Recruitment Expert Louise Archer on Why Recruiters Need Retained Search Skills in the Current Market

“Most business leaders I have spoken to encourage the use of retained pricing models and often provide training on selling retainers. But a lot of leaders still haven’t implemented this successfully because of one main barrier—lack of experience and knowledge, leading to a lack of confidence.”

Louise Archer
Founder & Coach, Retrained Search
Retained Search Skills Louise Archer


Recruiters know the pitfalls of contingent search all too well. 

The process feels demoralizing when your fees fall through, and it is challenging to scale a recruitment business with unpredictable revenue forecasts. Not to mention the feeling of being ‘used’ by clients! 

But lately, I’ve found that many agencies offering a permanent recruitment service want to operate on a retained basis. So, what’s holding them back? 

The answer is that agency recruiters typically don’t have the skills or processes to make retained searches scalable.  

So let me explain why it’s high time recruiters practice their retained search skills and how they can venture into this model in the current market. 

Why It’s Time to Prioritize Retained Search

One of the biggest reasons I recommend prioritizing retained search is to provide forecastable revenue to your investors. 

Developing a robust retained search process leads to higher fee levels and access to more senior hires and opens the opportunity to a larger market share.

Ultimately, this optimizes your current recruitment service and opens new and lucrative avenues.   

Recruitment agencies can benefit from retained search in several ways, including: 

You’d think that developing a retained search model primarily benefits recruitment agencies. But on the contrary, I’ve seen client companies benefit significantly from top-notch retained search skills!

Benefits from the client’s perspective include: 

  • Higher quality recruitment services  
  • Reduction in costs and time spent
  • Clients don’t get bombarded with agencies banging on the door for jobs during an economic recession
  • Clients can secure job seekers who don’t usually engage with agency recruiters

Candidates also benefit from a retained search strategy in two ways:

  • Candidates don’t have to chase recruiters for feedback 
  • They aren’t left feeling unsupported throughout the recruitment process  

Now that the benefits of retained search are clear let me share how recruiters can effectively sell and deliver this model to clients. 

How Recruiters Can Sell & Deliver Retained Search  

I sold my first retainer after years of working in contingent. In fact, I fell out of love with recruitment because of the contingent model

It wasn’t until I learned about retained search, which made me fall in love with recruitment all over again.

I’m evangelistic about helping others make the switch to retained search models. So, I built a simple, step-by-step process teaching contingent recruiters how to sell and deliver retained searches flawlessly!

The best part is it doesn’t matter whether you work in tech, finance, legal, engineering, healthcare, or your experience level. 

In recent years I developed the retained search function for one of the world’s biggest recruitment companies–where there were little to no retained search skills or experience. 

This company now turns over more than $8 million in retained revenue globally!

One of the teams I trained went from no retained revenue to over half a million in just five months. Another, immediately after the initial training, went on to win their first retained assignment of a $500k basic salary hire, a fee of just over $90,000. 

Another client benefited from a consistent increase of 18% of their £3.5m revenues, which is retained business where they had no retained experience. 

Making Retained Search Scalable in the Current Market  

Once you have a robust retained search sales and delivery process in place, you can then move on to:

  • Developing a retained or executive search division within your agency 
  • Transitioning your existing contingent clients to retained 
  • Selling other strategic services, such as talent pipelining and insight studies  

Most business leaders I have spoken to encourage the use of retained pricing models and often provide training on selling retainers. But a lot of leaders still haven’t implemented this successfully because of one main barrier—lack of experience and knowledge, leading to a lack of confidence. 

This barrier permeates a negative opinion of retained search. 

I’ve seen recruiters win retained assignments but go on delivering them through a contingent model. Alternatively, they buy into misconceptions such as ‘retained assignments are only for senior hires.’ 

But the misconceptions of retained search are a different topic entirely! So, until next time, chat with me on LinkedIn.  

Happy recruiting 🙂 


Louise Archer

Louise Archer, Founder & Coach at Retrained Search, has worked on the frontline of recruitment for twenty years. Having been a contingent recruiter before transitioning to retained, Louise understands the struggles that recruiters face operating on a contingent basis. Her mission is to help recruiters to transition to retained and secure more forecastable revenue.


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