Headhunter vs. Recruiter: What’s the Difference?

Whats the difference between a headhunter and a recruiter, and which option is best for your company?

Despite the challenges businesses are facing due to the coronavirus, many companies are still looking for and hiring new employees. Whether your company is looking to bring on new talent for a virtual or nonvirtual position, you may be considering using a headhunter or a recruiter. Before deciding to work with either one, it’s important to understand what they do and the differences between them. [

A headhunter is an individual or company that finds potential candidates for the position(s) that a company is looking to fill. They then pass over that information to the company. They tend to be specialized in a certain field. A headhunter does not generally do any hiring.

A recruiter is someone who works with the hiring process itself. They generally post job openings and are the initial contact person. They pre-screen candidates and get a start on the hiring process. A recruiter tends to work with all kinds of job markets and helps job candidates get placed in the job that best fits their skills.

COVID-19 has brought on many limitations but has also opened up new opportunities for businesses. Virtual positions aren’t necessarily limited to local talent, so you have a wide range of professionals to choose from for certain positions at your company. Many more professionals are looking for jobs than before the coronavirus pandemic hit. However, sifting through a larger pool of job seekers can be overwhelming and time-consuming, so working with a headhunter or recruiter can be an effective way to narrow down your options.

Headhunters aim to fill high-level, executive positions for their clients, while recruiters may be responsible for filling a variety of positions. Furthermore, headhunters usually approach people who are already employed, while recruiters often approach people who are open to new employment.

Headhunters VS Recruiters (What’s the Difference?)

What is a recruiter?

A recruiter is a professional who is responsible for finding top job candidates to fill a variety of open positions. Recruiters connect with candidates who are open to employment. Often, recruiters find candidates at job fairs, through their network or on networking websites. They can also be responsible for screening candidates to ensure they meet job qualifications, and they can also set up interviews.

Recruiters may work for a company or a recruiting agency. Recruiters can specialize in a certain type of industry, but they often work across many industries. Companies often approach recruiters when they need to fill many open positions quickly. Recruiters can also work in the human resources department of a company and fill open positions for their specific company.

What is a headhunter?

A headhunter is a professional who aims to fill open positions for a client company. Sometimes the process of headhunting is referred to as conducting an executive search. Typically, companies hire headhunters to help them find the best job candidates for top company positions, like CEOs or other executives. They usually approach currently employed people and offer them positions to persuade them to move to their clients company.

Headhunters often vet potential job candidates to make sure they have all the skills and qualifications to match the job description. Usually, headhunters work for agencies and contract with clients, meaning they are usually third parties. They can also specialize in certain types of industries and niches. Sometimes, they might work with multiple clients at the same time.

Differences between headhunters vs. recruiters

Headhunters and recruiters are both responsible for finding the best candidates to fill open positions. Sometimes, they even work together. Although the two titles have similarities, there are key differences between them, including:

Positions they fill

One top difference between headhunters and recruiters is the positions that they aim to fill. Headhunters aim to fill high-level, executive positions for their clients, while recruiters may be responsible for filling a variety of positions. Furthermore, headhunters usually approach people who are already employed, while recruiters often approach people who are open to new employment.


The methods that the two use are also different. Headhunters are usually very proactive, as they approach people who are already employed and arent necessarily looking for a new job. Headhunters typically use methods like:

However, recruiters are usually more reactive, because job candidates are often actively looking for jobs, and they may approach recruiters directly. Recruiters often use methods like:

Hiring process

Headhunters and recruiters also have significantly different hiring processes. For companies, the process of working with a headhunter often involves:

However, working with a recruiter typically consists of:

Working internally vs. externally

Another difference between headhunters and recruiters is whether they work internally or externally. Recruiters often work internally and aim to fill roles at their company. Usually, recruiters work in their companys human resources department, and human resources professionals may even complete recruiting as a job task. However, headhunters typically work externally, usually for agencies, and fill roles for their clients.


Headhunters and recruiters can also be compensated in different ways. Headhunters are usually compensated either on retainer or on a contingency. If theyre compensated on a contingency, they usually dont get paid until after the candidate is hired. If theyre on a retainer, they usually get some payment before locating the hire. However, recruiters often work for their companies, so they receive their normal salary for doing their jobs. Depending on their company, they may also get bonuses for referring new hires.

Locating candidates vs. filling positions

Recruiters also place more emphasis on filling positions than headhunters do. The role of a headhunter is mainly to source job candidates for their clients. However, recruiters often take on the role of filling positions, including setting up interviews and serving as a point of contact for job candidates.


What is the main difference between a headhunter and a recruitment agency?

A recruitment agency looks for positions for active job seekers. On the other hand, a headhunter usually focuses on finding candidates who are not actively seeking new jobs. They look for hard to find candidates who are the perfect fit for a specific role.

Is it worth hiring a headhunter?

Are Headhunters / Recruiters Worth It? Headhunters and recruiters expand your reach into the job market, help you focus your search and serve as your advocate with the client. Some benefits of using a headhunter as one component of your job search include: Skip the Mediocre Jobs.

Do headhunters make a lot of money?

Executive headhunters are called headhunters because they are, literally, head hunters. Executive recruiting firms employ specialised head hunters who search for the best candidate and approach them directly. They work for the client – the hiring organization – not the candidate.

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