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What are headhunters and how can they help my job search?

What are headhunters

If you’ve ever looked for a job, you’ve probably come across the terms “recruiter”, “recruitment consultant”, “search consultant”, and “headhunter”.

Do you know the difference?

For the 90% of you who aren’t quite sure, this blog post is for you.

A recruiter can be internal or external. Internal recruiters usually sit within a company’s HR department, and help to find and interview potential employees. An external recruiter (also known as a recruitment consultant) typically works at an agency and helps multiple companies find talent.

Then we have headhunters, who may also be called search consultants. They tend to focus on more specialized roles. As this blog post is all about these types of recruiters, we’ll dive in and explore what they do in more detail below.

What’s a headhunter?

A headhunter, also known as an executive recruiter or search consultant, is a specialist hired by companies to identify, evaluate, and recruit top-tier candidates for specific positions.

Unlike traditional recruiters who often focus on filling a variety of roles, headhunters specialize in sourcing candidates for high-level executive or specialized roles.

Like a detective, they proactively seek out potential candidates through their extensive networks, industry knowledge, and targeted research, often approaching individuals who may not be actively looking for new opportunities.

Headhunters work on behalf of companies. They’re primarily concerned with finding the best match for a specific job opening.

Headhunters differ from recruiters in their approach and scope. Recruiters typically work on a broader range of positions and often rely on applicants who have actively applied for a job. In contrast, headhunters are more sleuth-like, seeking out passive candidates and approaching them with intriguing career opportunities.

How can headhunters help me?

Headhunters typically specialize in particular types of roles or industries. As they are usually brought in to recruit for hard-to-fill or very particular roles, their services are best suited for mid-to-senior level professionals and those who do specialized roles, for example C-Suite, department leaders, senior legal professionals, or niche technical roles.

These types of job seeker benefit from the personalized attention, industry insights, and exclusive access to unadvertised opportunities that headhunters bring to the job search process.

Here’s how headhunters add value to specialist job seekers:

  • Headhunters often have access to ‘hidden’ job opportunities that are not publicly advertised (in fact, with over 80% of jobs being unadvertised, headhunters are truly an amazing gateway to great roles). They can connect job seekers with exclusive openings in their network
  • Headhunters possess in-depth knowledge of specific industries and can provide valuable insights into market trends, salary expectations, and skill requirements. This information helps job seekers make informed decisions
  • Headhunters can offer guidance on optimizing resumes to make them more appealing to employers. They understand what employers look for and can help tailor resumes to match the requirements of specific roles
  • Headhunters can assist job seekers in preparing for interviews by providing information about the company culture, interview format, and the expectations of the hiring manager
  • When a job offer is extended, headhunters can provide guidance on salary negotiations and benefits. They have knowledge of industry standards and can help job seekers secure favorable terms
  • Headhunters often have an extensive professional network. By connecting with them, job seekers can tap into these networks, increasing their chances of finding relevant job opportunities
  • Headhunters can offer career advice and guidance based on their understanding of the job market. They may suggest paths for career growth and development based on the individual’s skills and aspirations
  • If a job seeker is not selected for a particular role, headhunters can provide constructive feedback from the employer. This feedback can be invaluable for improvement in future interviews and applications
  • Headhunters can conduct a confidential job search for individuals who prefer to keep their job search discreet. This is particularly beneficial for those currently employed but seeking new opportunities

How do I approach and interact with headhunters?

So now that we’re clear about the benefits that headhunters can bring to specialist professionals, here are some tips in return when dealing with headhunters:

  1. When searching for a headhunter, don’t spam. Take the time to research headhunters that focus on target location, industry, and job type (for example, check out our pre-vetted headhunter listings at www.jobleads.com). Send a personalized message to your shortlist and explain clearly why you’ve approached them and what you’re looking for
  2. Before engaging with a headhunter, research their reputation and success rate
  3. Clearly articulate your career goals, skills, and preferences from the start. This helps headhunters match you with positions that align with your objectives
  4. Provide honest and detailed information about your professional background, including any gaps or changes in employment. This transparency builds trust (remember, their reputation is always on the line, as they specialize in more high-risk assignment)
  5. Keep your resume updated and tailored to highlight relevant skills and experiences. Ensure every detail is factual. This makes it easier for headhunters to pitch you to potential employers
  6. Familiarize yourself with the headhunting process. Know how they operate, the industries they specialize in, and the types of roles they typically fill
  7. Respond promptly to headhunters’ inquiries and requests. This shows that you are engaged and serious about the opportunities they present
  8. Remember: headhunters work on behalf of employers, not you (companies pay them). But their goal is to find the best fit for both parties. Be open to exploring opportunities even if they differ slightly from your initial expectations. Trust headhunters’ experience and insights
  9. If an offer is extended, negotiate thoughtfully. Headhunters can provide insights into industry standards, but it’s crucial to be well-informed and assertive in negotiating your terms
  10. Treat headhunters with professionalism and respect. Even if a particular opportunity doesn’t work out, maintaining a positive relationship can lead to future collaborations or recommendations


If you’re a senior or specialist professional, then headhunters can be your golden ticket to an incredible new job.

For those of you who are not yet at that stage of your career, we suggest an alternative approach: recruitment consultancies. External recruiters typically recruit from entry-level through to senior-level in a wide variety of industries. Do an internet search to discover great recruiters in your location and area of specialization (and, as with headhunters, always research their reviews and success rates to ensure they’re the right fit for you).

Whether you opt for a headhunter or recruitment consultancy, these specialized recruiters are a fabulous source of job opportunities that may not be advertised elsewhere.

If you want to learn more about the do’s & don’ts of headhunters, check out our online training which will teach you all you need to know.

Online Training - Gaining access to headhunters

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Key takeaways

  1. Recruiters, recruitment consultants, executive recruiters, and headhunters are different terms for professionals who assist in the hiring process, each with specific roles and focuses
  2. Headhunters, also known as executive recruiters or search consultants, specialize in identifying, evaluating, and recruiting top-tier candidates for specific, often high-level, roles
  3. Headhunters sleuth out potential candidates through extensive networks and targeted research, approaching individuals who may not actively be seeking new opportunities
  4. Headhunters offer valuable services including access to hidden job opportunities, in-depth industry knowledge, resume optimization guidance, interview preparation, salary negotiation assistance, constructive feedback, and more
  5. Headhunters can conduct confidential job searches for professionals who prefer discretion, particularly beneficial for those currently employed but seeking new opportunities
  6. When approaching potential headhunters, avoid spamming them. Research their reputation, articulate career goals clearly, provide honest professional information, and respond promptly to their inquiries

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