Date: October 20, 2023 difference between headhunter and recruiter

In the realm of hiring job candidates, various professionals play critical roles. Among them, headhunters and recruiters stand out, each employing distinct methods and targeting different candidate profiles. 

To make informed hiring decisions, it’s essential to grasp the Difference Between Headhunter and Recruiter. In this article, with the expertise of Jadeer, we’ll elucidate the roles of headhunters and recruiters while highlighting key distinctions between them.

While it’s true that all headhunters fall under the broader category of recruiters, not all recruiters can be classified as headhunters. If this concept isn’t crystal clear just yet, don’t worry – we’ll delve deeper into the distinctions. Keep reading to gain a comprehensive understanding.

What is a Headhunter?

A headhunter, also known as an executive search professional, specializes in filling key positions for client companies. Their primary focus is often on recruiting top-tier candidates for high-level roles such as CEOs and other executive positions. 

Headhunters frequently approach employed individuals, enticing them with job offers to persuade them to transition to their client’s organization.

These professionals thoroughly assess potential candidates to ensure they possess the requisite skills and qualifications outlined in the job description. 

Typically, headhunters operate within agencies, working as intermediaries between candidates and clients. They may also have expertise in specific industries or niches and often collaborate with multiple clients simultaneously.

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.

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Headhunting VS Recruiting: What is The Difference?

Headhunters and recruiters share the common responsibility of identifying suitable candidates to fill job vacancies. In some cases, they may collaborate on assignments. However, despite the similarities, distinct differences set these two roles apart. Key distinctions include:


Headhunters and recruiters employ distinct approaches in their candidate search. Headhunters tend to be proactive, actively seeking out employed individuals who may not be actively seeking new job opportunities. They use methods such as:

  • Tapping into their extensive professional networks.
  • Reviewing employee rosters of companies to identify potential candidates.
  • Attending professional networking events to connect with potential candidates.

Recruiters, on the other hand, often take a more reactive approach since candidates are typically actively seeking employment. Their methods include:

  • Posting job openings on various job boards.
  • Collecting job applications and resumes from interested candidates.
  • Searching for potential candidates on job websites and platforms.

Internal vs. External

Another notable difference between headhunters and recruiters is the context in which they operate. Recruiters often work internally within their organization, focusing on filling positions within their own company. They are typically part of the in-house human resources department, and recruitment is a core aspect of their job responsibilities.

In contrast, headhunters primarily function externally, often affiliated with specialized agencies. They operate on behalf of clients and specialize in identifying top talent for various job roles across different organizations. This external perspective allows headhunters to cast a wider net and bring in candidates from diverse sources.

Distinguishing Between Candidate Sourcing and Position Filling

Recruiters and headhunters have differing primary roles when it comes to the hiring process. Recruiters primarily focus on the task of filling job positions within their organization. They are involved in various stages of the recruitment process, from posting job openings and screening candidates to scheduling interviews and acting as the primary contact for job seekers.

In contrast, headhunters concentrate on locating and identifying potential job candidates for their clients. Their primary goal is to source top talent and present them as potential hires to organizations seeking to fill specific roles. While recruiters manage the entire recruitment process, headhunters are more focused on the initial stages of candidate identification.

Compensation Models

Headhunters and recruiters may follow distinct compensation models. Headhunters are typically compensated through two primary methods: retainer or contingency. Under the contingency model, they receive payment only after a successfully placed candidate is hired. In the retainer model, they typically receive partial payment upfront, often before identifying a suitable candidate.

Recruiters, on the other hand, are typically salaried employees within their organizations. They receive their regular salaries for their ongoing job responsibilities. Some companies may offer additional bonuses or incentives for recruiters who successfully refer and hire new employees.

Hiring Processes

Headhunters and recruiters follow distinct hiring processes tailored to their roles:

Working with a Headhunter:

  • Identifying a Specific Position: Companies typically identify high-level positions they need to fill.
  • Finding a Headhunter: The company seeks out a suitable headhunter, often through agencies.
  • Defining Job Requirements: The client company and headhunter collaborate to establish job requirements, including qualifications and skills.
  • Sourcing Passive Candidates: Headhunters focus on identifying passive candidates, individuals currently employed but open to new opportunities.

Working with a Recruiter:

  • Identifying Open Positions: Recruiters receive lists of open positions within their company, which can span various levels and departments.
  • Job Description Creation: Recruiters collaborate with HR and other departments to craft detailed job descriptions.
  • Posting Job Listings: Recruiters are responsible for posting job descriptions on job boards and websites, as well as engaging with potential candidates online.
  • Candidate Sourcing: Recruiters may actively source candidates through methods like job fairs and networking events, often initiating contact and scheduling interviews.

Looking For a Headhunter or Recruiter?

If you’re in search of a Headhunter or Recruiter, look no further. Jadeer, a nationally renowned headhunting, recruiting, and staffing agency, is here to assist businesses of all sizes in meeting their hiring requirements.

As a premier staffing agency, Jadeer specializes in recruiting and placing top-notch talent for a wide range of positions, from high-volume roles to highly specialized positions demanding advanced degrees and qualifications. Get in touch with us today to explore our comprehensive staffing solutions!

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