The Differences between Headhunting and Recruitment

In today’s business landscape, hiring processes interchangeably use several terms and methods. For example, headhunting, recruiting, and staffing produce the same result: filling a job. However, they use different tactics to achieve this result without employing a career skills assessment. 

Understanding the nuances of the hiring process can help you better navigate your job search when you work with a recruiter, either directly or indirectly. In this article, we’ll define headhunting and staffing, describe how they differ, and explain how headhunting works.


A headhunter searches for the best employee for a position. In most cases, businesses rely on a headhunter to find high-level employees or a company’s “head,” like a chief executive officer. 

Headhunters usually work for an agency hired to fill specialized or technical positions for companies. They approach passive candidates—leaders in their field or industry—and entice them with an offer to leave their current work.


Recruiting, on the other hand, is the process of finding the best possible candidate for a position through engaging with those who are open to switching jobs or actively seeking employment. They might apply directly for the work, or the recruiter might speak with them at a job fair or meet them in person through a professional contact. 

Those seeking employment might find it through an online job search rather than the recruiter finding them. An agency or employees within the company with open positions can hire recruiters. 

While we will look at the differences between headhunting and recruitment, both must require a career skills assessment since the applicant’s work history is a deciding factor.

The Significant Differences between Headhunting and Recruitment

While their purposes are to fill a job opening, their methodologies vary significantly, as seen below:

Headhunting is often employed for hard-to-fill, top-level positions. When companies use headhunters, the process tends to differ from traditional recruiting in some critical ways:

  • When businesses need to fill high-level positions in the C-suite or equivalent, they rarely search within their own company's ranks. 
  • Instead, they use a headhunting strategy to identify candidates externally. They rely on personal connections, professional networks, and competitive company research to identify potential employees.

The process is more costly than recruitment, as headhunters must go through several additional steps to find suitable candidates. If successful, headhunter clients benefit from decreased turnover, greater employee satisfaction, and higher returns on investment.

On the other hand, recruitment is the simplest way of hiring a potential candidate for a work position below the executive level. HR practitioners achieve these through:

  • Working with professionals who are looking for positions in a different company. Recruiters often post job positions online and attend career fairs to scout prospects.
  • Using a recruitment strategy to fill the majority of their open roles. Other companies use recruiters to fill even their executive-level positions in sporadic cases.
  • Employing a “reactive” method to select candidates since potential candidates typically seek them out. To find their candidates, they post job descriptions on job boards that can be accessed online and collect applications from interested potential employees.

Therefore, the cost of recruiting people for a job can be less than the cost of headhunting for those same positions. Active applicants are those who have already applied for a position, so recruiters do not need to spend as much effort on research as they would if they were looking for candidates who had not applied.

Use the Right Employment Strategy with a Career Skills Assessment

When hiring for positions below the executive level, go through your very own HR department to find the right people on job fairs and online sources. But when you need a new CEO or COO, go through headhunters. The right employment strategy will save time, money, and effort and reap the best benefits for your company in the end.

But if you want an extra layer of hiring security to ensure only the perfect candidates become part of your team, collaborate with Kandio today! We are a curated skill-testing marketplace with career skills assessment tests made by the world's top 0.1 percent, so our clients hire tried-and-tested employees. Try us for free right now!

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