Headhunter Vs Recruiter: What Is The Difference Between

Finding the perfect talent takes time and effort.

Recruits can only interfere with your daily HR operations and goals if you have a defined, repeatable internal recruitment plan.

In addition, the likelihood of a mis-hire is higher because of a sharp rise in social media screening and job-hoppers. Mistaken hiring can be expensive for a large firm.

What does this mean for your ongoing effort to find talent?

The answer will vary depending on the position you want to fill or the skill set you wish to develop.

Most entry-level to manager-level roles can be filled with the help of job advertising and employee recommendations. One thousand two hundred organizations preferred job adverts for hiring candidates, according to a 2016 SilkRoad poll.

But what about talent at the senior level?

Consider hiring a global director of marketing, a chief information officer, or a head of finance.

These positions significantly impact the revenue and reputation of the organization.
Post-and-pray hiring or employee recommendations may not succeed in this situation for several reasons:

  • You want to target employed applicants but have a small network of contacts.
  • You can’t find excellent individuals.
  • You’re not sure how to frame the job offer
  • You’re balancing your HR and talent acquisition activities
  • You want to focus on employed candidates.

What Is Headhunting?

Whether the candidate is an active or passive talent, headhunting comprises executing a targeted search to find the best fit for a specific post. While passive applicants are working and not looking for new chances, active candidates contact their professional networks and send resumes in response to job postings.

Passive applicants are preferred for high-level positions with a distinctively desired skill set because they are already employed and accumulating relevant experience at a rival.

Although these applicants aren’t actively looking for new jobs, a study found that more than 70% of employees are willing to leave their companies to advance their careers. Headhunters contact applicants and enable communication between the candidate and the organization because many ideal candidates work for a direct rival.

High-level positions frequently demand discreet searches; thus, many businesses choose to work with headhunting agencies to find excellent candidates instead of relying on word of mouth and open job advertisements.

What Is Recruiting?

Although they also look for competent people on behalf of the companies, recruiters’ procedures and duties are more extensive.

Recruiters review applications submitted in response to job advertising, whether they work for a firm or the HR division of a corporation.

They then filter applicants who would be a good fit for the position. Additionally, they serve as the point of contact for the roles during the hiring process and promote communication between the candidates and businesses.

Recruiters frequently work on several opportunities in the same field at once, develop relationships with active job seekers, and suggest positions for which they would be a good fit.

What Does A Headhunter Do?

Headhunters are external individuals or organizations who identify, screen and present the best applicants to fill a specific post. They represent businesses, not candidates, in their job.

Excellent headhunters assess your expectations, specify applicant profiles and pay scales, and recruit people via their network and domain knowledge.

About ten individuals are reviewed by headhunters, who then provide three to four short-listed profiles that you would find excellent.

A headhunter’s role in the hiring process ends after they share the list with you.

Your team is responsible for arranging interviews, wage discussions, and job duties to determine which candidates are the best fit.

When To Hire A Headhunter?

Because they are paid a commission once a job is successfully filled, headhunters are proactive, exact, and rapid in their search.

How does using a headhunter connect to this realization?

Consider any hiring decisions that must be made swiftly and with little up-front work or time. It can be an open position crucial to your company’s success. If completed, it may save money and impact the productivity and morale of your staff.

Here, you can collaborate with a company to fill this critical position. They already have a strong pool of potential employees. Additionally, they have the propensity to find passive professionals and convince them.

From the candidate’s standpoint, headhunters can access positions not advertised through conventional channels.

In turn, the applicants are more receptive when a headhunter contacts them on your behalf. They are helpful when you’ve used out all of your other options.

Jobs are being applied for through various sources, including social media, websites, online career forums, and even YouTube, as recruiting becomes more technologically oriented.

When you get hundreds of applications for one job, it might be challenging to:

  1. Arrange them according to your requirements
  2. Examine the screened resumes
  3. Contact the selected prospects
  4. Speak with them (sometimes, more than once)
  5. Bargaining for wages, benefits, and work conditions

Additionally, there is one factor you need to control over the acceptance rate of candidates. In that case, you must start over.

What about the caliber of applicants you get through job postings, networking, or personal recommendations? No matter the role, it has been established that a bad hire or misfire is a severe setback to the business.

Utilizing headhunters might make this process simpler. While headhunters supply you with the best candidates, you can better serve the company’s workforce.

Last, headhunters are frequently used to find a senior or C-Suite executive or obtain a highly specialized skill set.

High-level hiring decisions can have a direct impact on the expansion of your business. Senior executives influence workplace culture, consumer base, and brand recognition, from leadership to revenue.

Headhunters are best in these situations. They know the market. They are aware of how your vacancy compares to the industry average. They also expand their talent pool by using online forums.

How Has Headhunting Changed?

Think about this: Nearly 95% of headhunters use LinkedIn to identify candidates.

Or that around 70% of employers now assess a candidate’s social profile to determine whether they are qualified for the position.

These figures demonstrate how pervasive online recruiting is.

Why is that? Using online forums:

  1. Free of charge, you can locate a passive candidate
  2. You can validate the assertions made in the applicant’s resume.
  3. You can assess whether they fit your culture.
  4. Their characteristics and passion are obvious
  5. You can detect improper conduct
  6. You can verify the suggestions

Online platforms have made the typical hiring process more straightforward. And headhunters are fully utilizing this. They frequently monitor the following online channels to locate top candidates for you.

Keyword search, university alum database, competitor employee base, candidate’s prior employers, candidate’s first and second connections, Google search, and the LinkedIn Recruiter platform are just a few resources available.

Headhunters develop and optimize individual accounts to rank in in-app search results.

A warning: Open access to private and confidential information can result in discrimination or negligent hiring. Please make sure to use position-specific criteria while screening candidates.

How In-House Recruiter Differ From A Headhunter?

Although headhunters and recruiters are often used interchangeably in internet resources, they differ.

Recruiters are full-time inside employees who frequently handle HR-related duties. However, there is an exception, with some recruiters working as independent consultants. In either scenario, they direct the hiring strategy and actively participate in luring in and keeping new hires.

Additionally, while recruiters fill positions, often numerous ones, headhunters find the appropriate applicants. This includes a hiring strategy, objectives for internal hiring, job advertisements, interviews, offers, and hiring.

Recruiters typically begin the screening procedure after a candidate applies.

They may start the screening process if they know a candidate’s profile or are looking for a specific skill set. Additionally, recruiters can use their well-known brand to add consistency and positivity to the interviewing process.

Given that they direct the employment process, recruiters are informed about the following:

  • Organizational culture and procedures
  • Recruitment and skill shortages
  • Candidate profiling
  • Compensation and benefits model
  • Brand value and mission

But ultimately, no hiring strategy is flawless. Both headhunters and internal recruiters have advantages and disadvantages.

Pros And Cons of Headhunters


  • You can hire top talent, even passive candidates.
  • You can minimize offer rejections.
  • You can cut hiring costs and save time.
  • You can spend more time with your current staff.
  • You can use market intelligence.
  • Headhunting shortens the hiring cycle.
  • You can work with a recruiting partner who is invested in your success.


  • You can’t be fully involved in the hiring process
  • You work with generalist headhunters
  • There may be a conflict of interest with clients (if headhunters poach their personnel); headhunters are commission-based; and you might obtain subpar applicants (to speed up hiring)
  • Communication breakdowns may occur.

Pros And Cons Of Recruiters


  • You can support a unified brand message.
  • You actively welcome and instruct new hires
  • You decrease attrition and employee disengagement
  • You can create more solid bonds with others.
  • You comprehend organizational comprehension
  • It’s possible to protect intellectual property


The following are some drawbacks of internal recruiting:

  • It takes time
  • You must manage other equally essential tasks
  • You cannot always hire great applicants
  • The hiring process might take months
  • Candidates may reject offers
  • You may need to work overtime
  • It can be more expensive.

Where To Look For A Headhunter To Fill A Position?

The best internet resource for finding excellent headhunters is LinkedIn.

The business social networking site provides simple functionality and sophisticated search to find headhunters that can work with you on recruitment.

Here are some ideas to help you shorten your list of headhunters:

  1. Always consider advice from the general public. They emphasize the knowledge and client support of headhunters.
  2. Find out if headhunters are connected to top management and HR managers. You can calculate their network capital in a flash.
  3. Check out the associations they are a part of. It is a simple approach to determine how connected people are in a particular industry.

Additionally, both free and paid online directories provide lists of headhunters and executive search firms. These platforms provide results by specialty, area, and even headhunting agency kinds.

Here are the costs associated with hiring a headhunter now that you know where to look.

How Much Is A Headhunter Fee?

You pay a headhunter based on the candidate’s successful placement under a contingent agreement.

You pay 15% to 25% of the employee’s first-year salary for a retained search in three installments:

  • When the process starts.
  • When you get the shortlist.
  • When you hire their candidate.

If their candidate played a key role, they might even demand 30% to 50% of the individual’s annual compensation.

Before choosing a headhunter’s candidates, always remember to ask about their fees.

What happens if you choose to work with a company?

Different Types Of Recruitment Agencies?

There are different sorts of agencies to discover qualified applicants who meet your needs.

Firms that work on a contingency basis only pay if you hire their applicant. They typically assist in finding entry-level to mid-level workers. Additionally, you can pay an employee after 3 to 6 months of service.

  • Retained search (executive search) firms: In this case, you give an agency a deposit to search, primarily for positions in senior management. They agree to work with you exclusively. Additionally, retainer firms charge a specific percentage of the employee’s income even if you don’t hire a candidate.

  • Temporary employment agencies: These businesses can help you identify and fill temporary roles. You might engage a temp to cover employee vacations, a temporary increase in work, or tax season.

  • Staffing agencies: You can use the employees from staffing services for short- and long-term jobs. They deal with pay and benefits for employees as well. The employee’s relationship with the staffing agency ends if and when you hire them.

Key Takeaways

  • A headhunter is a specialist recruiter who focuses on finding top-level executives for companies, while a recruiter typically focuses on finding candidates for various roles.
  • Headhunters often work on a retained basis, meaning they are paid upfront by the client and have exclusive rights to fill the role. Recruiters typically work on a contingency basis, meaning they are only paid if the candidate they find is hired.
  • Headhunters tend to have a more targeted and proactive approach to recruiting, often seeking out candidates who are not actively looking for a new job. Recruiters tend to have a more reactive approach, responding to job postings and candidate applications.
  • The terms “headhunter” and “recruiter” are often used interchangeably, and the distinction between the two can vary depending on the industry and region.
  • Both headhunters and recruiters can be valuable resources for companies seeking positions. Employers need to understand the differences between the two and choose the right type of recruiter for their needs.
  • Ultimately, the key to a successful recruitment process is finding a recruiter or headhunter who understands your company’s needs and culture and can identify and attract top talent to fill your open roles.


Recruiters and headhunters both aid in increasing your human capital. They still have separate obligations, though.

While recruiters select and hire qualified candidates for available positions, headhunters identify and engage talent directly.

Headhunting is a perfect solution if you have a lot of work to manage and are still looking for qualified, knowledgeable, and culturally compatible staff. But you have to make it work for you.

Headhunting will work for you once you match the hiring procedure with business objectives and actively participate in the hiring process.


How do headhunters differ from recruiters?

Headhunters often work on a retained basis and have exclusive rights to fill the role, while recruiters typically work on a contingency basis and are only paid if the candidate they find is hired.

Headhunters also tend to have a more targeted and proactive approach to recruiting, while recruiters tend to have a more reactive approach.

Are the terms “headhunter” and “recruiter” interchangeable?

Yes, the terms are often used interchangeably, and the distinction between the two can vary depending on the industry and region.

Which type of recruiter is best for my company?

It depends on your specific needs and the roles you need to fill. A headhunter may be more appropriate if you’re looking for a high-level executive.

A recruiter may be a better fit if you’re looking for various roles.

What should I look for in a recruiter or headhunter?

It would be best if you were looking for someone who understands your company’s needs and culture and can identify and attract top talent to fill your open roles.

How can I ensure a successful recruitment process?

Finding the right recruiter or headhunter is key, but it’s also important to have a clear understanding of your company’s needs and to provide a positive candidate experience throughout the recruitment process.

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