Difference between headhunters and Recruiters, an in depth analysis

It’s too easy to get lost in the job market jargons, so we are here to break the shackle and help you understand the inner workings of the job market forces at play. This is talent management 101, today you will learn the following:

  • Who are headhunters?
  • Why do company even hire a headhunter?
  • What does headhunter do?
  • What is a recruiting agency?
  • When does recruiter do in their day to day work?
  • Contrasting their difference in a table

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Comparison between headhunters and recruiters in a snapshot

Headhunting and recruiting have the same goal, which is to help company fill up a position that is currently vacant or will soon be vacant. But that's where the similarity ends. Headhunters are a lot like bounty hunters: they're commissioned to find a specific person to fill a specific position. This can involve searching far and wide, moving through their contacts and networks, combing through databases, and making cold calls.

In contrast, recruiters tend to work with a pool of candidates who have already expressed interest in the company, either through job applications or referrals. They are basically freelance HR Managers, doing all the work of HR Department, from writing job description, to screening and interviewing them. And after careful vetting if results are satisfactory, that is candidate seems capable and confident to perform the job, they send them to the doorstep of the employer for the final hiring call.

We have summarized the key differences between recruiters and headhunters in a table.

  Headhunters Recruiters
Job Type Executive Positions Entry to Mid-level positions
Number of roles 1 Any number of open roles
Actively job searching Yes and No, Both Yes
Network Connection driven narrow network Broad Network using LinkedIn, Professional Associations etc.
Writing Job Description No Yes
Using Job Boards No Yes
Interviewing candidates No Yes
Primary candidate sourcing Direct approach or cold calling Job post, LinkedIn, job fairs & referrals.  
Establish rapport Yes No

Introducing the middle man of talent acquisition industry

In the world of job hunting, there are 2 types of middle man: headhunters and recruiters, who helps job seekers and employers alike. Basically, they reduce recruitment time for HR Managers significantly and ensures both applicant and employer be a great match for each other.

Both play vital roles in the job market, but there are some key differences between the two, which HR Managers and candidates should be aware of. Now, which one is more suitable to you? That is the question we’re here to answer. Let's take a closer look, shall we?


What is headhunting?

Headhunting is a service which big firms use to fill up their 'captain in charge' positions like Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO) etc. Headhunting essentially is job search on auto pilot for job seekers and talent hunt on auto pilot for employers. Headhunting is also known as executive search or C-suite recruitment in the career service industry.

Shareholders know big business needs to be steered in the right direction: to find stronger profitability, stability and success in the long term, or else the rivals will steal their market share from right under their nose and with that their profits. And that means finding the best talent in the market to do their bidding, which requires going to great length to find the most suitable mind for the job. 

Therefore, HR Managers takes no second chance when it comes to filling up their upper level or management board positions, to give their company the best available resource, the human capital asset! And to get their hands on the best available talent from the job market, they almost always resort to contracting professional headhunters to find their next CEO, CFO and their cohorts.  

What do companies hire headhunters?

Now why exactly big companies hire headhunters, did you ever wonder? They have their massive HR department, unless they are sucking thumbs full time, who in their right mind goes on a big spending spree to hire a talent acquisition consultant to acquire an Executive? The simple answer is that, at the upper end of the pyramid, the talent pool shrinks sizably!

CEO’s are people who have incredible resourcefulness and entrepreneurship to perform the scale of workload that most people simply do not possess. It’s basically too many trees, not enough water kind of scenario, where jobs outstrip the candidates available for work. The big companies hire headhunting service for a number of reasons. They may need to fill a top-level position quickly, or they may be looking for someone with a very specific set of skills. Here’s four main reasons that explains why company hires them:

Talent tight market is the precondition ripe for headhunting services

Just like any movie superstar or sports superstar gets managed by an agent for their commercial dealings, so too does most CEOs and their cohorts by a professional headhunter. But unlike superstar agents where exclusivity is maintained, their doors are open to all headhunters, and C-Suites receives free match making service at zero additional cost to them, but with the perks of bigger pay and robust career growth opportunity. Headhunters has always been the shadowy figure in the corporate world, they are the catalyst that makes the chess piece move.

Headhunting industry is built entirely on connection and is very closely guarded. Executive placements is almost exclusively done by this shadowy service.  That’s you will almost never likely to see the advertisement of Google or Apple, Salesforce, Uber looking for a CEO. The entire work is done behind closed curtain and the company only release the news to market, once the executive placement is confirmed and completed. 

Headhunters is your insurance from a disastrous corporate blunder

They have a reputation to protect, they won’t last two days in these closely knit industry, if they falter one after another with their poor match making skills. Sending the resume of a real estate growth guru to manage a financial blockbuster IPO firm? No chance whatsoever. They vet very hard to make sure, their client or the company gets every chance of success their shareholder is striving for. And that ensures finding a suitable candidate whose resume packs the punch to deliver the short and long term results the company is demanding.

Timely and efficient recruitment

Headhunters are experts at what they do. They know how to find the hidden gems that companies are looking for. They have their fingers on the pulse of the job market and they know where to look to find the best candidates. They also have the ability to reach out to passive candidates who may not be actively looking for a new job but would be open to the right opportunity.

Headhunters are worth every penny that companies pay them. They save companies time and money by finding the best possible candidates for the jobs they need to fill. So next time you see a headhunter working with a big company, know that, they are running full steam to get the work done. They are charming, efficient and always brings the prized trophy to their client.

 Companies can’t lure from their rivals directly

Any company worth its salt knows that the key to success is having the best talent on their team. But how do you get the best talent when your competitors is holding onto them? The answer is simple: you hire a headhunter. Headhunters are professional hitman who can poach the most suitable candidate from your competitor's team and bring them over to your side. Obviously going directly to another company will open Pandora’s Box for the hiring company, so HR department just leave it to the professional hitman to do their dirty work.  Firing up a direct feud with your competitors, nobody wants that!

What does a headhunter do?

A headhunter typically performs the role of arranging the placement of an executive in a company. And this requires the following functions to be performed to bring the company and candidate to come together and discuss the scope of engagement, which if successful, will pave the way to bring the candidate over on management board.

  1. The headhunter will typically work with the company's human resources department to identify the specific skills and experience that the company is looking for in the vacant executive-level position.
  2. Once the headhunter has a good understanding of the company's needs, they will begin their search for potential candidates. This search can be done through a variety of channels, including cold calling, personal networks, and professional associations.
  3. Once a pool of potential candidates has been identified, the headhunter will screen them to ensure that they meet the qualifications for the position.
  4. Once the desirable candidate has been carefully selected, the headhunter will then contact the individual and try to sell them on the job.
  5. Once finding success in the fourth stage, the headhunter will then present the qualified candidates to the company's hiring committee for further consideration.

What is recruitment?

All Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and big corporations have Human Resource (HR) department. HR Department has a lot on their plate, performing the day to day HR functions to keep their HR compliance in check with the regulatory standards and that of company’s itself. Now, when there’s 10 to 15 varied positions that requires placement, their workload goes through the roof.

Enters the recruiters! They cut down recruitment time by 90%. No more wading through a swamp of resumes! No more endless hours spent in interview loops! The recruiters make it all look so easy. A typical hiring goes through 6 distinct stage: job research, sourcing, screening, interviewing, hiring and finally onboarding candidates into the company. They clear the first four functions entirely, sending only juiciest, ripe fruit straight to HR Managers desk.

Recruitment is the process of finding a suitable candidate to fill vacant positions within a company. They are essentially HR for hire, or freelance HR Managers doing the work for their client. They are the primary point of contact between candidates and companies. Taking all the stress out of a very time demanding process.

What does a recruiter do?

A recruiter's job is to find the perfect candidate for an open position. And they do so by applying every trick in their sleeve to get the job done. As aforementioned, they are essentially an extension of HR department, who is quite likely swamped with too much tasks currently, so they have outsourced their candidate placement service to an outside recruitment agency. These are the 9 essential day to day activities when they are in candidate hunt mode:

  1. They start by doing a preliminary job market research and then writing a job description which gets sent to appropriate channels.
  2. Sourcing is finding potential pool of candidates, which can be done through online job boards, Facebook Group/Professional Associations, employee referrals, or LinkedIn.
  3. Screening is the process of reviewing resumes to identify qualified candidates. They screen them to see if they meet the sufficient qualifications for the position.
  4. They begin to conduct interview at this stage to know more about the candidates and to see if they would be a good fit for the firm.
  5. Once the recruiter has found a handful list of qualified candidate, they will present them to the hiring manager for further consideration.
  6. If the candidate is selected, the recruiter will help them through the job offer process and provide them with any information they need to know about the company.
  7. If the candidate is not selected, the recruiter will provide feedback and let them know what they can do to improve their chances in future interviews.
  8. Recruiters also keep track of all the candidates they've sourced, screened, and interviewed in their applicant tracking system (ATS).
  9. They use this data to report on their progress (to the recruitment agency top brass) and to improve their sourcing, screening, and interviewing techniques. 

Frequently Asked Questions

It's a little bit like hiring a personal chef. You can go to the grocery store and buy all the ingredients you need to make a meal, but it's going to be a lot easier (and taste a whole lot better) if you hire someone who knows what they're doing.

But that’s not where this analogy ends, imagine a chef who holds near monopoly of a key ingredient. There is no way around to create that dish you’re after, without that key ingredient. You need that particular chef only, if you’re after that magical dish. The same is true for hiring C Suites, they mostly get managed by headhunters. It’s a very closely knit echelon.

It can be tough to find the top talent for your company. Because companies can’t go hunt top talent themselves for legal and corporate reasons. They might be working somewhere else, more often than not, at your rival, or they might not even be looking for a new job.

That's where headhunters comes in - they act as an intermediary between companies and talented professionals, helping to match the right person with the right opportunity. They will try to sell them the opportunity, even though the candidate isn’t looking for a job. Headhunters are often able to find top talent because they have established rapport with a large number of qualified candidates. They also know what kind of jobs are out there and what companies are looking for, so they can help connect the right people with the right opportunities.

This saves companies time and energy, and it also ensures that they're filling their open positions with the very best talent available.

Why do companies use headhunters? To find the best and brightest talent, of course! But what happens when the headhunter becomes the hunted?

These are the four main ways to get yourself be seen in the job market. The more active you are, the more opportunity comes knocking your door. • By being active in your professional associations and managing your brand across LinkedIn, you will amplify your visibility in the job market. The more people who know about you and what you do, the more likely it is that you will be contacted for right opportunities. • It's also important to stay up to date on industry news and trends so that you can discuss them intelligently with potential employers. Keep your resume updated and always be prepared to send it to hiring managers when the opportunity arises. • Network as much as possible and attend industry events where you can meet people in your field. The more connections you make, the better your chances of finding a better job that's a great fit for you. • You should also target specific keywords when you're job searching, and make sure your resume is properly keyword-optimized, so it is supremely optimized for ATS. • Volunteering is a great way to get experience and make connections in your field, so consider doing some volunteer work in order to broaden your network.

Talent acquisition is the process of finding and hiring the best talent for your company. This can involve recruiting candidates from other companies, headhunting passive candidates, or using job boards and social media to find potential employees.

Once you have found a candidate that you feel would be a good fit for your company, the next step is to assess their qualifications and see if they are a good match for the role. If everything checks out, then you will need to negotiate a compensation package that is acceptable to both parties. After that, it's time to make an offer and hope that the candidate accepts!

Recruitment basically means finding and attracting candidates to fill a vacant position within an organization. The goal of recruitment is to identify and assess the best possible candidates, with the hope of finding the perfect match for the job opening.

If you’re wondering, if a company hires recruitment agency to do their staffing work, when their HR department is missing, no that’s not it. All SMEs and big corporations have HR department, it is just a recruitment strategy to free of valuable HR time.

The recruitment process is the system by which organizations fill their vacant positions. It typically involves advertising the job opening, reviewing resumes or job applications, conducting interviews, and making a selection.

The recruitment process varies depending on the organization and the position being filled. Some organizations may only consider applicants who are already in contact with them, while others may accept resumes from anyone who applies.

Some organizations conduct interviews in person, while others may conduct interviews over the phone or online. The final decision about who is hired typically rests with the hiring manager or supervisor.

Internet recruitment is the process of finding and hiring employees through the use of internet-based tools and resources. This can include job boards, social media platforms, and email databases.

Internet recruitment allows employers to connect with a larger pool of potential candidates than traditional methods like newspaper classifieds or job fairs. It also allows candidates to connect with a wider variety of employers, and to learn more about potential jobs and companies before applying.

The use of internet recruiting has grown in recent years as more people have begun using the internet for their job search. According to a research by Statista, 84.31% percent of worldwide jobs were posted on job boards and career site for their recruitment.

Talent acquisition specialist are also called headhunters who work with big firms to fill up a C-Suite position. They are professionals who work in a tightly held career service industry. Companies can’t directly approach a rival’s CEO for obvious reasons, so they hire the hitman to do their dirty work.

It's the process of narrowing down a large number of potential candidates to a smaller, more manageable number. Typically, this is done by reviewing resumes and cover letters, conducting interviews, and checking references.

The goal of candidate shortlisting is to identify the best possible candidates for the job and to weed out those who are not a good fit. It's an important step in the recruitment process, and it can be time-consuming but it's worth it in the end.

There are a few different methods for narrowing down a candidate pool, but the most common is to use a scorecard or rubric to rate each candidate on factors such as experience, skills, education, etc. The candidates with the highest scores are then invited to interview.

Full cycle recruiting is a term coined by the staffing and recruiting industry to describe the entire recruitment life cycle, from identifying qualified candidates to onboarding them into the company. It provides and takes care of the entire recruitment process, from researching job roles or writing job description, to sourcing, screening, interviewing, and onboarding new employees.

The full cycle recruiting process usually begins with writing a job description which is used to source qualified candidates through job boards, social media, networking, or referrals. Once a pool of qualified candidates is identified, the next step is to screen them and conduct interviews. The final step is to extend an offer and on-board the new employee into the company.

There are four broad types of recruitment taking place in the job market. We will go through them each at a time. • Referral recruitment: This is when you recruit employees from referrals from your current employees. This is often seen as the most effective way to find good candidates, as they have already been pre-screened and are likely to be a good fit for the company. • Internal hire: This is when you recruit employees from within your company. This can be a good way to promote internal talent and give people opportunities to move up within the company, which can boost morale within the company. • External hire: This is when you post jobs on job boards or social media such as Facebook or LinkedIn and attract candidates from outside of your company. This can be a good way to find candidates with specific skills or experience that your firm is looking for. • Recruiting Service: Hiring a professional staffing service such as a recruiting agency or headhunter to find a candidate for a vacant position. Most often they are hired to ensure an efficient recruitment for their company.

Diversity hiring is the process of recruiting, selecting, and promoting employees on the basis of diversity factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability status, and religion.

While there are many benefits to diversifying the workplace - including improved workplace harmony, improved creativity and team productivity - one of the primary reasons for implementing a diversity hiring strategy is to promote equality and fairness in the workplace. By increasing representation of marginalized groups in the workforce, organizations can help to break down barriers that have traditionally prevented these groups from achieving success.

Recruitment planning is the process of designing and implementing a strategy for attracting and onboarding the best possible talent for your organization with little friction in the transition as they acclimatize to your company’s work culture. It involves assessing your needs and creating a plan to identify, assess and attract potential candidates. The goal is to find the right employees to fill your open positions and help your business grow.

There are a variety of methods you can use in recruitment planning, such as job postings, social media, employee referrals, headhunters, or recruiting agencies. Now which hiring situation requires which tool or service, is a very big topic and we’ll shine a light on that subject another day. The most important thing is to tailor your approach to fit the specific needs of your organization. By using the right methods and targeting the best candidates, you can create a successful recruitment plan that helps you find the right employees for your business.

A recruitment cycle breaks down the process of hiring new employees. The cycle begins with identifying the need for new employees and ends with the employee's onboarding on the job.

The recruitment cycle typically consists of five steps: 1. Job posting 2. Sifting through resumes 3. Interviews 4. Hiring/rejection: Making job offer 5. Onboarding candidates

360 ° recruitment is a term used in human resources and talent management industry that refers to a process that looks at both the client and candidate side of hiring. It is also called full cycle and end-to-end recruitment. 360 ° recruitment agencies manage the entire journey, from sourcing candidates to placement (often include onboarding them into the company).

This type of recruitment is beneficial for both clients and candidates alike. It provides companies with access to a wider range of top talent, while job seekers can benefit from being connected with employers who are genuinely interested in them and their skills and allowing them a friction free passage to adjust in the new work atmosphere.

On the other hand 180° recruitment only looks at the candidate side of events. Recruiter’s source and narrows down to the best cherry picked talents for recommendation to Account Managers within the Recruitment Agency. And it is the job of the Account Managers to pitch them in on the job, so the candidate would be willing to take up on the job offer.

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Difference between headhunters and Recruiters, an in depth analysis
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Areli Nevan has 15 years of writing experience in career columns. A professional resume writer with vast experience in his portfolios helping candidates create job winning applications.