definition of “headhunter”:


1.headhunter – a recruiter of personnel (especially for corporations)
2.headhunter – a savage who cuts off and preserves the heads of enemies as trophies

There is sometimes a negative public perception of Recruiters aka “headhunters” and confusion over what they do. Every day I am asked questions like, “What exactly is it your company does? Do you take a cut of my salary? How does this process work?” We gathered our recruiters in a room and asked them what needs to change about the headhunting business. Here is what they said.

1.Treat People Like People

“Too many firms, especially those with specialized contract teams, post fake jobs and bring in candidates for interviews for roles that don’t exist. They are simply trying to maintain an active book of candidates for when a role does come live, so they can react quickly for their clients.   I have had many candidates complain about this in the past and I understand their frustration.”

– Jason Laing, Accounting & Finance Recruiter

People are not commodities and career decisions are not trivial. As trusted career advisors, recruiters are giving advice that affects peoples’ livelihood and they should not take that lightly, Get back to people, give honest feedback, and be honest in general.

2. Manage Expectations

“What needs to change? Simple. Recruiters must stop over-promising and under-delivering when it comes to client expectations”.

– Rhys Metler, Director, Client Services, Sales Recruiter


While it’s tempting to present a best-case scenario to win business, it’s important to be realistic and manage expectations. Clients and candidates wind up unsatisfied when they’re sold overblown expectations with under-delivery of results.

3. Talk Less, Listen More

“There is a very different energy when we come from a place of trying to sell our services or candidate opportunities as opposed to when we focus on the discovery of what is meaningful to the client or candidate, in addition to sharing; full transparency, nothing slick, and with complete self-awareness.”

The distinction between selling vs. sharing is subtle, but the intentions behind each are vastly different and allow for a similar or even broader outcome… and likely initiates a more solid foundation built on trust. If they aren’t interested in what you are offering today, you’ve left the door open for their comfortable return when the timing is better.”

– Christine Taylor, Internal Recruiter


Doing more talking than listening with clients or candidates can decrease trust and definitely produces poor results. To truly understand what someone is looking for from either perspective, asking good questions and really listening to the answers is imperative.

4. Regulation

“The executive search and recruitment industry needs registration and regulation for accountability to protect the standards and professionalism of the service that our clients deserve. The industry has a bad reputation due to the fact that there are not any barriers to entry for anyone interested in starting their own firm and calling themselves an executive search firm or recruitment firm and there is not anyone to enforce any standards.”

– Ross Campbell, VP & Practice Lead, Financial Services Recruiter


As in any industry, there are good and bad players and unfortunately they are cast under the same proverbial net. Ideally there would be a regulatory body to protect against the few “bad apples” out there, and maybe in the future there will be.

In the meantime, there are a few things we can do to help improve the recruiting industry’s reputation. Recruiters can and should prove sceptics wrong by focusing on the experience as much as the outcome of a search. Follow “the golden rule” with candidates, manage client expectations, and do more listening than talking.

IQ PARTNERS helps companies hire better, hire less & retain. 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.

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