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Successful search firms are cohesive units working together throughout the entire search process to accomplish a common goal.

Recruiters new to the field and veterans alike, need to educate themselves around what the whole process entails. And firms need to prioritize that sort of education, which starts with identifying the various stages of the search.

Eight Stages of Retained Search

  1. Marketing Campaign • The first stage is finding clients to work for. This might seem obvious, but without clients to conduct searches, it does not matter what kind of candidate database you have, nor what your Marketing strategy is. You will not have anything to do, and you will quickly go out of business. Most important is your “Client Selection” because without a Client ready and willing to Partner, the entire process could be mute. Retain search is much more complex from the beginning to end and it starts here in the first stage.

  2. Win the work & Close for the Business • Once you select the Client, of course, you must win it or close it. That means arranging meetings, demonstrating your capabilities, and convincing prospective clients that you are the right firm for their search. It may entail in-person meetings or in today’s climate a Zoom video conference call.

  3.  Individualized & Customized Strategy • The critical step of developing our strategy for delivering on the promises made. We will draw up our roadmap to success by working and communicating with our client to develop a deeper understanding of their needs through a “Needs Analysis Profile” and the person they feel they seek. This is important because a Client does not always know, and it is our objective to make sure we are on the same page to keep from wasting time for either party by working efficiently and effectively.  Then, determine how we find that personnel profile & where to begin looking, along with how to best contact them.

  4. Funding Source & Research • Only after you have received the Retainer monies will the firm’s staff begin to develop our strategy to search for candidates. This is the stage where we decide how to begin finding relevant potential fits to contact-- if they were to pick up your call or respond, would most likely say they are interested in learning more about the opportunity. You must target the correct people, or else your search will die before it starts. This is most important because our search method limits our contact to only “Passive Candidates”- Candidates that are gainfully employed, currently happy where they work and are only Top Performers in the organization they work now.

  5. Reach Out & Evaluate • This part is what most recruiters focus on as they begin. It entails more than simply making phone calls or messaging. Here, when contacting candidates, providing critical information about the position in a succinct but enticing way, but also begin determining if the candidates pass “the Original Contact Phase”—whether or not they should be considered for further assessment phases.

  6. Assessment & Further Evaluation • Once you have screened a candidate over the phone, you will need to determine if they are worthy of a deeper, more complete assessment. We need to gauge a candidate’s career experience, personality, and professional experience trajectory, weighing these attributes against the requirements of the position description. Will you be comfortable presenting this information to the client, and only together decide whether to proceed with a phone or a F2F in person interview. It is this stage we are providing deliverables for our client—quality prospects are the evidence whether we have conducted and depicted the description for the search correctly. Only then will you know if we are providing the client what they are paying for through “Assessment & Further Evaluation”.

  7. Offer & Decision • If you have conducted the search effectively, then after passing on candidates to clients for F2F interviews, conducting personality profile testing, proprietary documentation, we will enter the “Offer & Decision” phase of a search, during which the Client will decide to extend an offer.

  8. Candidate Close & Grow both Organizations • Finally, in the event a client does extend an offer to a candidate, and if that candidate accepts, then we are at the last stage of the search. Here, you will “Close the Project”, ensure the client is happy and will give you a reference, and confirm your relationship with candidate, as well. You will need to validate your relationships with both the “Client Organization and Candidate” because both might provide work, references, or testimonials in the future.

When it comes to completing searches successfully, everyone on the team needs to understand how to proceed from the first stage most effectively to the last. Because every component of a search is connected and depends heavily on the others.

Marketing benefits from better recruitment, assessment processes depend on quality Marketing, and so on. Search firms that learn, understand, and appreciate this approach complete searches like machines. As a result, they execute the strategy more effectively, and in time grow, improve, and allow themselves to conduct searches at scale. On the flip side, search staff conceiving only the larger operation as merely a matter of calling making 100 dials a day, or searching only on LinkedIn, inevitably fall behind. Executing on a day-to-day basis is of course crucial, one’s ability to do that will be limited without an understanding of the bigger picture—and those limitations will hinder every member on the team. A team that operates with such limitations and individuality are always going to underperform, stagnate, and even devolve into a splintering disaster.

A sound, understanding of the entire process amounts to a quality foundation atop of which a firm can grow.

And while it does not exactly guarantee success, growth, or even individual competency, it sure makes those things easier accomplished. For those just entering this work, do not limit yourself with ignorance. Instead, step back and prioritize continuing education.


Now, the eight distinct stages of a successful retained search have been established. As connected, dependent segments of the process, each stage builds and depends on the previous. The quality of the process established with The Eight Stages and the veracity by which you follow the process will ultimately define your success as a search consultant and search firm.

Putting a Process in Place

Historically, there are more top-performing candidates in the local market than most realize if you know how to find them. Customize the search to specific targeted companies with a mindset of mapping reports just to create helpful org charts. This is the only method that will allow the mentality of no stone unturned. All viable candidates are contacted and the qualified are recruited.

Traditional recruiting methods leave gaping holes and missed candidates. A-typical sourcing procedures are not strategic enough for passive candidate in the market. Our approach is designed to decipher whether all prospects have been identified at their top competitors. Every search should provide a “yes” answer to, “Did we identify and connect with every possible candidate?” Customizing the process to answer (yes) to that question and you will hire the top-performing talent in the marketplace. MGMT has been retained, after another search firm yielded a candidate for hire, to make an educated decision. In this scenario, success is only realized when additional candidates are submitted that were not previously identified.


Armed with this information, a team should be poised for improved effectiveness, efficiency, and growth. Knowledge is power. Understanding something and implementing it are entirely different. The best chance at success is when utilizing the right tools and support. Many times, the challenge is being consistent or exhibiting staying power. Guidance through a defined customized process can ensure everything is done correctly, so you do not inadvertently stray in the wrong direction. MGMT supports capitalization on all progress to exceed growth goals.


Tomorrow’s Growth, Today!

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