What's the Difference Between Headhunters and Recruiters?

At some point in your career, you may have heard the terms headhunter and recruiter used interchangeably. Both headhunters and recruiters are on the strategic hunt for talent but headhunting and recruiting are distinctly different. Here we help to explain the different roles both headhunters and recruiters play in the job market.

Headhunting: The Basics

The differences between a headhunter and recruiter also vary depending on the employer. Headhunters are hired by a company or corporation to find, vet, and introduce suitable candidates for a job position. The headhunter’s job is to ensure the candidate has the proper skill set for a position and they’re often hired to find highly-skilled or hard-to-find candidates.

In general, headhunters can be independent contractors or employees of a recruiting firm. They are hired and/or commissioned by a company looking for high-quality talent and often works for several companies at a given time. It’s not uncommon for headhunters to specialize in a field, such as tech or marketing. This allows them to parse through resumes in a more efficient, precise manner and find the best possible candidate for a job more quickly.

When a headhunter finds a qualified candidate, he or she passes the candidate’s resume along to the company who then decides whether to interview and hire the candidate. Headhunters do not do any hiring on their own however, when it comes to locating candidates, they may take a proactive role and reach out to them even while the candidate is currently employed at another company.

Recruiting: The Basics

While headhunters are responsible for locating qualified candidates, put simply, recruiters are responsible for filling positions. Recruiters may either be in-house (employed by the company that is posting the open positions) or a member of a recruiting firm working on behalf of the company looking to fill the position(s).

In order to fill the open positions within a company, recruiters prescreen candidates, facilitate the interview process and may even play a part in the contract negotiations. Often they are also the point of contact for candidates inquiring about a job position. While some recruiters may take a proactive role in seeking out candidates much like a headhunter would, it’s much more common for them to post job openings and allow qualified candidates to reach out to them first. Recruiters often work to fill multiple positions at once and is able to shift candidates who may not be qualified for one position over into applying for a position that better fits. Additionally, recruiters often work in human resource departments or have various human resource-based roles. Most commonly, recruiters work to fill all job positions, although they may specialize in certain industries, too.

Recruiting Talent

Headhunters and recruiters both recruit talent and play an important role in filling open job listings however, they don’t ultimately perform the same job. Headhunters delve more into the company’s hiring expectations and a candidate’s career goals. They acquire talent by reaching out to candidates directly whereas recruiters work on placing qualified candidates in the proper job positions once the candidate submits an application. Both recruiting methods prove advantageous to candidates and companies alike as they expand the talent pool and help ensure the most qualified talent is presented.