What Is Headhunting & How Does It Work?

With a record number of vacancies being posted, it can be difficult for companies to ensure they are attracting the top candidates when advertising job roles. Headhunting can help companies expand their search and attract the best talent, so today in this article we are going to give you the rundown of what exactly headhunting is and how it works.

Key Takeaways

  1. Headhunting allows companies to attract passive candidates who otherwise may not have applied for a role
  2. This allows organisations to target the top talent within their sector
  3. A head-hunter will usually research and target the most relevant individuals and work to create a short list of candidates

What Is Headhunting?

Headhunting, which is often referred to as an executive search, is the process of sourcing the best possible candidate for a position. This means identifying and targeting high level employees for a role that usually has significant importance for an organisation.

Companies will use external Head-hunters to fill specialised or technical positions and they will usually focus on professionals who are currently employed and not actively looking for a new role. These ‘passive candidates’ allow organisations to attract a wider sample of candidates and ensure they are getting the best possible people for the role.

Headhunter Image


What Is The Difference Between Recruitment and Headhunting?

Headhunting and recruitment essentially use different tactics to product the same result. Similar to the principles of inbound and outbound marketing, one relies on people coming to you while the other has a more pro-active approach.

Recruitment is the process of finding the best candidates through engaging with people who are actively seeking a new role. Most of these candidates will apply via a job advert which could be written internally or by an external recruitment company.

Headhunting is the process of finding the best possible candidates by targeting those who are not actively seeking a new role, but that match the companies’ requirements. Headhunting is usually more suitable for hard to fill positions as it involves a much more targeted focus.

Headhunting will usually cost more than standard recruitment as head-hunters have to take additional measures to identify and target passive candidates which is not achieved through standard recruitment.

Standard recruitment is common practice for most companies and is used for the majority of open roles. This more reactive method is ideal for easier to fill positions that would attract a large pool of candidates.


How Does Headhunting Work?

Create The Brief

Usually, a Head-hunter will start the process by getting a detailed brief from the client in terms of what they are looking for. They will run through minimum skills and experience and any other specific factors that would need to be considered. A job description is often created to help guide the headhunting effort and to share with any potential candidates that are identified.


Identify Candidates

The Head-hunter will then perform a detailed search to identify potential candidates who would fit the bill. They will create a shortlist of suitable candidates and may also gather candidates from active job seekers at the same time. Head-hunters may work differently but at this stage most will either run a short list by the hiring manager or directly engage with the candidates to further qualify them.


Set Up Interviews

Once the list of potential candidates has been created, either the Head-hunter will carry out an initial screening call or they will set up a personal introduction to the hiring manager and help set up the interview process.


Make An Offer

Once the internal interview process has been followed and the best candidate decided on, it is time to make an offer. This could either be done through the company directly, or via the Head-hunter.

Final Thoughts

There are a number of differences between traditional recruitment and headhunting with job adverts providing a much large group of candidates but headhunting bringing you a more targeted, higher quality group of candidates.

Next week we will look at the Top 10 Tips For Headhunting, followed by a more detailed look at the advantages and disadvantages of Headhunting.


If you are looking to attract the top talent, then ecruit can help you recruit top performers at a fraction of the cost of traditional agencies.

From writing optimised job descriptions, listing on the top job boards and managing your applicants, ecruit saves you time and money while recruiting the top candidates across your sector.

Our fixed price Head-hunter service also offers fantastic value, allowing you to attract the very best talent in your sector without the huge commission costs of traditional recruitment agencies.

Book a 5 minute demo with our team to find out more.

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