According to Harvard Business Review, until the 1980s, companies filled about 90% of their vacant positions with internal candidates–either those receiving a promotion or a lateral reassignment. Today, less than one-third of open positions are filled internally. With the vast majority of hires now coming from outside the company, recruiting top talent is one of the most important—yet most challenging—success factors for today’s businesses.

There are two types of recruiting professionals: Headhunters and recruiters. Many employers and employees use these terms interchangeably, but they actually have distinct meanings. What is a head hunter? How does headhunting differ from the role and activities that we associate with a recruiter? Let’s examine the differences between headhunters vs recruiters and discover when and why companies might want to retain a headhunter.

Headhunter definition vs recruiter meaning

While both headhunters and recruiters seek to fill open employment positions with qualified candidates, there are key differences in who employs them and the processes they generally follow to do their jobs.

How are they employed and paid?

A head hunter usually works as a solo contractor or for a recruiting agency and is paid a commission by the hiring company for each candidate placed. In other words, a headhunter’s pay is contingent upon the successful sourcing of a qualified candidate for a client corporation. By contrast, recruiters most often work as internal corporate employees are paid a salary. Recruiters can also be part of an outsourced talent management function, but with the distinction that they are still dedicated to one company and have a continuous recruitment role with that organization.How do their objectives and primary duties differ?Headhunters (also sometimes called executive recruiters) work with more than one company at a time and scout talent for only specific positions requested by the client. What is headhunting? Essentially it involves cultivating relationships with top professionals as well as hiring organizations, in order to make effective matches between employers and candidates. Focusing their efforts on recruiting just a few key positions at a time, headhunters are experts at how to approach highly-qualified passive candidates. For example, if your company is searching for a seasoned C-suite executive, a headhunter might be the only way to get the right introduction.Corporate recruiters manage their company’s recruiting for all open positions and perform a wide range of tasks, including posting open job positions, collecting resumes from applicants, pre-screening candidates and facilitating the interview process. Recruiters keep communication flowing between the company and job applicants and maintain a database of applicants. They manage the recordkeeping associated with keeping the company in compliance with hiring laws. Recruiters also represent employers at job fairs and college recruiting events. They may be responsible for extending offers and onboarding new employees.

When should you use a contingent headhunter?

A headhunter can save your organization time and provide access to candidates you might not have met otherwise—especially passive recruits. Here are three types of recruiting that you might prefer to use an external headhunter:1. You need to recruit high-level executives. A bad hire in a top executive may jeopardize business objectives and do damage to corporate culture. Smaller businesses rarely recruit these roles, and they can benefit from executive headhunters’ expertise.2. You need to recruit specialized technical roles, such as engineers, computer programmers, or data scientists. There is intense demand and competition for these professionals, and specialized technical recruiting agencies may be needed.3. You need a recruiter with many contacts recruit in a specific industry. Perhaps your company wants to launch a new product or enter a new marketplace. Your internal recruiter may not yet be as familiar with the new industry as a top industry headhunter.



Why organizations benefit from dedicated recruiters

Talent Management will be a make-or-break part of corporate strategy for the foreseeable future. As four generations exit and enter the workforce over the next 10-20 years, the employment landscape will change rapidly. A wise talent management strategy will need to embrace the rule of ‘Always Be Recruiting’ in order to continually source good candidates with the right cultural fit and skill sets as things like technology and business objectives evolve.It’s also a good idea to keep as much control as possible over your company’s applicant/ candidate experience. Candidates share their experiences on job seeker platforms, employer rating apps, and social media. A poor candidate experience can damage your reputation as an employer and cost you the ability to attract and hire great talent. Worse, it can also cause long term damage to your organization’s image with customers.

Effective recruiting strengthens talent management

Successful organizations will continue to rely heavily on the expertise of both headhunters and recruiters to stay fully staffed with the most talented professionals. Asure’s Talent Management solution provides a complete web-based recruitment process that helps you easily search for specific skill sets, create job requisitions on the fly, and hire the candidates that are most aligned with your organization’s recruiting needs and objectives.

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