Retained Search Explained

For the past few months, I have been working with a local company who is providing SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services for our Catapult website. It’s been a real learning experience as I gain a better understanding of how Google searches really work, how best to develop a website with SEO as a key driver, and how to ensure our website acts as our marketing arm. But it wasn’t until we had to define the key words for which we want Catapult to be found on the Internet that I realized one of our key services, Retained Executive Search, may not be familiar to some organizations.

Being in Human Resources and Organizational Development departments for over 20 years, there are a few functions or services that may be ambiguous and not fully understood when it comes to the very important task of attracting talent – internal search, contingent search, and retained search. Being aware that there may still be some confusion around each of these and various interpretation of each, this will hopefully guide you in the right direction for your hiring needs.

First, internal search refers to the overall process of recruiting which includes sourcing, interviewing, and selecting qualified candidates for jobs within an organization. This process is conducted by an internal Recruiter, Generalist or other HR-related individual within an organization for the position(s) they have available. It could be for any role, permanent or temporary, at any level, and it is all done within and by the organization. This is a good option when you have resources that can dedicate appropriate time to the recruitment process.

Next, contingent search is when an organization seeks an external recruitment agency to find and present candidates who may fill open positions. The organization conducts the interviews, and if/when a candidate is selected, the organization pays the agency/firm that provided the candidate once hired. A Headhunter is another term that falls into the contingent search category. This is an independent agency that acts as an agent for candidates and has information about the job market and knowledge about open positions that may never be posted on a job website or advertised publicly. Because of this leveraged vantage point, this Headhunter can search more efficiently for candidates that may meet an organization’s requirements. This is a good option when you wish to supplement internal resources and increase the number of candidates.

Finally, retained search (or Executive search) is a “turnkey” service offered by an independent firm, such as Catapult, who is hired by an organization to find the best candidate for a key senior-level or executive position. The retained firm is responsible for facilitating the entire process of sourcing, screening, conducting initial interviews, and overseeing the interview process with the organization’s hiring team. This is the option to choose if you do not have internal resources who have the time or networks to find the right candidate.

Catapult excels at this by attracting top-level candidates that bring the right skills to the table and fit seamlessly within the organization’s culture using our proven search model.

The process of finding the right executive is challenging and time consuming – Catapult is well equipped to successfully meet the needs of the organization and can save them hundreds of hours of time. Our searches are guaranteed to deliver quality candidates within the timeframe agreed upon by both parties.

Catapult has several years of experience in performing retained executive searches for numerous organizations in the health care, manufacturing, education and non-profit industries. We specialize in providing a transparent, thorough process that is efficient and effective for both the organization as well as the candidates we meet. Our team of executive recruiters finds the kind of talent that can deliver results. But first, we develop a broad understanding of you, your business, your challenges, and your priorities. We bring in-depth expertise in executive recruitment, leadership and culture. In the process, we become genuinely invested in your success.

If you’re looking for an executive to inspire, lead and transform your organization, start with the consulting firm that specializes in all of the above. With a proven process and comprehensive understanding of your business, Catapult is the ideal partner for your executive search. Visit our website ( or contact us at 716-256-1550.

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