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Table of Contents

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Having trouble filling a role? Do you find yourself wondering, “Is there a better way?” Maybe it’s time to hire a headhunter and watch the quality candidates come flooding in. Read on to learn about headhunters and how they can help your organization.

What Is a Headhunter?

In most cases, a headhunter is called in for hard-to-fill roles because they specialize in finding candidates for those specific positions. They will post the job openings if requested by the hiring organization and screen candidates before sending them to the recruiting team as great applicants. They find the needle in the haystack for an organization and then pass them off with confidence.

Headhunter vs Recruiter

A headhunter and a recruiter have some differences that differentiate them and their respective roles. For starters, the recruiter typically works for the hiring company while the headhunter works independently. A recruiter’s role spans the entire hiring process, from writing the job description, posting the position, screening candidates, interviewing top candidates, making offers, negotiating pay, and onboarding new hires. A headhunter may post the job description that is provided from the organization, but that’s where the role ends. A headhunter is strictly finding that candidate for the company, then handing them off and moving on to the next.

Another pivotal difference between a headhunter and a recruiter is how they are paid. Recruiters are paid either salary or hourly based on your organization’s pay structure. They may receive a bonus or commission based on the roles they fill, but they are an employee of your organization and receive pay accordingly. A headhunter is only paid once your organization hires the candidate they recommend, and typically their pay is a percentage of the candidate’s first year salary.

Are Headhunters Beneficial for Companies?

Now that you understand the difference between a headhunter and a recruiter, let’s dive into why hiring a headhunter may be beneficial for your organization.

  • Broad network. It’s the headhunter’s job to watch the market consistently. They see new candidates coming in that could be a good fit down the road for an organization and keep their network connections strong. An organization’s internal recruiting staff doesn’t have the bandwidth to do this level of networking, which is why seeking out a headhunter can be extremely beneficial.
  • Saves money. Whether it’s a-hard-to-fill position or an entry level role, you’re either seeking out candidates or filtering through hundreds of applications. Either way, time spent on the recruiting team equates to money spent as an organization. Hiring a headhunter specialized in filling the role you’re looking for can identify both active and passive candidates in less time, which means less money than if your internal recruiting team is filling the role.
  • Headhunter drive. Due to headhunters only receiving payment after the organization hires their recommended candidate, their motivation and drive to find those ‘needle in a haystack’ candidates is fierce. They are incentivized by their pay structure to zero in on candidates and find you the best fit in the least amount of time. Quality candidate in less time is a huge benefit to the organization.

What Does a Headhunter Do?

Now that you understand the benefits a headhunter can bring to your organization, let’s take a look at what a headhunter will do for your organization.

Understand the Role

The headhunter will do a deep dive into the role to understand what your organization needs in this position. This includes not only the role itself, but the culture of the organization, any idiosyncrasies that make it unique and the structure that makes it successful. In order for the headhunter to be exceptional at their job, they will need a full, comprehensive understanding of the organization and how this role fits in, so that will be their first task.

Seek Out Potential Candidates

Taking the initial information they gathered, they hit the pavement. As a headhunter, they may evaluate past candidates who were not the right fit at that time, foster new connections, or attend networking events to find new candidates. This is where the headhunter stands out for your organization. They will utilize all their resources, and those resources can be extensive, and seek out the best candidates for your role.

Screen Candidates

Once they have found some candidates they believe could be a great fit for your organization, the headhunter will screen them before passing them off to you. Hopefully, through their skills and resources, they were able to gather a few potential candidates and narrow that list by putting each candidate through the headhunting screening process. They will take their knowledge of the organization and the current needs and compare the candidates they have found until they are confident in the short list they provide to the company.

Offer Recommendations

Lastly, the headhunter will submit their recommendations and qualified candidates to the organization. Depending on how your company wants to do the hand off from headhunter to internal recruiting team, you may have the headhunter facilitate some of the dialogue with the candidates, or you may take it over completely after they provide their recommendations. From there, the headhunter is off to find the next great candidate for the next organization, just as they did for yours.

How to Find and Hire a Headhunter

If it’s time for your organization to utilize the help of a headhunter, follow the steps below to get started.

Step 1: Establish Clear Organization Needs

Before jumping in to finding a headhunter, establish what roles you’re hiring for and how the headhunter can best serve the organization. Ensure you have this information clearly defined so you can provide it to the headhunter in your discussions. Just as you are evaluating headhunters, they are evaluating if they can do the job for your company. As they only get paid if they fill the role, headhunters are strategic in the jobs they take on, so ensure you’re strategic in the selection process as well.

Step 2: Ask Your References

Knowing which headhunting firm to go with and why can feel overwhelming, so start by asking your references or trusted members of your network about their experience and go from there. Perhaps a colleague in the same industry had a bad experience with one firm you were evaluating which helps you weigh how to proceed. Leverage your network connections to provide inside information to find the best headhunter for your company. If you trust your references enough, this may be the only step you need to find your headhunter. If not, move to the next step.

Step 3: Check Reviews

If you’ve asked your references and are still on the fence about which direction to go, head to reviews. Learn what others outside of your network are saying about the headhunters and firms you’re evaluating and take that into consideration as you select one to do the job for your company.

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About Headhunters

The average fee for a headhunter can vary depending on the role they are trying to fill or the organization they work for. Typically you’ll see a fee around 20-25% of the first year salary of the employee that was hired to your organization.
Not always. Headhunters often prove the most useful if you’re in an industry with an influx of need and a scarcity of candidates.
Discretion, tact, communication, patience, and persuasion, just to name a few, are important qualities of a great headhunter.

Shalie has over 4 years of experience working in a variety of HR positions and organizations including: working as an HR department “of one”, working with a start-up based in Europe, to working in a fully established robust USA based HR department. Shalie has experience in multiple states and countries with all aspects of the HR spectrum. She has a passion to share her knowledge and experience to benefit the HR profession!

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