Have you ever encountered a situation where you’ve received a call from a personnel agency where they’ve introduced themselves as a recruiter; possibly they did a brief assessment of your current situation? Maybe they asked a few relevant questions about your skills and after some time possibly you were offered a job. It could be that the job was right for you or maybe it wasn’t?

But were they really a recruiter? Maybe they were just someone who found your resume on a job portal. Is there a chance that maybe they didn’t really understand your current job or what you do exactly.

There are many people working at personal agencies referring to themselves as Recruiters, Headhunters or Talent Acquisition Consultants. But the question is… are they really?


The definition of a headhunter is as follows:
“Headhunter, also called an executive recruiter: An individual, or corporation that provides employment-recruiting services. A headhunter is hired by companies to find talent, and to locate skilled individuals who meet specific job requirements. Headhunters may have a pool of potential candidates for specific positions, or may aggressively search to find talent by looking at competitors’ employees.”

Oxford dictionary says:
“Headhunter: An individual who identifies and approaches suitable candidates employed elsewhere to fill job positions.”


A recruiter is someone who solicits individuals to fill a specific job position. Recruiters will often work for an organisation’s HR department. Other Recruiters could also work for recruitment / personal agencies, and could therefore often work for multiple organisations at once.


There are many definitions and understandings of a sourcer, also called a “researcher”. It’s an entry-level position at an agency /company, where the sourcer uses different keywords to search (Boolean search) for talent and are trying to match the skills to the job requirements. In this sense, a recruiter is a professional who drives the talent strategy, in a way that adds value to the client.
While a sourcer does research and prescreening of active or passive candidates, a recruiter's role is in trying to get a candidates’ interest and to gain their trust, whilst learning additional details about what skills the candidate has to offer. A recruiter often takes care of the whole candidate management process and actively goes out there and meets face to face with potential candidates / clients etc…

A sourcer will not usually deal directly with a client, whereas a recruiter will manage the whole interviewing process and can assist management (on the client side) to make the process more effective and efficient.

What do these definitions really mean?

A recruiter working for a company internally could be part of a human resource team, or they could be working for a recruitment / job agency filling the jobs for their clients as an external supplier. There are many recruiters out there calling themselves “headhunters”, but do they know what this really means?

During the last few years, there has been an enormous growth in recruitment agencies, also known as personnel agencies. It seems many of these agencies exist as just another filter for job portals. All these types of agencies do is spam candidates with both relevant and irrelevant job offers and a lot of them concentrate on quantity, rather than quality. This is why they are often described as “shooters”. Instead of trying to understand a client and candidates’ preferences, they are just filtering resumes and shooting them through to their client’s inboxes. Even if a client is not very satisfied with the quality of their work, they will often keep them as a suppliers, just because they send relevant CV’s through “time-to-time” (usually one out of 10 to 15 presented resumes match the required role).

These kinds of agencies are also known as “forwarding agency”. They forward 100+ resumes, but successfully place a meagre 5 – 8 % of presented candidates. The rest are rejected and the agency will often fail to inform a candidate about feedback or why they were rejected. Many agencies do not realise that this type of practice costs clients a lot of time and money (or perhaps they do, they just don't care). Instead of providing a quality service, they are often just playing with luck.

But what does it mean for you, as a candidate?

Have you ever heard the saying: “Even a monkey can do your job”? That’s how candidates mostly feel about recruiters. Unfortunately, individuals looking for new opportunities may not fully understand what the benefit of a true headhunter is. And often it’s because they’ve had a negative experience with them in the past.

A candidate may receive a brief call from a stranger, who may briefly introduced themselves as a recruiter before they begin their pitch where they will ask personal questions about the candidates current situation. They may send a job specification over and may sometimes ask for resume. It’s often the case that the “so called recruiter” will not even keep a candidate updated on whether they have been successful in the prescreening process. Sometimes the first call is the one and only call the candidate ever will receive.

How to recognise a true headhunter from a job board “filterer” or “shooter”?

A real headhunter is a true professional. They’re not interested in quick 5 minutes call. Maybe they’ve found your details on a job portal, maybe not, but if they deem you relevant, then a real headhunter will find ways to contact you. Where possible, before contacting you, they may even conduct a search so to get to know a bit more about you. Maybe they will seek prior references, read work you may have published or tweets you may have posted etc… A professional headhunter’s main goal is to build a network and a selection of appropriate candidates, and not a pile of weak and irrelevant resumes to take up space on the coffee table.

You will recognise a call from a true recruiter because they will be interested in YOU because of who you are and what you might be looking for in the future.

A true recruiter will know very quickly if your ideal job is relevant for what they are looking for and will not be there to give you false hope or to waste your time.

Their main goal is in building a professional relationship with you, which could then land to them becoming your long-term career advisor.

They’re trying to get you to trust them and will be actively trying to find as much information about a company and a job that you might be interested in. We’re talking here about information that is not readily available online.

Your headhunter will not only inform you, but prepare you for the job interview, gain feedback for you, ask you how you feel about the role / company, and maybe even help you to negotiate a preferred rate or request. Best of all they will help you to make the right decision for your career growth. It’s possible that a true recruiter may even know what you want better than you. This personal touch is aimed to give you the feeling that you are the only person they are dealing with and that they are completely transparent / trustworthy and looking out for your best interest.

Even if you are not actively looking for new opportunities, it’s always good to be informed about possibilities on the market. To have a recruiter whom you trust is beneficial for you, as he/she could be saving your time by providing you with relevant up to date information, attractive opportunities, or even maybe helping your friends to find their ideal job (or at least something that is very close to it). Basically your recruiter is making all the looking for you.

How to find such a recruiter?

It’s not easy to identify which recruiter is the right one for you. But whichever one you chose, you must have the feeling that they are confident in doing their job properly and sourcing the right position you require.

If you are really looking for something new, it’s recommended to let the online community know this by changing your job title to “looking for new opportunities” (say on web sites such as LinkedIn). However if you wish to keep this fact private (especially from your employer), then you can actively search for a headhunter within your area yourself. Before contacting a specific recruiter, you could conduct research on them yourself or check their recommendations published on LinkedIn. You are more likely to be able to identify the quality of such person’s if you do so. You could also check with friends whether they’ve had good experience with any recruiters or personnel agencies that they could recommend. Better still is an actual contact name and number for use as a referral.

If you do finally decided to contact a recruiter but haven’t got a response within say two or three working days, then maybe you have not find the right one yet. There could be a number of reasons for them to not contacting you back. It could be your skills are not what they are currently looking for, maybe they are inundated with current CV’s or maybe they are on holiday… Bottom line is to keep searching, keep trying and if a new job is what you are looking for then sooner or later you will find it.

  • Do you have experience with “shooter” agency?
  • Have you ever been headhunted by experienced headhunter?