Interview: Young Search Partners Founder Discusses Retained Search Model

May 19, 2010 – Katherine S. Young is managing partner of Young Search Partners, LLC, a retained executive search firm specializing primarily in the mid/senior markets and working with organizations across the consumer/hospitality, manufacturing, healthcare, professional services and education/non profit sectors.

Ms. Young has more than 20 years of talent management consulting experience, having worked for the largest global firms in both the recruiting and career management consulting industries. She was previously director of the retained search division for Hudson Highland Group and prior to that was a principal with Korn/Ferry International. She also spent over 10 years with Right Management Consultants and Lee Hecht Harrison.

In the following interview, Ms. Young discusses her firm’s unique approach to retained executive search.


Explain how current economic conditions (with so many workstaff reductions) have impacted the recruiting market?

The majority of sizable reductions were completed the last half of 2008 and the full year of 2009. Organizations cut staff wide and deep, implemented extensive cost reduction measures, and simultaneously dramatically reduced or froze external hiring. This obviously made for a very tough 2009 for the recruiting industry but clearly we saw positive movement in hiring beginning the fourth quarter of 2009. Typical of these cycles of RIF, organizations tend to “cut to the bone” and as a result the impact to internal recruitment teams was significant. Now that the market is recovering and organizations are moving forward with hiring critical talent, many organizations do not have the recruitment resources they had previously nor the capability to manage through the volume of resumes and referrals that they receive. Additionally, those organizations that are truly strategic about talent acquisition are conducting talent assessment initiatives to identify gaps in talent as well as mediocre performers that they should consider replacing. This is the best trigger for engaging search firms to find the best talent, especially passive talent.

How does Young Search Partners work with clients to fill their employment needs?

Young Search Partners approach is a true partnership model with our clients that first addresses what business strategies and initiatives are most critical for their business (growth, turnaround, M&A, cost containment, etc) and what part talent acquisition plays in that equation. What are the critical hires our clients need to make today to take their business to the next level and what are their capabilities to identify and recruit this talent on their own or in conjunction with a search partner? How can we best partner as a value added resource to get to the best talent in the market? Once engaged with our clients on a search, the most important piece of the process is defining on the front end a very specific and customized search strategy: defining candidate profiles of competency and cultural fit, identify targeted industries/organizations, and then further define the actual search process which is almost entirely a direct sourcing strategy to get to passive talent.

Young Search Partners has recently established a new niche, adding mid-level positions to the retained executive search model and customizing billing to be more flexible and accountable. Can you discuss?

Our niche is in the mid/senior market typically a tier below the C-level searches that the larger firms conduct and above the level that contingent firms focus on. This is a niche in the market that is very much underserved and our clients are very receptive to engaging a quality retained search firm for many of these critical hires. These searches are typically at the director/VP levels, are almost always national in scope, and done on a retained basis. What is different about our model is that it is results driven — a “pay for performance” model which holds our firm and our corporate clients accountable. We establish very specific metrics so that expectations, time lines and deliverables are defined. We invoice an engagement fee at the launch of the search with the remaining invoices tied directly to results. Our clients are not billed on calendar, they pay for results.

What is your firm’s approach to fee structures?

All of our search fees are customized for each client as well as for the specific search engagement. There are a number of fee structure models we use that vary from a percentage of first years’ cash compensation, to flat fee or project fees. What is most important is that the fee structure is equitable for both parties, does not compromise the quality of outcome, and lays the foundation for a long term mutually beneficial partnership.

Discuss some strategies for recruiting passive talent?

It’s pretty simple but it’s also a lot of hard work. Direct sourcing plus leveraging (and expanding) your network(s) gets to the best passive talent. Using resources like Linkedin is very effective but it has to be done in tandem with direct sourcing to get to the best talent that either is a viable candidate themselves or can get you to the best talent. You need good market intelligence, very talented recruiters and research capabilities in your firm to fuel this engine, plus you need to be a knowledgeable and articulate marketing advocate of the employment brand (corporate client) you are representing.

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