Since its inception in 1990 as a retained executive search firm, Shulman Associates has worked with some of the world’s most successful brands; Apple, HP, Oracle, Visa, AOL, Microsoft, and General Motors to name a few.

Seasoned executives recognize the retained search model provides far greater support, objective counseling, speed and results than the contingency placement model. This is because retained search consultants work with a fewer number of clients and fully concentrate their efforts on each search assignment. We are more intensely focused on matching the needs and goals of our clients and candidates, whereas contingency placement is a numbers game based on submitting the maximum number of resumes of unseen candidates with the hope that one of them will be hired.  As a retained search consultant, I insist on meeting the hiring managers and team members, and I insist on interviewing every single candidate I submit. Contingency recruiters, by dint of the huge numbers of positions they work on concurrently, don’t have the time to meet hiring managers and candidates – for them it is a “numbers game.”

A brief history from my perspective: Up until the late 2000s, retained and contingency recruiters were charging the same 25% – 33.3% fee basis with various discounts for repeat business. Then contingency recruiters started heavily discounting their fees to 7% – 15%. Cost-conscious companies quickly pivoted to contingency placement, moving away from retained search in favor of cheaper fees. Concurrently, ATS (applicant tracking software) and job boards became extremely popular and companies started hiring junior entry level “recruiters” to respond to massive amounts of incoming resumes generated by these technologies. The result is what we have today – companies being barraged with resumes from candidates that are not appropriate for the job, frustrated hiring managers with incomplete and overtaxed teams, and candidates never hearing back from said companies.

The attention to details retained search supports is unparalleled, as is retained search’s success rate.

Headhunting with heart

At the end of the day, don’t we all want to feel great about our work?  We’re all about affecting positive change for clients and candidates. Our goal has always been to help people because when you do so it not only feels great, trust, confidence and ongoing business is the reward. We’re the first to admit that not all business is good business, and we occasionally walk away from prospective clients who aren’t aligned with our ethos and sense of purpose. Being fair, honest, compassionate, smart and precise are our main drivers. And we’re constantly rewarded with repeat business from our clients.


Successful retained search outcomes require following best practices, which by the way we teach to corporate, agency and freelance recruiters.

First and foremost is partnering with clients. Without a concerted effort, there can not be a successful search.

Full disclosure and transparency across the board are essential. The search consultant must know the history and circumstances around the role, including the company’s history and trajectory so we can credibly represent it to candidates. Meeting the hiring manager is an absolute before we accept any assignment. How else can we describe and explain the hiring manager to candidates? Additionally, spending a couple of hours with each candidate we present is key. How else can we determine a proper fit and accurately answer client’s questions about the candidate?

In-depth referencing on all of our finalist candidates. While keeping in mind the many legal issues one faces during referencing, wego under, above and laterally to ensure the clearest perspective. Referencing, though critical, is not a science. We take all candidate references, verbatim, leaving no room for interpretation. And we encourage clients to speak with candidate’s references so they can verify and address specific areas of concern and interest.

And of course, we fully participate in the negotiation process so that each party gets what they want and walks away happy. Indeed, retained search is an art.

  • Full disclosure, complete transparency

  • Best practices

  • Technology-based candidate research

  • 3 decades successfully completing highly complex searches

Search Process Simplified

Shulman Associates works on a self-imposed maximum of 3 searches at a time. By working in such a focused manner, I pay attention to the subtle nuances and details essential to an effective and successful search.

Step 1

When making the decision to hire an executive search firm, there are several key criteria to look for. Aside from reputation and experience, you should find the consultant well informed and a representative ambassador for you, your team and company.

Step 2

A well-written Position Narrative/Job Assessment is the most valuable tool in successfully completing a search. It is the mutual agreement that everyone is on the same page. It addresses every component of the role, including the company’s personality and culture.

Step 3

Using the position narrative as a springboard, the research phase begins. Extensive original research is key, targeting companies who employ individuals who may possess the exact skills and backgrounds we seek.

Step 4

Potentially qualified individuals are contacted and met in person. Skill sets, prior experience, disposition, cultural fit, styles, personalities, short and long-term goals, and compensation requirements are explored. If the client uses Predictive Index, a Behavorial Assessment and Cognitive Assessment ensues.

Step 5

We present qualified candidates in a slate, a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 5 “on-target”, “to spec” interested professionals. This provides clients the necessity of an informed and thorough contrast and comparison exercise.

Step 6

We conduct extensive referencing and work with clients to negotiate the final compensation package. In-depth referencing addresses the many legal issues one faces – we go under, above and laterally to ensure the clearest perspective.


I’ve been coaching candidates and conducting retained executive search work for legacy, “brick and mortar,” Fortune 100 companies, technology and biotechnology startups, mission-driven companies, and global creative/communications agencies for over three decades.


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