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Headhunter vs Recruiter vs Hiring Manager

Headhunter vs Recruiter vs Hiring Manager: What’s the Difference?

There are many terms for those involved in the hiring process. Use this article to find the difference between a headhunter, a recruiter, and a hiring manager.

Headhunter vs Recruiter vs Hiring Manager: What’s the Difference?


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According to a recent survey, 74% of US organizations struggle to find skilled talent to fill open positions.

If you find yourself in this position, collaborating closely with headhunters, recruiters, and hiring managers might solve the problem.

Each of these professionals play a vital role in the recruitment process and have distinct responsibilities to identify, vet, and interview candidates, as well as onboard new hires.

By the end of this article, you'll know the difference between a headhunter vs a recruiter vs a hiring manager, along with the benefits, qualities, and which option is best to help you find promising candidates for your business. 

What Is a Headhunter?

A headhunter, also known as an executive recruiter, specializes in conducting an extensive search for C-level or high-level leaders in management. Most of the job openings they recruit tend to be urgent, so their primary goal is to find a strong pool of top-notch candidates who will fill high-ranking positions as quickly as possible.

Generally, a headhunter doesn’t do any hiring or interviewing. When they have a potential candidate, they pass the information to the employer, who takes on the recruiting process. 

Benefits of getting a headhunter

There are several benefits of partnering up with headhunters:

Have high-quality, vetted professional networks

Headhunters vet from an established network of people with relevant skills for sought-after executive positions. They conduct a detailed background check, including the candidate’s work history, accomplishments, and education, to ensure they have all the necessary skills and qualifications for the role.

Look for high-level candidates

Headhunters are skilled at hunting for top-tier professionals who are already successful but have yet to actively search for new job opportunities (passive candidates). They approach employed people and persuade them to move to their client’s company.

Specialize in niche markets

Usually, headhunters have a niche market specialization, which allows them to focus on specific industries or professions. For example, if you need someone to help you hire a CFO urgently, a headhunter specialized in recruiting individuals for financial executive positions will be the right person to approach.

Where can you find a headhunter?

Headhunters typically work for agencies or as individual contractors. You can also find one by using job boards, searching on LinkedIn, or asking people in your field for recommendations. 

Qualities of a good headhunter

Above all, a good headhunter should have a charismatic personality and impeccable communication skills. This allows them to build rapport and trust with candidates and articulate their offers effectively.

A sales background is also advantageous. It demonstrates they have the necessary skill to sell the job opening to the right candidate and convince them to join your company.

How are headhunters compensated?

In terms of compensation for positions, there are two ways to pay headhunters:

Contingent search

In contingent search, the headhunter doesn't get paid until the position is filled. If they are successful, they will be compensated depending on the terms of the agreement: a fixed cost or a percentage of the candidate's annual salary.

As part of the contract, headhunters must also provide a guarantee period, which requires the newly hired employee to remain in their position for a specific period. If the candidate leaves during this span, the headhunter must find a replacement at no additional cost or provide a refund.

Retained search

Conversely, a retained search requires an up-front payment to the headhunter, which creates a deeper commitment from both parties. This type of search is most common for executive-level positions and niche roles, where finding job candidates can be more challenging and requires a more intensive search.

The compensation terms are negotiable and can vary based on the industry, position level, exclusivity, and the specifics and complexity of the search.

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What Is a Recruiter?

A recruiter is a professional who connects qualified candidates with employers. They are responsible for screening and interviewing individuals, negotiating salaries, and collaborating with the company hiring team to ensure the fit is mutually beneficial.

Generally, corporate recruiting is involved with the entire hiring process and strives to provide candidates with a positive experience, even if they are not hired in the end.

Similarly to headhunters, recruiters can look for various positions, including C-level executives or high-level positions, but the process is different. While headhunters approach individuals not necessarily looking to change their job, recruiters act as talent scouts or mediators. They connect with candidates who are actively seeking employment, source them at job fairs, or let candidates initiate first contact through job ads.

Benefits of getting a recruiter

Recruiters can offer numerous advantages to employers and job seekers alike:

Fill multiple open positions quickly

Recruiters have vast networks of prospective candidates in their arsenal, which allows them to fill multiple positions quickly and save time and resources for employers.

Hire from many industries

Although they specialize in one industry, recruiters tend to work with subject-matter experts across many industries because it gives them access to a larger candidate pool of top talent.

Help candidates find the best position for their skill set

A recruiter can help a job seeker identify the positions that match their skills, experience, and career goals and offer guidance on how to best present themselves during the job search process.

How to find a recruiter

Typically, a recruiter works as part of a company’s HR department or a recruiting agency. You can also use job boards, like Indeed, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor to find recruiters specializing in your industry. Use keywords such as "recruiter," "talent acquisition," "talent selection," "people manager," and "talent manager" to help narrow down your search.

Qualities of a good recruiter

Good recruiters must have a degree in psychology, HR, or related fields. They must also possess a deep understanding of the industry and specific job roles they are hiring for to select suitable candidates.

Additionally, recruiters must have excellent communication and organizational skills to communicate clearly and effectively with candidates, hiring managers, and other stakeholders involved in the hiring process and simultaneously manage multiple open positions and candidates. 

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What Is a Hiring Manager?

A hiring manager plays the role of an internal recruiter for a company. They decide which candidates get hired within a company and subsequently reach out to candidates to offer them the job or inform them that they were not selected.

After that, hiring managers will act as direct supervisors for the new hires to ensure they fit in well within the team and become the go-to person to answer questions regarding the company, responsibilities, or other concerns.

While hiring managers don't actively look for candidates, they often partner with headhunters, HR departments, or external recruiters to search and evaluate potential candidates and even influence them to accept the job offer.

Benefits of getting a hiring manager

They manage and overlook the hiring process

A hiring manager will oversee the hiring process, from the job posting and collaborating with recruiters or headhunters to onboarding new employees. This way, you can focus on your core business and ensure that your hiring process is handled by a competent professional.

Give important insights on candidate selection

Since they assist throughout the candidate selection, screening, interviewing, and assessment, hiring managers can provide valuable insights into which candidates best fit your organization.

Help persuade top talent to accept your offer

A hiring manager will have experience negotiating compensation packages and know how to put your company in the best possible light. Their job is also to create a positive hiring experience, which is crucial when trying to attract and retain remote talent. In fact, according to research, 75% of candidates accepted a job offer because of the positive hiring experience

Where to find hiring managers?

To find hiring managers, search on job boards, social media platforms, and professional associations, or ask your network for recommendations. 
Here are three top places to find a hiring manager:

  1. Professional networking sites: Websites like LinkedIn allow you to search for hiring managers by title, location, industry, and other relevant criteria. You can also contact your existing network and ask for referrals from hiring managers they may know.
  2. Industry conferences and events: These events are an excellent opportunity to network with professionals in your industry and connect with highly-competent hiring managers.
  3. Staffing firms and recruitment agencies: They usually employ highly-competent hiring managers who can help you identify skilled candidates and streamline your hiring process.

Near is a premium staffing firm that can help you find candidates in less than 21 days. We have an extensive database of 15,000 candidates with diverse skill sets. 

If you’re an SMB or a growing start-up from the US looking to extend your workforce without breaking the bank, we guarantee to present cost-effective candidates who will operate in the US time zones and possess impeccable English communication skills. You don’t pay unless you make a hire. 

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Qualities of a good hiring manager

A good hiring manager must have strong leadership skills to inspire their hiring team and candidates, build trust with them, and facilitate transparent communication.

They should also know the ins & outs of recruitment practices and stay current with the latest trends to make informed decisions and ensure the recruitment process is efficient and effective. According to statistics, this can shorten the hiring cycle by 60% while improving quality.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the differences between a headhunter, recruiter, and hiring manager is vital for any business looking to hire top talent. A headhunter will help you find vetted candidates for executive-level positions. Recruiters, on the other hand, will help you fill multiple job openings across different industries. At the same time, a hiring manager will oversee the entire process and ensure your candidate is a good fit for the company.

Use the information we covered in this article to decide which option is the best for you to find the ideal candidate.

Or simply fill out our form, and we will present you with the best pre-screened candidates.

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