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Headhunter vs Recruiter: Understanding the Key Differences and Benefits

Finding the perfect job can be an incredibly overwhelming process—especially if you go it alone. But as a job seeker, it’s even a bit daunting to choose the right path for getting the guidance and support you need, too.

Two routes you’ve likely considered in your search are working with either a headhunter or a recruiter. But you might be scratching your head trying to understand the key differences between the two.  

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between and the benefits of working with a headhunter vs recruiter. We’ll take a closer look at the role each plays in the hiring process and discuss how these recruiting professionals can help you navigate the job market. 

What Is a Headhunter and How Do They Work?

As defined by, a headhunter is a professional who aims to fill open positions for a client company. They’re often hired by companies to identify and recruit candidates who are not actively looking for a new job (i.e., “passive candidates”) but who have the precise background, skills and experience needed for a given role.   

An important distinction to make is that headhunting and talent poaching are not one in the same. Poaching candidates is often considered unethical and is less focused on building relationships and supporting career growth and more about taking people with transferable skills away from other companies—especially competitors—and capitalizing on them. 

What to Expect When Working With a Headhunter 

Headhunters typically operate by using their extensive professional networks to identify potential candidates for a particular role—either reaching out to candidates directly or through their network to gauge their interest in the job opportunity. If a candidate expresses interest, the headhunter will typically conduct a preliminary interview to determine if they have the required qualifications for the position.  

Here are some pros and cons to consider when choosing whether a headhunter is the right hire for your job search: 

Pros and Cons of Working With a Headhunter


  • Access to exclusive job opportunities 
  • Personalized job search experience 
  • Expertise in a specific industry or job function 
  • Higher salary potential 
  • Confidential job search 

  • May have limited options outside of their specific industry or job function 
  • Limited control over job search process 
  • Fees may be higher than with other paid job search methods 
  • Usually, a one-time relationship versus long term  

Important note: Headhunters are particularly valuable in industries where there is a shortage of qualified talent, such as the technology sector. This is especially important in today considering we’re looking at an $8.5 trillion talent shortage, according to Korn Ferry. 

This means that if you’re a tech professional looking for your next career move, a headhunter might be able to get the job done faster and more effectively than you would on your own. 

What Are Recruiters and How Do They Work?

We’re so glad you asked. defines a recruiter as a professional who is responsible for finding top job candidates to fill a variety of open positions. Unlike headhunters, recruiters typically work on a contingency basis, which means they only get paid if they successfully place a candidate at the company they’re working with. 

What to Expect When Working With a Recruiter

Recruiters are particularly useful for companies that are looking to fill multiple positions or for those that need to quickly fill an urgent opening. Recruiters will use a variety of methods to source and identify potential candidates for their clients, such as job boards, social media, professional networks and referrals. Once they have identified potential candidates, they will screen and interview them to determine if they’re a good fit for the open position. Then, recruiters will present the top candidates to the company for consideration. 

Here are some pros and cons to consider when choosing whether a recruiter is the right move for your job search: 

Pros and Cons of Working With a Recruiter


  • In-depth understanding of the job market 
  • Guidance on navigating the hiring process 
  • Valuable insight on the role, hiring manager, company/team culture, etc. 
  • Tips and coaching on how to present oneself to potential employers 

  • Some recruiters prioritize filling positions quickly over finding the best candidate 
  • Recruiters may be working with multiple clients and may not provide individual attention 
  • Not all recruiters are created equal—some have a good track record, and some don’t. 

How Do I Know Which Professional Is Right for Me?

Choosing the right professional for your job search is an important and personal decision that can only be made with your own goals and best interests in mind. Neither path is necessarily better than the other—it’s totally dependent on you. But the choice can definitely be easier to make when you have the right information to make an informed decision. 

When deciding between a headhunter or recruiter, there are several factors to consider:  

1. What type of job are you seeking?

First, think about the type of jobs you’re interested in pursuing. If you’re looking for a high-level executive position, a headhunter might be the best option, since they specialize in filling senior-level roles and often work on exclusive, confidential searches for executive-level positions.  

On the flip side, if you’re looking for a mid-level position, a recruiter might be a better fit as they often work with a broader range of companies and job types.  

2. Which industries and companies do they work with?

Another key factor to consider before making your decision is the industries and companies the recruiter works with. If you’re looking to break into a specific industry or company, it would be highly beneficial for you to choose the recruiting professional who has the strongest connections and expertise in that field—whether they’re a headhunter or a recruiter.  

On the other hand, if you’re open to exploring different industries or companies, it may be more important to work with a headhunter or recruiter who has a broad range of clients and experience working in various fields.  

3. What are your goals for your next role?

Speaking of defining aligned career goals, defining these upfront is nonnegotiable if you want to ensure you choose the right professional for you. Taking into consideration your goals, skills and experience, stay open and honest with your professional (whether it be a recruiter or a headhunter) and provide them with as much information as possible about your career aspirations and what you’re looking for in a job. This will help them better understand your needs, narrow down the options, and find the best possible match for you. 

Calling All Jobseekers: Experience the TeamSoft Difference

At the end of the day, the key to success in your job search is finding the right fit for you. That’s why it’s important to do your research, ask questions and seek out recommendations from others in your industry before deciding which route is best in finding your next role.  

Still unsure which path to take? Our reputable team is here for you. At TeamSoft, our mission is simple: Link businesses with highly motivated professionals in the tech industry. We are proud to have successfully assisted hundreds of candidates like you in their efforts to find the perfect fit.  

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you take the next step in your career.