent introduction depends on various factors. Consider the following guidelines:

Retained Search: This approach is ideal when:

  1. There is a specific executive position that needs to be filled
  2. The role requires specific industry expertise or unique qualifications
  3. There is a need for a confidential search
  4. The hiring company desires a dedicated and thorough search process.

For instance, if a multi-site healthcare organization’s Chief Operating Officer retires, the company would choose a retained search to fill the specific role with the right person, even if the process takes several months.

Talent Introduction: This approach is suitable when:

  1. There is not a specific position that needs to be filled
  2. The company doesn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to work with someone
  3. The hiring company has been thinking about expanding in a certain area
  4. The company is flexible about hiring

For instance, if a growing healthcare company has been thinking about expanding the c-suite to include a Chief Technology Officer, but has not done so yet, a recruiter who learns of a top-notch candidate with CTO experience would introduce the candidate to the company. If the company wants to work with the candidate, they would hire them, even though there was no formal search.

In the realm of executive recruitment, both retained search and talent introduction serve distinct purposes and offer unique advantages. Retained search provides a comprehensive and dedicated approach, ensuring a tailored search process for critical and high-level positions. On the other hand, talent introduction helps companies obtain the best talent when they become available.

To make an informed decision on which approach to choose, it’s crucial to consider factors such as the strategic importance of the role, desired qualifications, confidentiality needs, and available resources. Collaborating with an experienced executive recruiter can further assist in determining the most appropriate method based on your organization’s specific requirements.

Healthcare Talent Advisors Is Here to Help Make Your Executive Decisions Easier

Ultimately, whether you opt for a retained search or talent introduction, the goal remains the same: to identify and attract exceptional executive talent who can drive your organization’s success, enhance its leadership, and contribute to long-term growth. We understand the nuances of these recruitment approaches, allowing you to make informed decisions that align with your organization’s needs and goals. Whichever approach works best for you, Healthcare Talent Advisors will help you find the right fit for your healthcare organization’s executive positions. Contact us now for more information.