The Difference between Headhunters and Recruiters

Titles can be mis-leading as, like many companies, each recruitment firm has different definitions and responsibilities. What is more important, when dealing with a TPR (third party recruiter), is their relationship with the hiring company they are representing.

There are probably three main distinctive TPR's - retained, contingency and agency. The retained firm mostly works on more senior roles and is paid by the hiring company in installments as they move through the recruitment process. They are probably the most proactive in terms of researching who is who in business.

Contingency firms are only paid when they successfully introduce a new employee. Very often they are competing on the same positions with other contingency firms and therefore only expect to be successful on a percentage of positions they work on at any one time. Some contingency firms do have exclusive agreements with their clients for a period of time.

Finally agencies tend to work on more junior roles that can either be permanent or contract, they are working, quite often, to very tight deadlines because the client needs tend to be very immediate.

Recruiters at all levels are very often reluctant to disclose, at the early stages, who they are representing. This can be for reasons of confidentiality, but very often is because they do have the assignment exclusively and are concerned that other recruiters will find out about the vacancy and try to submit their own candidates.

Have you ever been asked the question by a recruiter – Who else have you interviewed with recently? They are not asking this question out of a total genuine interest in you job search, they also want to know if there are other similar vacancies that some of their other candidates are suitable for and can be submitted. You should certainly look to build a relationship with a good recruiter and when you get close to offer stage you need to keep them informed so that the right opportunity does not slip by you, however be cautious as to who and what you tell them in the early stages. I have all too often heard of recruiters calling companies that a candidate has recently interviewed with to ‘kill’ that candidate in the eyes of the hiring company in order to get their own candidates considered.

As for the relationship with their client any recruiter should be able to answer the following five questions;

Are you working on the position exclusively?
How long has it been open?
Why is the position open?
How long have you worked with this client?
What has been the profile of successful candidates that you have placed with this client?

If the answers are vague or not forthcoming you may be putting your effort in the wrong direction.