What Is A Headhunter? By Greg Heslin
A headhunter is someone who recruits people on behalf of a company or corporation, usually a person who works on contingency contracts. Generally they may or may not work for an agency, but most of them have many clients and act as a third party representative.
Headhunters can act alone or work through an agency as a form of independent type contractor who liaises between companies or corporations (clients) and the potential candidates for specific job positions. They generally specialize only in relationships with their clients, searching for potential candidates or doing both. Most headhunters deal with either full-time or permanent, contracted, directly hired, or a combination of all types of positions. Their main source of research is usually done online.
Contract work headhunters (hourly pay with temporary assignments) divide their work into 2 groups, including finding new clients and bringing in new work, and also candidate recruitment. Both consulting and staffing companies generally use headhunters because the nature of their work is contractual in nature. Most headhunters doing contract work are paid via a salary, but only get a bonus or commission based on the percentage of placements made.
Full-time job headhunters are the most common form. However, it is interesting that the term headhunter is not a term that most of them like. Usually headhunters have a high level of knowledge of their industry and specialize in one sense, but use a broader spectrum in another. They can place ads or inquiry calls without the use of individual knowledge of the person they are contacting, outside of their job position or basic background. Their search is more generalized than regular recruiters in that they look for basic criterion in job roles and match them up with a wide variety of candidates versus more exacting fits. In fact, as headhunters generally work in a multitude of agencies or go solo occasionally, they have received their name in the past because they used to poach clients away from agencies.
Also, headhunters deal with varied levels of management and executives, but usually and not exclusively mid-level positions. They have extensive contacts, sometimes globally, but usually local and thus have a much better grasp on what is going on in their local area than regular recruiters. However, their procedures are not that much different from regular recruiters in that they do their candidate searches, compile lists of potential candidates, interview candidates and forward the best of the group to their clients.
Headhunters, though most do not like the name as it implies that they poach clients, which most modern ones do not do, are a form of executive recruiter whose searches are more focused on local candidates than global ones. They use similar methods to regular recruiters, but they work generally with less specified criterion for job positions for their many clients and generally make database lists of potential candidates that are both well-suited and possibly suited for the jobs concerned. Though a lot of headhunters deal mainly with mid-level management and/or executive positions, some do cover a much broader range. They include two types, those covering contract workers or those candidates that will be paid wages for positions that are usually temporary, attracting mainly consulting and staffing companies in their area, and fulltime and permanent workers or those candidates that will go onto salaried positions in companies ranging from small businesses to large corporations. Generally speaking though, headhunters are contingency executive recruiters and work for salaries with bonuses for their placements, unlike the retainment executive recruiters who are paid on a fee basis only. Most companies do prefer to work with retainment executive recruiters versus headhunters or contingency recruiters simply because they are considered to be much more reputable, detail orientated and research candidates based on much more specific criterion to find the best fit for client job positions, including specified qualifications, experiences, skill sets, ability to work in a client's specific work environment and bring far more assets to the workplace.