Difference Between Headhunters And Recruiters

Difference Between Headhunters And Recruiters
Last Updated: September 20, 2023

The terms “headhunters” and “recruiters” are often used interchangeably, but there are key differences between these two terms. While they are both responsible for finding candidates, they tend to fill different types of positions and often use different methods of talent acquisition. Understanding the difference between headhunters and recruiters can help employers optimize their hiring process. 

The Role of a Headhunter

The primary role of a headhunter is to fill vacant positions at their client company. The process of headhunting is often referred to as an executive search. In most cases, headhunters tend to focus on hiring for senior roles or highly qualified positions. The headhunters typically search from a pool of active and passive candidates. The passive candidates are professionals who are not actively looking for new opportunities. Generally, headhunters work for agencies and act as a third party for the client company. They also tend to specialize in specific industries, niches,  or functions. 

The Role of a Recruiter 


The role of a recruiter is broader and has a wider scope. Their purpose is to fill various job openings at the client company. This includes entry-level roles to C-level executive positions. A recruiter can be in-house or a third party. While a recruiter can also approach passive candidates, they mainly connect with candidates who have applied for a specific vacancy. This includes candidates who have applied online or have met the recruiter at a career fair or networking event. 

Highlighting the Differences between Headhunters and Recruiters

Positions They Fill 

A key difference between a headhunter and a recruiter is that headhunters tend to fill positions that are more high-level or executive. Headhunters often work to fill urgent or business-critical positions in their client company. As the skills and experience required for these roles can be difficult to find, headhunters tend to spend more time finding a suitable candidate. If you need to fill different legal positions in your company, you will get more flexibility working with a legal recruiter in Florida

Hiring Methods  

While there are standard rules regarding how a headhunter or recruiter finds candidates, their methods tend to be different. A headhunter tends to be more proactive in their approach to finding candidates as the requirements for the position are often very specific. Headhunters use a variety of methods to connect to candidates, including reaching out to passive candidates, searching their professional networks, and reviewing staff rosters. 


On the other hand, recruiters tend to take a more straightforward approach to hiring. Their methods often include posting positions on job boards or company employment pages, collecting applications, and searching resumes to shortlist the most suitable candidates. In some cases, recruiters are more involved in working with hiring managers to write job descriptions for the role. 


Recruiters can specialize in specific industries, niches, or roles, but they tend to be less specialized compared to headhunters. Generally, headhunters have more in-depth industry expertise and are more familiar with the requirements of a specialized role. The role of a recruiter covers a wide range of positions. 

Compensation Structure 

Generally, headhunters receive a commission from the client company for the successful placement of a candidate. The commission of the headhunter is typically a percentage of the candidate’s first-year salary or it could be a flat fee or retainer fee, depending on the arrangement between the client company and the headhunter. 


A recruiter can have a commission structure, or they can be a salaried employee of the company or a recruitment firm. In some cases, recruiters get bonuses for referring candidates that are successfully recruited. 


Cindy Baker
Editorial Team
The editorial team behind is a group of dedicated HR professionals, writers, and industry experts committed to providing valuable insights and knowledge to empower HR practitioners and professionals. With a deep understanding of the ever-evolving HR landscape, our team strives to deliver engaging and informative articles that tackle the latest trends, challenges, and best practices in the field.

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