What Is A Headhunter? (& The 5 Types That May Be Calling You)


by Rhys Metler, Toronto Sales Recruiter

Your phone rings and the person calling says they’re a headhunter. Or a recruiter. That’s great, because recruiters (aka headhunters) are people who help source candidates for employment in companies and, if you’re looking for a new job or would consider leaving where you are for a better opportunity then this is the call you want to get. But, it’s important to know what kind of recruiter they are. There is a difference.

Here’s a quick overview of the 5 different types of recruiters you may encounter in your career:

Search Firms/External Recruiters

Search firms are hired by organizations to find employees for them. They earn income either on a retainer or when they place a candidate. Search firms split into two main types of agencies: Contingency and Retained Recruiters.

Some companies, such as IQ Partners, work as both contingency and retained recruiters, depending upon the needs of the company we’re doing the search for.

1. Contingency Recruiter

When a job candidate gets hired, the recruiter gets paid. That’s how it works for Contingency Recruiters. Their fee is “contingent” upon one of their candidates being successfully hired. So if a Contingency Recruiter gets you a job, he or she is paid either a flat fee or a percentage of your first year’s salary by the company that hired you. Normally, you don’t have to pay a fee.

Remember, recruiters are NOT working for you – they work for the client with the job opening. However, if you’re a strong candidate and the right fit for the position, then they’ll work hard to get you in the door.

2. Retained Recruiter

A retained recruiter has an exclusive relationship with an employer. They are hired for a specific period of time to find a candidate for a job, generally for senior-level positions in a company or for positions that are difficult to fill. They are paid expenses, plus a percentage of the employee’s salary, regardless of whether the candidate is hired. As a jobseeker, you don’t have to pay a fee. Retained recruiters work very closely with the client to find the best person for the job with exactly the right skill set and experience.


Recruiter Calling

3. Corporate Recruiters

Corporate Recruiters work in-house for a company’s HR department and are paid a salary and benefits just like any other employee. They often have titles such as HR Manager or Hiring Manager. Their job is to find new employees for the company they work for – usually large companies with a lot of hiring needs.

4. Temporary / Contract Staffing Agency

Temporary (temp) agencies find employees to fill temporary jobs for their clients. Temps are often hired when companies have rush, short-term projects, for seasonal increases in business, or to cover vacations or illnesses. When a temp agency places you in a position, they pay all your wages, taxes, insurance and benefits and charge the employer an hourly rate for your time. Many temp agencies are set up so that if an employer wants to hire a candidate full-time who’s worked for them as a temp, the agency can handle that as well.

5. Outplacement Agency

If you lose your job because you were downsized by your company, you may be referred to an Outplacement Agency. Many times the employer will hire an outplacement company to help their recently downsized workforce find jobs. Outplacement agencies provide career counselling, along with assistance on resume writing, interviewing skills, and job hunting. Once again, there is no fee to you as a jobseeker.

What type of recruiter is best for you really depends upon your job search situation. For other tips about search firms, check out “Top 5 Myths About Headhunters/Recruiters” in our blog section Dealing with a Headhunter.

IQ PARTNERS is a Recruitment Agency with offices in Toronto, Montreal & Vancouver, We help companies hire better, hire less & retain more. Our recruiters specialize in Marketing, Communications, Consumer Goods & Services, Retail, Sales, Technology, Finance & Accounting, Financial Services, Life Sciences, HR & Operations, and Construction, Property & Real Estate. IQ PARTNERS has its head office in Toronto and operates internationally via Aravati Global Search Network. Click here to view current job openings and to register with us.