Recruiting 101: What Is A Headhunter?

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What is a headhunter?

What is a headhunter?

A headhunter is a recruiter who approaches and recruits already-employed people. Their target candidates are usually very skilled or experienced and highly desired by employers. The practice of headhunting is also called executive search because the candidates are often pursued for executive-level positions.

Headhunters typically work for employers on a freelance contract or through a recruitment agency. The services are usually provided on a retained (paying a predefined fee in advance) or contingency basis.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term headhunter originated around the year 1800 as a reference to someone who collects the heads of dead enemies as trophies – yikes! The modern meaning dates to the 1960s.

How do headhunters work?

The practice of headhunting is often misunderstood. Headhunters do not seek to find employment for individuals. Instead, they work for employers and seek to find an exact match for a job in the organization.

To accomplish this task, headhunters use a variety of tactics including:

  • Analyzing the job description to understand the role’s requirements
  • Sourcing potential candidates by searching through contact lists, databases, social media and the web
  • Approaching qualified individuals to see if they are interested in the role
  • Screening interested candidates to verify their qualifications and establish a match to the position

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