The Outperformers

A blog to help you find retained search firms who outperform the rest.

There's An Easier Way To Find A Great Retained Search Firm

Christian Spletzer - August 27, 2019

When it comes time to look for a retained search firm to find you your next executive hire, naturally you're not going to choose the first firm that comes your way and call it a day. In an instance such as this one where an important decision needs to be made, it stands to reason that you're going to place some thought on who's best suited to fulfill those responsibilities. What most folks don't realize is that making a well-educated decision doesn't necessitate hours of searching online or days of asking people who they know.

The criteria for what makes a good search firm may not be at the forefront of your mind nor the method through which you find said firms. However, before you go scouring Google for the best retained search firms ask yourself this one question: is there a better way to find a retained search firm?

As a matter of fact, there is but first let's take a look at how one usually finds a search firm today. 

How Buyers Of Retained Search Typically Find Search Firms

Search Engines

The great thing about looking through a search engine is that you're bound to get a wide range of results. Consequently, it's also for this reason that an online search may prove to be an inconvenience for most.

Although you may get a broader reach online based on the specific search you type in, you still have to weed through results and parse through websites before you find what you're looking for.

Word of Mouth

Let's say you ask a colleague at another company if they know of a good retained search firm. Keep in mind that your company, just like every other company, is a unique entity equipped with its own values and skillsets. This means your search project is going to be just as unique and therefore will require the help of a specialized search firm to help find your key hire.

So, while your colleague might be able to give you the name of a great search firm they've worked with in the past, this does not make them the right search firm for your company or for what you're looking to accomplish.

Search Firm Associations

Think of a search firm who is part of a search firm association as a brand of Ibuprofen, Advil to be exact. Now think of a search firm who is NOT part of a search firm association as the store brand of Ibuprofen, Target's Up & Up brand for example. Both are the exact same type and dosage, regardless though, one will be perceived differently with regards to their brand.

These associations provide search firms with a podium and a brand name so clients are more likely to start their search there than anywhere else. Chances are you'll find a decent search firm through an association that can take on the task of finding you your next executive hire. However, this might also mean you miss out on the opportunity to consider another equally as great firm with above average results simply because you chose a firm that had a more prominent presence.


With thousands upon thousands of search firms with a presence online, LinkedIn will likely crank out plenty of firms based on your network. It's likely you're going to find a sought after firm with a well-known reputation on LinkedIn. Yet, LinkedIn is still not able to filter results by the criteria that matter when searching for a firm such as their specialization or how quickly they're able to place a candidate.

The Cost Of Looking For A Retained Search Firm The Wrong Way

Choosing a retained search firm through these methods can be costly. Chief among them is the risk of working with the wrong retained firm for your specific needs. 

Whether you're asking around to those you know or devoting hours of your day to endless internet searches, these methods can only get you so far when looking for a firm that has a proven track record of placing candidates. How many people are you going to talk to before you find the right search firm? How many internet searches must you conduct before you come up with a halfway decent list of search firms? You might not even know how to interpret these results without putting in a lot of effort.

Ultimately, you waste energy, time, and end up making a poor decision based on misinformation.

A Hassle-Free Way To Find The Right Retained Search Firm For Your Business

Part of the process of searching for a retained firm is not only knowing where to look but what you need to keep in mind before you start looking.

Take the Right Approach

Every executive search project is different because every position you hire for is unique—most of the time anyway. Depending on the executive you're looking to hire, this will determine which firm you work with.

If you're looking for your next VP of Finance, it makes sense to hire a firm that knows more about that department that anyone else. This is why you want to approach your search with an idea already in mind of the role you're looking to fill so you can find a firm that can do just as great a job at understanding that role.

Where to Start Looking

Searching for the right retained firm can be a pain, but it doesn't have to be. When it comes to searching for a retained search firm, there are plenty of routes you can go. For one, you can hit up your colleague who knows a friend who knows a past connection that knows a firm that has done some great work in the past.

OR, your search can start and end with Clockwork. Via a free analysis through the Clockwork Network, we find you the right firm for your specific search endeavor based on data-driven results. You tell us what you're looking for in an executive hire, and we'll tell you the top retained search firms who can help you find them.

No matter how you found or are currently searching for a retained firm, remember that there is always a better way. Avoid the hassle and leave the searching to the search firm so you can focus your time on more important matters.

Topics: Executive Search- Executive Recruiter

Christian Spletzer

Christian Spletzer

After years of working as an executive recruiter, Christian Spletzer founded Clockwork to improve how search firms and clients work together on retained search projects. He designed Clockwork to help recruiters demonstrate their consultative value to their clients at every stage of each project.

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