What is a headhunter? The key difference between a recruiter and a headhunter

Do you want assistance with finding your next job or filling a vacancy? A headhunter may be just what you need!

We will go into what is a headhunter, what is the difference between a headhunter and recruiter, and how you can find one to help you out. 

What is a headhunter?

Headhunters approach high-skilled people with specialized skills to fill open job positions companies may have. They get hired by a third party to fill in a specific position. 

Headhunters often hire on the executive level, that’s why headhunting is also an executive search, and a headhunter is also called an executive recruiter. 

Headhunters approach candidates working at competitors and other employers. They are often needed when there is difficulty finding the right person for the role. When headhunters place a candidate at a job position successfully, they get paid up 20-30% of their first annual salary. 

What is the difference between a headhunter and a recruiter?

Headhunters and recruiters both aim to find candidates for the companies that hire them. Headhunters go out there and approach candidates that fit their profile. Headhunters are serving the company as their client and get paid a commission when they fill the position. 

Headhunters have specialized skills in knowing how to read resumes and knowing what companies want. They often specialize in niche markets. Their specialization makes that they are a valuable asset when companies are looking to fill highly skilled or executive positions. 

Headhunters do extensive research on the candidates they approach. They only select a few candidates that have the exact profile they want. 

Recruiters wait for candidates to contact them and serve both the company and the candidate. Where headhunters are often a third party, recruiters are mostly employed by the company. 

Recruiters get paid a monthly salary and do more than hiring the right person for the job. Recruiters are often involved with the entire hiring process, including doing the interviews and setting up the contracts. 

What makes a good headhunter? 

Many different types of companies can benefit from a headhunter. When you are looking for a headhunter to take care of recruiting, the most important qualities are:

  • Specific knowledge for certain industries. They will know straight away if someone has the competencies and fits the hiring needs. 
  • They should have good communication skills and a broad network. As they have specific knowledge about one industry, they have many connections that can help you. 
  • Friendly and approachable while remaining professional at all times. Great people skills and drive is a must in this position. 

One of the most valuable assets of a headhunter is their network. They have built up such a strong network in a specific field, and that is what they often use to find their talent. 

If you find headhunters to be aggressive or pushy, this can be a red flag. Good headhunters have great people skills and know how to communicate with people on every level. 

When to use a headhunter?

Are you looking for a new job or a new career? Think about partnering with a headhunter to find job opportunities. It would be good to use a headhunter if you’re in one of the below positions:

  • You’re not getting any interviews, and you want a different job.
  • You are applying for a higher-level position that isn’t openly available on job search sites.

If you can find headhunters that are connected with companies that want to fill vacancies, you’re in the right place! When you use multiple headhunters, let them know you’re using others to prevent any future miscommunication. 

Using a headhunter can speed up the application process. When they know your qualifications, you are screened and you will find your dream job eventually. If you are in their talent-pool, new jobs and postings will come your way directly. 

How to select a headhunter?

There are dozens of platforms where you can find a headhunter for you. The simplest way to find top headhunters are:

  • Doing a local Google search will set you up with talent in your area. 
  • Search for a headhunter in online directories. Check platforms like iRecruit or Recruiters Online database for the best recruiters in your field. 
  • References and using your network is still a great way to look for headhunters. Ask friends and colleagues if they have a headhunter that they can recommend to you. 
  • Check out social media like LinkedIn. Search for “headhunter” or “recruiter”, and you will find tons of relevant profiles. 

When you have found a headhunter that will be able to help you, be sure to ask them some questions. Ask about the process and make sure they know how to present you. 

Although it’s great when you have a headhunter that is a good fit, be sure to continue your search as well. Don’t stop networking and let the headhunter know that you are looking too. 

Contingency or retained recruitment?

As an individual, you mostly don’t have to pay for headhunters or recruiters to have you in their portfolio. 

When you choose to work with a headhunter as a company, you can decide if you want to pay them on a retained or contingency basis. 

With contingency recruitment, the company will only pay a fee when the vacancy is filled. There is a lot of work involved for the headhunter. However, they will get paid between 20-30% on the first annual salary of their hires. 

As a company, you can send your job opening to multiple headhunters. The company only pays the fee to the headhunter that fulfills the vacancy. It may lead to headhunters sending resumes over quickly, as they want to collect their fees. 

Retained recruitment is the more popular and common option. With retained recruitment, the company will pay throughout the hiring process. Fees are typically paid at the start of the process, in the middle, and when a candidate starts working. 

Headhunters who work on a retained basis have more time to look for the appropriate candidates. It is the more popular choice of the two for both companies and headhunters.

How does headhunting work?

As you probably already guessed, working as a headhunter can be a well-paid job. That’s why working as a headhunter is competitive.

As a headhunter, you typically start with selecting potential candidates for the vacancy. The quality of the candidates is analyzed. If they meet the requirements, they are contacted directly by phone or direct message.

Another way to find candidates is through research. Contacting people that are successful in the field will probably give more leads. Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, are an increasingly popular way to approach potential candidates. 

The goal of a headhunter is to recruit the top talent in the recruitment process. If the hiring manager is unsuccessful at finding professional staffing for the job, a recruitment firm can help to outsource the process.