I am posting this to help non recruiters appreciate and understand the different forms of recruiting and their individual strengths and weaknesses. Also, for recruiters who have had a singular track, perhaps they could consider switching it up if they feel their strengths are better utilized in a different version of what they are already doing. I've been all of these and still learning. :)
The Junior Agency Recruiter
The Senior Agency Recruiter
*The "real" Headhunter
The Corporate Recruiter
The Executive Search Headhunter
Specialized Recruiter (IT, Finance, Accounting, etc.)
Contract Recruiters -Recruiter, Headhunter or Staffing Specialist. A recruiter’s primary objective is to meet the needs of his customer and introduce qualified candidates to close open positions. His/her customer can be a Manager, Director, Executive, Owner or other decision maker of a company with a job opening. The bottom line is to find the perfect candidate who has the appropriate skills, years of experience, education, and personality traits that are needed to get the job done and fit into the corporate culture.
There is a world of difference between your average recruiter and headhunter, the agency side of the business and the corporate side. Let’s be honest we all have our strengths and weaknesses no matter what we do. Let's clarify any misconceptions about what "recruiters" actually are and what we do.
Agency Recruiters - can also be called "Headhunters" if they actually go out and proactively hunt for talent rather then passively screen job applicants from postings. If what you do is troll job boards and/or wait for responses to postings, then you're at the start of a career that should evolve eventually out of that very rudimentary version of recruiting.
Now a days the two terms (recruiter and headhunter) are interchangeable but it's really not in my book (we'll get to that later). The strengths of a good agency or staffing firm recruiter is that they are quick/responsive, have access to specialized technology (ATS), resources, networks of contacts, and are prompt with follow up. The reason the client comes to us is that we specialize in identifying, qualifying, screening, and submitting highly qualified candidates for their needs in a relatively short period of time. We add value when we save time and energy for the client while submitting someone they didn't know existed that excites them. A good agency recruiter is highly service oriented and make the client feel as if he is the center of the recruiter’s universe. Eventually, a really great recruiter should build up a knowledge base and resources in a niche to not need the job boards. If you're not niche than you're always starting from zero.
Junior Agency Recruiters -Most agencies (especially the big ones), like to hire people with like 1-2 years of sales experience or straight out of college. They do this because what you learn in a sales environment is similar to how you need to perform in recruiting. Also, if you have too much experience, it becomes challenging to unteach you bad habits and retrain you into the way that they want you to perform (the recruiting agency). A college degree and 2 years of experience is ideal. Also, they don't have to pay you very much. The down side: Exactly what you get, a junior 2 year out of college grad who really doesn't know anything about the business world yet or the positions he's recruiting for. No wonder so many candidates get turned off by recruiters. Imagine the disparity in the quality of the conversation if on one end of the conversation is someone just fresh out of college and on the other end is an Oracle 10g RAC DBA or a Director of Finance and Accounting.
***My opinion --- THIS is where a lot of bad recruiters are today. The real problem is in training. It's not the college grad's fault that he/she just got out of school. As a matter of fact they are eager to learn and jump in the work force head on. A lot of companies do a very poor job in training their people which is a huge disservice to their clients, to the candidates, and ultimately to these poor recruiters who pick up really bad habits they have a hard time shaking later in their careers. The most important thing I find other then discipline and persistence is that recruiters need to truly appreciate and understand their role as a 'service provider'. Being "service oriented" has become a lost calling.
Headhunter - The term "Headhunter" is used to describe the most aggressive, specialized form of recruiter. This, to me, is playing at the highest levels of our field. It breaks all the rules yet preserves the essence by truly distilling all the knowledge of a good process and relationship building into something new and intangible. This is a high level of performance that requires resourcefulness and tact as well as pursuasiveness and an understanding of the niche industry one is recruiting in. To me, being called a "headhunter" is a privilege you have to earn.
At this level, the recruiter becomes a "headhunter" by going beyond merely the processes and transcending training. A true headhunter is imaginative and resourceful in locating top talent and introducing them to a fitting job opening. They thoughtfully engage in meaningful business conversations and about realities in life that play significantly into decisions about job opportunities. Sometimes headhunters get a bad rap because they are seen as evil deceitful sleezy types who bypass the receptionist at all costs even resorting to lies and suave to get to a candidate or hiring manager at a highly guarded company. The headhunter might pull away top talent which makes this company resent them for doing so. What people fail to realize is that there is another side to this coin. If that employee was treated fairly in the first place and paid what he deserved, he wouldn't have had a reason to leave. Obviously, the recruiter was working for a company that could offer something that the former employee wanted and felt he deserved but was not given. It's a win for the recruiter's client and hopefully a lesson for the company that lost that prized employee and obviously a win for the employee who found something better. This recruiter has had great training, practices best in class procedures and knows them but is beyond them.
As mentioned before, companies can either loathe or highly value "Headhunters" because what they do is a tremendously valuable service and extremely hard diligent work. They have to ferret out top talent, identify them, engage them in conversation and introduce a top performer from one organization and put him into another one which values and needs his skills. Does that sound easy to you? Maybe you should try it and find out for yourself. :P
A headhunter is a master of networking and cold calling with exceptional interpersonal skills and expert interpreter of body language, and other nuances of communication. He is a serious negotiator and truly a solutions provider. Asside from that he is methodical, organized, MUST manage his time well, and be very tenacious and have thick skin.
Corporate Recruiter - The strengths are in HR process, documentation and balancing a broad range of needs. The corporate recruiter has a specialized group/corporate culture that he supports. Over time he gets to really understand the nooks and crannies of his company culture. He also has to balance reporting, process enforcement, and mostly administrative tasks which slow recruitment but uphold a more controlled environment and process. The corporate recruiter sometimes uses agencies / staffing firms (mentioned above) to supplement his own efforts when the need arises. This is a different kind of role although the end goal is the same. Corporate recruiters of course need to ultimately make hires and close open positions.
Contract Recruiter - The contract recruiter is a temporary solution to execute often a sudden high level of demand. It's a great solution for companies often times because they want someone in-house to not only make hires but manage the process (much the same as the corporate recruiter), except that they usually only need his/her services for a limited duration. Also, a contract recruiter should be able to execute at a much higher level since his/her bread and butter is made in short spurts. I often like contract recruiters to sprinters where as corporate recruiters are marathon runners.
Technical or Specialized Recruiters - The niche recruiter is focused on a specific area of a profession. He might be an IT recruiter or perhaps a specialist within IT for dot.net developers or java developers or maybe BI technology. He might be a specialist within an industry vertical such as the internet or game space. Why someone decides to specialize is similar to any other field. Take Doctors, Lawyers, novelists, etc. Why does Stephen King write horror / thriller type books? Because he wants to. Why do some Doctors only want to do ankle and knee surgeries? The benefit of specializing is branding yourself as an expert in that field. Over time you will become exceedingly expert in that specific field. Think about it. If you had a heart attack would you want someone who has only done heart surgeries for the past 15 years or a generalist who has done 2 heart surgeries, 10 arm surgeries, 7 leg surgeries, and other stuff for the past 15 years? Enough said.
Executive Search Recruiters - These recruiters specialize in finding leadership members such as VP or C level executives such as CEO of corporations. Often they are retained (which means they get paid a fee up front for a dedicated effort and often at the back end as well when an actual hire is finally made). Since the time and energy put into searching individuals at this level is very specialized and demanding the fees make sense. These recruiters specialize in high level searches and often are former executives themselves with established networks.
Look, recruiters are just people who serve needs. It's a service. It's a job. It's very intensive, time consuming, and laborous (often working around the clock late into the midnight hours and early mornings to catch people on the East Coast). It's a thankless job at times since really everyone just wants results but hey....someone has to do it.