Head Hunter definition

What is a head hunter?

Head hunting, also referred to as executive search, is the method of recruiting individuals for senior positions in companies. This process may be carried out by HR executives, an organisation’s board of directors or by external recruitment representatives known as head hunters. There are some major similarities between head hunters and recruiters. One of the most fundamental differences is that when a candidate is approached by a head hunter they are in the position of being pre-selected for a certain role. Take a look below at how head hunters and recruiters differ.

The Difference Between Head Hunters and Recruiters

  1. Recruiters either advertise jobs and wait for potential candidates to contact them or they approach a wide pool of candidates. On the other hand, head hunters only approach a small number of potential candidates who fit the particular brief. A recruitment company uses a reactive search strategy and advertises through social media, job portals and CV collection databases and they are then approached by people actively seeking for jobs. Head hunters use a more proactive method as they are the ones approaching. After head hunters have received a client brief outlining the perfect fit, they scour the entire industry. This may be realised through their contacts, referrals or word-of-mouth. This is how they can recruit hard-to-find candidates who aren’t looking or networking for new job opportunities.
  2. Recruiters try to match their existing network of candidates to roles, sometimes despite them not having the specific skills or matching the sector, whereas head hunters focus more on the specifications of the role, and then hunt for the right candidate to fill it.
  3. Recruiters usually serve clients and candidates fairly. However, head hunters are more inclined to focus on fulfilling the brief outlined by their client.
  4. Head hunters are more likely to specialise in one sector of an industry, due to the head hunting practice valuing specific industry knowledge of their client’s target market. This isn’t so important in the standard recruitment process.
  5. Recruiters tend to recruit for lower-level roles that are less specialised and also for multiple roles at once, whilst head hunters recruit for candidates to fill positions that are more unique and technical. These sorts of positions are also often revenue-generating, at a senior level, confidential or hard to fill.

With this being said, both head hunters and recruiters can successfully match individuals to jobs, so employers can decide what method is best suited to them. For example, head hunters might be a better option for an employer who has a vacancy at a high level that is proving hard to fill, or if someone is currently employed somewhere else and not actively on the lookout for a career change.

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What makes a good head hunter?

  • They should have an in-depth understanding of different industries and job roles.
  • They should have excellent people skills.
  • They should be able to spot emerging talent.
  • They should be passionate, driven and persistent.
  • They should be great analysers of job profiles and identifiers of other people’s skills.
  • They should tell potential candidates ahead of time that they are well-suited to a role based on their experience and skills set.
  • They shouldn’t ask potential candidates what their past or current salary is. Instead, they should inform them of the opportunity’s salary range and ask if that suits them.
  • They should be well-informed of potential candidates’ backgrounds before they contact them. If they are unprepared, they may try to interview candidates and find out more about their background on the phone.
  • They should be easily reachable and communicate in a professional manner. It isn’t a good sign if they talk too fast, are too demanding or are hard to reach.

Who can become a head hunter?

There isn’t any licensing necessary in order to become a recruiter or a head hunter, therefore it’s possible that anyone can become one. There is competition between less-credible recruiters and reputable ones with large pools of potential candidates and clients. They will most likely operate in a similar way, for example, targeting potential clients through LinkedIn, and unsolicited emails or calls.

What does the job entail?

In order to be a successful head-hunter, having good research skills is a must as you need to understand what the client is looking for and find the right client for the job. You will be communicating with clients and whoever you think may fit the role, negotiating fees and salaries between the client and the potential candidate and then interviewing the most promising ones. You may be dealing with temporary or permanent job roles at all levels and in a number of sectors. The majority of head hunters are employed by job agencies and work 9-6, Monday to Friday. Often, individuals start off by working in a certain industry and once they are familiar with the ins and outs of it, they become head hunters for that sector. They can then scour for talent using a pre-existing collection of contacts. The job will mainly be desk-based but travel may be necessary in order to find the best match for the client. For this reason, some jobs will ask that you have a driving licence.

How are head hunters paid?

Head hunters only make money when they successfully place a candidate in a job. They are usually retained by a company to find the right candidates for certain roles, but they can also work independently on a contingency basis, where they don’t get paid unless their candidate is hired. The standard fee is between 20 and 30 percent of the successful candidate’s first year salary.

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