What Is A Headhunter? The Art and Science of Headhunting Guide

A headhunter is an individual or a company that provides employment recruitment services on behalf of an employer. The firms hire them to find the best talent and locate individuals who fulfill specific job roles.

They can also be referred to as “executive recruiters,” as the function they go on to perform is executive search. They may have a pool of candidates for specific positions, or they can act aggressively to find talent by looking at the competitors’ employees.

An employee is known to avail themselves of the services of a headhunter when there is an urgency, as they cannot find the right person for a job.

What Does A Headhunter Do? Meaning And Definition

Hiring managers, internal recruitment specialists, or human resource personnel undertake the finding and recruiting of candidates.

In a few cases, an executive search firm or an employment agency may be employed. The parties working on behalf of a company are termed “head hunters.”

The role of a headhunter is to fill jobs that require high skills or are related to a particular niche. They are known to work on behalf of a firm and search international organizations for top talent retention.

A few individuals may contact a headhunter to provide a CV or resume to apply for a position where the headhunter is searching for talent. Internet technologies support headhunting at various levels, including job websites and social media handles.

How Do Headhunters Get Paid?

Head hunters are hired for their ability to place candidates in specific jobs. An independent or third-party recruiter is paid on contingency, which indicates that they are not paid if their candidates are not hired.

The standard fee is 20% to 30% of the hire’s first salary. Since headhunters work for a company, they are incentivized to please them, not the candidate.
There is no licensing requirement to become a headhunter or recruiter, and anyone can go on to become one.

Less-reputed recruiters often compete with professional ones who possess a large network of clients and recruiters. It can be in the form of an unsolicited email or a limekiln request.

Benefits Of Using A Headhunter

Let us jump straight to the advantages a headhunter can bring to a job.

Attracts passive candidates.

A key point of consideration with a headhunter is that they attract passive candidates to a job who are not exposed to the job ad.

This means that you are bound to make your talent pool wider and, in the process, attract quality candidates.

Those who are not actively looking for work but are approached by headhunters will use networking or outreach skills to find and approach them.

Improves efficiency

Head hunters are known to enhance the efficiency of the recruitment process by taking over the responsibility for locating and searching for talent. With their skills, they can identify the best candidate who is suited for a job.

They can save you a lot of time because you don’t have to sift through a pool of unqualified candidates to find the most relevant candidates.

Better employees are hired.

Head hunters have years of talent-sourcing skills to attract the best and most reliable employees.

This experience will allow them to spot not only the best talent but also the right people who are fit for your company and are likely to stay with you for a considerable period.

Reduces cost

Though headhunting services are available at a cost, you need to weigh the savings regarding internal costs.

It is a time-consuming task where you need to flip through thousands of CVS; it is not a productive use of time in any manner.

Head hunters will do the work for you, saving you time, and a better-quality hire could improve profitability in the long run.

Keep it confidential.

There are a few job roles that you would not want to make public, which would make it hard to advertise.

A headhunter can carry out this program in complete confidentiality without making the role public.

How To Select A Headhunter?

All the recruiters have strong and weak areas, and a few of them possess the knowledge and expertise to work with the job seekers you want to connect with, whereas others may be in the first year of their job.

Companies encounter a significant degree of pressure when they need to avail themselves of the services of a top-tier headhunter.

If you choose the wrong one, you will have to deal with the consequences, which can prolong the hiring process.

Below are a few tips to follow that will ensure the company goes on to choose the best headhunter for their business.

Choose one with specific industry experience.

A headhunter could possess years of experience placing high-level manufacturing professionals, and this is great. However, it will not assist a biotech company in fulfilling its responsibilities.

It is common for headhunters to work with any company, and all of them have the necessary qualifications, but having knowledge about the specific industry would be helpful.

Unlike recruiters, headhunters specialise in a particular field and industry where they have years of experience.

Search for experience filling senior roles.

In the present job market, recruiting talented people poses a challenge in itself.

Determine your headhunting strategies and track record of attracting and retaining top talent. If they have not gone on to land a successful role in a specific industry, the time is right to move elsewhere.

There is more at stake than missing out on a new hire. Your business’ reputation and image are on the line.

A headhunter who uses the fly-by-night operations method to pitch positions may overexpose your company, leaving a sour taste in the minds of customers.

The headhunter has to understand the needs of your company.

Your objective may be to attract the best talent and add them to your company, but the most talented of them may turn out to be a misfit for your company.

Skill sets and qualifications are vital, but other attributes are to be considered when you search for the next hire.

The onus is on the headhunter to understand in detail the company’s mission, vision, team dynamics, and hiring timeline, allowing them to ensure a perfect fit.

Be aware that it is your responsibility to communicate these expectations clearly to the headhunter so that both of you are on the same page and working towards a common outcome.

Give due importance to exceptional communication skills.

Communication is a vital ingredient in attracting qualified personnel to your company. Without key communication skills, the headhunter will not be effective.

They are the middlemen between a company and an employee; there has to be seamless communication that goes both ways.

An example of a scenario where a headhunter communicates with the candidates during the entire hiring process includes onboarding, where the candidates experience a communication breakdown.

These efforts would impact the ability of your headhunter to fairly represent your company, and the vision must be perfectly conveyed to the candidates.

It is better to choose a network-based headhunting agency.

Rather than an independent headhunter, it is a better move to choose a network-based headhunting agency. Such companies offer a balance of talented professionals within their company.

They are the ones who, with the help of their network, will tap candidates and find the next hire for your company. In this manner, complete candidates for your company will be found on all counts.

Difference Between A Headhunter And A Recruit

A point to consider is that people tend to use the terms “headhunter” and “recruiter” interchangeably, but there are subtle differences that exist between them. Though they have similar roles, the focus is a bit different.

Recruitment works for a company or a recruitment agency, and their main objective is to fill the positions quickly in an organization.

Preferably, this is done by the most qualified candidates who are available and seeking out employment opportunities.

When it comes to a headhunter, who is also referred to as an executive recruiter, is a third-party finder who undertakes the same job but emphasizes identifying the best talent possible, whether that prospect is actively searching for a new job or not.

The headhunter will strategically invite that connection or prospect, position your company as a potential opportunity, and make an enticing pitch to lure that prospect to that company.

The headhunters go after one top manager or executive at a time, whereas the recruiters fill the positions if the need arises. In simple terms, every headhunter is a recruiter, but not every recruiter is a headhunter.


To summarise, finding a headhunter who meets your expectations and delivers the candidates you require is a difficult task.

The reason for this is that they are not employees and do not have the same level of insight into your company’s culture and operations as the HR department does.

But if you follow the above-mentioned tips, the search for a headhunter becomes an easy task. In the process, a positive relationship can be developed between both parties.

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