>>Headhunting vs Traditional Recruitment

Headhunting vs Traditional Recruitment

When it comes to recruiting, there is no “one size fits all.” The different methods of recruitment – job postings, referrals, agencies, etc – all have a time and a place, and are often used in conjunction to get the best possible candidates in the shortest possible amount of time.

That being said, we’re quite partial to using agencies – particularly if you have a hard-to-fill position, a position that needs to be filled quickly, and/or a confidential search. With that in mind, we just came across the following infographic comparing headhunting to traditional recruitment and couldn’t help but share it:

While we’re obviously biased, we do have our own opinion on the topics listed:


While we’re not sure that headhunting is necessarily less costly than traditional recruitment, the infographic makes a good point that an in-house team can be expensive when you add up the salaries and benefits.

In an Undercover Recruiter post titled, “How much does a no recruiters policy cost you?,” the author recounts how much time is saved by using an experienced headhunter, and comes to the conclusion that it’s only a little bit more expensive than if you had made the hire on your own (granted, he is comparing his expertise to a hiring manager rather than a recruiter – but the main point still stands).

The author also brings to light that no fee is paid if the candidate doesn’t accept the offer, and that the fee is refundable if the candidate leaves before a pre-negotiated amount of time. For in-house hires, on the other hand, that money is just gone.

So, it’s entirely possible that headhunters cost around the same as making the hire in-house – but most companies work with headhunters because of their value, not their cost.


Time is a major reason companies use headhunters: while they may find their perfect candidate within an hour of posting a job or asking for referrals, it certainly helps to have a headhunter (or three headhunters) proactively sourcing at the same time.

Specialized headhunters, in particular, focus on one type of candidate or industry and know where to hunt for them and how to approach them – increasing your chances of finding that star candidate sooner. They also just may have that perfect candidate in their back pocket, just waiting for your requisition.

Headhunters can give you access to a new pool of candidates that you couldn’t find on your own, helping you fill your position faster instead of waiting around for candidates to come out of hiding.


Screening time is a huge advantage of using a headhunter, because you only see the best of the best. While a traditional process may yield several hundred applicants, 20 phone screens, 10 interviews, and maybe a hire, a headhunter may only need to send you 5 candidates to find a successful hire – because they will be highly qualified.

While your headhunter may miss the mark on the first round of candidates, a good recruiter will have a 20-30% interview rate (see more headhunter performance benchmarks). Can you say that about your other recruitment channels? Probably not, because headhunting is a much more targeted approach, designed to yield a higher quality of candidates – so less will need to be screened out.


While I think we all know that a headhunter’s candidates aren’t necessarily “as good as hired,” establishing a great relationship with a headhunter can actually help you reach that point.

Many companies treat their headhunters like partners, communicating their job requirements and company culture, and providing feedback on candidate submissions. Headhunters aren’t mind readers, so you need to put the time in to help them fine tune their approach – but it can pay off in a big way. Over time, a headhunter can act as an extension of your company and provide the exact candidates you’re looking for.

By |2017-08-03T05:28:00+00:00February 6th, 2015|Categories: Talent Acquisition Trends|Comments Off on Headhunting vs Traditional Recruitment

About the Author:

Jen Dewar is a marketing consultant in the HR technology space with a focus on developing educational content for recruiters, corporate HR professionals, and staffing agency owners. She has spent the past 10 years working with a wide variety of companies — from corporate marketing for healthcare organizations and recruitment firms, to startup marketing for both Identified and Bright.com, prior to their respective acquisitions. When she's not doing marketing, you can find Jen snowboarding in Tahoe with her husband, traveling abroad, or enjoying a night in with friends and a good bottle of wine. She's a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a degree in Socio-Economic and Political Global Studies.