A recruiter, a headhunter, and a staffing firm… three terms constantly used interchangeably. Did you know there is a difference? Believe it or not, there is a big difference!

Don’t worry if you aren’t sure what it is. There are people with years of experience in the staffing industry that don’t even know. However, if you run a business or do any hiring it’s important information to have.

Understanding the roles of a recruiter, headhunter, and staffing firm can improve the way you hire. It can mean the difference between getting the job done and knocking it out of the park.


A recruiter works internally and takes on the role of being the face of the company. The first person a candidate will interact with and meet. Their job is typically to manage full cycle recruiting, employment branding, employee referral programs, and university relations. A good recruiter becomes a hiring manager’s right hand. Their job is to know the business while attracting and identifying the best candidates.Seems easy enough, right?! Here’s where it gets tricky. A recruiter can also work externally for a…

Staffing Firm or Generalist Recruiting Firm

A staffing firm is an external business partner to the employer. They typically handle high volume, hourly openings. The best partnerships occur when an employer has a large event to staff, a call center with high turnover, or manual labor needs. However, there are times they will ask to assist on salaried openings. They will pitch a candidate or tell you they can find one for you. Here’s what you need to know. They don’t specialize here. To find that candidate they are going to do exactly what your internal recruiter will do… post to a job board or search LinkedIn.In today’s world, that’s just not enough. Luckily, you have another option…


A good headhunter is a strategic recruiting partner. Think of them as a strategist. Someone you may ask to join a board meeting to discuss your talent and recruiting strategy. They work externally and focus all their time on building a network of strong talent within a specific niche. Many of their candidates are passive, waiting for the headhunter to bring them strong career opportunities.The biggest difference is, a headhunter is a strategist, someone who does a full analysis and market intelligence sweep before going out to the market with your opportunity. A good headhunter will not sit back and wait for the right candidate to fall into their lap, they have the tools to go out and find them. Heavy cold calling, networking, and researching are some of their strongest skills. Give them a list of companies and position titles you’d like to talk to, they go find (and contact) them.This active approach to recruiting increases the value of your talent pool dramatically giving you a better quality of hire. Who doesn’t want a business partner that can do that?

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