The Difference Between a Headhunter and A Corporate Recruiter – And Why You Care

The Difference Between Headhunters and Corporate Recruiters

Recruiters usually come in two flavors: those that are employed directly by the company and those that work for a placement shop or are a free agent. We call the former ‘Corporate Recruiters’ and while the latter call themselves variations of the same thing many of us refer to them simply as ‘Headhunters.’ The difference between the two is what motivates them. Headhunters work for commission. When they successfully connect a candidate to a hiring company they are rewarded by the hiring company in the range of four to five figures. The best headhunters make far more.


When headhunters sincerely care about connecting your interests with a company’s needs it is a wonderful thing. There are many good people making this kind of effort. But when they are overly preoccupied with their commission they are no different than any other hack out to make a buck. If they’re pushy or aggressive there’s a good chance you’re dealing with the latter. You probably won’t run into a Headhunter at a college fair because they tend to deal with experienced professionals. Having said that, I have run into a couple on campus and you might, too, so I want you to understand the dynamic if it comes into play. The danger, if that’s even the right word, is that you could end up shoe-horned with a company that met the headhunter’s needs over your own. We don’t want that to happen.

♣ Ray’s Tip: When talking to a Headhunter, turn the tables on her. Ask why she thinks the company will be a good fit for you!

Corporate Recruiters

Somewhere between 99 to 100 percent of the recruiters you will meet are the true corporate types. Corporate Recruiters collect a salary and have a boss at the company where you hope to work. The rise and fall of their career is predicated on their ability to identify good people like you. The corporate recruiter is almost never the hiring manager. They are a filter, a pre-screener, and their role is to filter out the very best candidates to create a short list for the hiring manager to select for interviews. Depending on the size of the job fair they may collect dozens or even hundreds of resumes to potentially fill a few positions. So they have an eagle-eye for what they perceive as the best and brightest matches and, by necessity, are quick to discard the rest because they can’t very well go back to the hiring manager and say “Look, I met four hundred people, I’m sure there’s somebody in there…have fun with that.”



– Work for commission

– Less likely to find at a college job fair

– Are rewarded for finding you; not making you happy

Corporate Recruiters

– Work for a set salary

– Filter applicants for the hiring manager

– Meet a ton of people every week

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