Headhunters vs. Recruitment Agencies – Which is the Best for Executive Level Jobs?

Definitive Guide To A Headhunter
The Definitive Guide to what is a Headhunter
December 14, 2017

Headhunters vs. Recruitment Agencies – Which is the Best for Executive Level Jobs?

Headhunters Vs Recruiters - Best For Jobs

Executive level jobs are notoriously hard to fill. You may be able to get a wealth of candidates, but finding that one ideal candidate that helps your business to grow, excel and thrive can be a tall order. As such, companies typically turn to headhunters or recruitment agencies for filling their executive level jobs. But which is best? And why?

The Nature of the Beast

Executive level jobs are a little less ‘run of the mill’ and clearly defined when it comes to recruitment. Take an administrative role, for example, and you’ll usually be able to draw up a very clear job specification that will entail a tick list for a candidate search. This may include easily quantifiable skills such as knowledge of a computer system. As such, candidates for these positions are generally much easier to come by, and the role can be filled by any one of a number of suitable applicants.

Executive level jobs are much harder to quantify. Yes, you’re likely to want someone with a specific set of skills – that’s a given. However, it’s what you want above and beyond this which makes recruitment so complex. Many of these additional attributes are less quantifiable. For example, you may want to know how they have directly contributed to cost-savings in previous roles. Or, you may want to know that they are a skilled negotiator. These performances and proven capabilities are rarely listed neatly in a CV of a candidate sitting ready and waiting for your vacancy the moment it appears.

Hence, businesses frequently turn to recruiters and headhunters for executive level jobs. But they aren’t one and the same thing.

Candidate vs. Employer Focus

Recruitment agencies are, in many ways, the conduit between the candidate and the employer. This is why they can be used for a vast range of types and levels of jobs. Both the candidate and the employer can and do approach a recruitment agency with near equal status – they all need each other. However, this does result in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to recruitment. This is fine in many scenarios.

On the other hand, a headhunter is dedicated to executive level jobs and is committed to the employer primarily. This means that instead of a generic recruitment approach, you can expect one that is highly tailored to your individual business needs. In fact, a good headhunter is so focused on the role and the organisation itself that you often find that through their process of coming to understand the employer and the role, they uncover very specific competencies that the employer may have been unaware of.

Passive vs. Active Candidates

A successful recruitment agency has one major weapon in its arsenal: a well-populated database. This database acts as the matching tool between a large number of candidates currently on the look-out for a new role, and a large number of employers looking to fill their vacancies. These candidates are what we call ‘active’ – they are actively looking for new employment.

A headhunter won’t rely on targeting the active marketplace. Instead, they recognise that for executive level jobs the best candidates are rarely sat by the phone with their CV updated. Instead, these individuals are part of a pool of ‘passive’ candidates – they aren’t currently looking for new employment. However, they will be in roles where they are actively already displaying the skills and attributes you are seeking.

Research vs. Numbers

There are then some further differences between recruitment agencies and headhunters which will help you decide which is best for filling your executive level vacancies.

Recruitment agencies will use a system of profiling. It’s what makes it possible to break an application down into a set of numbers that works in a database. This allows one candidate to quickly and easily be compared with another, which is then compared with the role.

Headhunters put the onus on research and networking instead. It’s not a numbers game, but an evidence-based one. By getting to know the position to be filled, and the company intimately, they are able to take a highly targeted approach that will vary from one role to another – all in the quest of finding that one candidate that will deliver what you need.

Headhunters vs. Recruitment Agencies

Therefore, whether you will be best served by a headhunter or a recruitment agency will depend on the type of position you are looking to fill. For higher level or complex executive level jobs then an executive headhunter is your solution.

To see how we are eagle-eyed for your talent call us on 0203 582 2663.