There are a few different types of C-level recruiting agencies, but the most common is the retained search firm. Retained search firms are hired by companies to find a specific executive-level candidate for a specific position. They are usually paid a retainer fee, which is a percentage of the candidate’s first-year salary, and they typically have a certain amount of time to find the right candidate.
Non-retained or contingency search firms are hired by companies when they already have a list of candidates in mind, and they are looking for someone to fill a specific role. The firm is only paid if they successfully place a candidate with the company.