Headhunter, agency or interim recruiter? A guide to the right support in recruiting

Oct 24, 2023

In the world of recruiting, you have various options available to you to attract the best talent to your company. Headhunters, recruiters and interim recruiters are just a few of them. But which solution best suits your specific requirements? In this blog post we will explore together what you should pay attention to in order to choose the right recruiting support.

1. Understanding the differences


Headhunters, also known as executive search consultants or human resources consultants, are professionals who help companies find qualified specialists for management positions and specialized tasks. Their primary role is to identify, target and recruit highly qualified candidates for specific positions. Headhunters often work with companies that have difficulty finding the right talent in the traditional job market.
The work of headhunters can be summarized in the following steps:

  • Needs Analysis: First, they work closely with the client company to understand the exact need for the open position. This includes determining the requirements for the ideal candidate’s qualifications, skills and experience.
  • Search and identification: Headhunters use their industry knowledge and network to identify potential candidates. This can be done both by researching databases and by directly approaching people who already work in similar positions.
  • Approach: Headhunters contact potential candidates to arouse their interest in the position. They explain the advantages and opportunities the position offers and try to convince candidates to change.
  • Assessment and selection: After identifying candidates, headhunters conduct interviews and assessments to ensure candidates meet the client’s requirements. This may include comprehensive interviews, reference checks and background checks.
  • Presentation of candidates: The headhunters present the client company with a selection of qualified candidates who they recommend for the open position. The customer then has the opportunity to interview and select the proposed candidates.
  • Negotiation and Hiring: The headhunters often play a role in negotiating the salary and contract terms between the client company and the selected candidate.
  • Onboarding: In some cases, headhunters support the onboarding process to ensure the new employee has a smooth start in their position.

The role of headhunters in the recruiting process is particularly important when it comes to management positions and specialized specialists. They allow companies to find qualified talent who may not be actively looking for a job or may be difficult to reach in the job market. Headhunters play a crucial role in identifying and attracting top talent and thus contribute to the strengthening and further development of companies.

Recruiting Agencies

Although agencies and headhunters are both active in the area of talent management and recruiting, they differ in their main tasks and target groups. Here are the main differences:

Target group

  • Agencies (also known as recruitment consultants or recruiters) typically focus on recruiting professionals who are not typically in managerial positions, such as engineers, marketing experts, sales representatives and other professionals at various levels.
  • Headhunters (Executive Search Consultants), on the other hand, specialize in recruiting executives and highly specialized professionals, often for C-level positions, managing directors, senior managers or experts in specific industries.

Search approach

  • Recruiters recruit candidates from a candidate database or use job portals, social media and other general recruiting methods to fill open positions.
  • Headhunters, on the other hand, conduct a proactive search to identify, approach and recruit potential candidates. They often specialize in poaching candidates from competitors or companies outside the labor market.

Service offering

  • Recruiters provide services to help companies recruit employees at various levels. They help with publishing job advertisements, screening applicants, organizing interviews and the Coordination of the hiring process.
  • Headhunters typically offer customized and highly specialized services to companies aimed at finding top executives or professionals. They specialize in identifying and targeting candidates with very specific qualifications and experience.


  • Recruiters are typically paid by the employers who use their services. You will typically receive a commission or fee based on the successful placement of a candidate.
  • Headhunters also typically receive compensation from the companies that use their services. However, this compensation is often higher because finding highly qualified and hard-to-find talent requires specialized expertise.

In many cases, recruiters and headhunters can work together, especially when it comes to finding managers and professionals for specific positions. Recruiters tend to be broader and help companies recruit people at different levels, while headhunters focus on finding top talent in specialized positions.

Interim recruiter

Interim recruiters are professional recruiting specialists who work for companies on a temporary or temporary basis to meet their recruiting needs. Your primary function is to lead recruitment for the company and fill the gap in the HR department. Interim recruiters can be useful in various situations and scenarios, including:

  • Bottlenecks or staffing shortages: In times when a company suddenly has many open positions to fill or the internal HR department is overloaded, interim recruiters can be used to speed up the recruiting process and ensure that open positions are filled in a timely manner.
  • Project-based recruiting: When introducing new projects that require additional staff, interim recruiters can be hired to source the necessary resources. You can manage both short-term and long-term recruitment projects.
  • Covering absences or vacation: When HR staff are absent due to vacation, illness or other reasons, interim recruiters can step in as temporary replacements to ensure that the recruiting process does not stall.
  • Specialized Recruitment: In cases where specialized expertise is required for recruiting in specific industries or for specific positions, a company may engage interim recruiters with this expertise.
  • Business growth and restructuring: When a company enters a period of growth or restructuring, additional recruiting capacity in the form of interim recruiting specialists may be required to meet the increased need for new employees.
  • Finding hard-to-find talent: When companies are struggling to recruit highly specialized or hard-to-find talent, interim recruiters with specialized skills in finding this talent can be a valuable resource.

Interim recruiters offer companies a flexible solution to meet short-term and long-term recruiting needs without having to enter into long-term employment contracts. They can quickly integrate into the company culture, streamline the recruiting process and provide valuable expertise and resources to the company. This allows companies to make the recruiting process efficient and effective, even if they temporarily need additional resources.

2. Choosing the right type of support

The choice between headhunters, recruiters and interim recruiters often depends on various factors, including the company’s budget. Here are some considerations for how budget can influence the choice:
  • Cost: Each of these options has different cost structures. Headhunters and interim recruiters tend to be more expensive than recruiters because they offer specialized services and often charge higher fees. Recruiters typically work on a commission basis and are usually paid by the company if they place a successful candidate. Interim recruiters can be billed on an hourly or daily basis or based on an agreed flat fee. The company’s budget will influence which of these options is the most affordable.
  • Time frame: Depending on how quickly you need qualified employees, your budget situation may influence the choice. Headhunters can contribute to this to find qualified candidates in less time because they specialize in proactive searches. Interim recruiters can also be up and running quickly. Recruiters may take a little longer to find the right candidate as they often wait for applicants to respond to job advertisements.
  • Specialization: If you need to fill very specialized positions, it may be necessary to use specialized service providers such as headhunters or interim recruiters. These professionals often have the experience and network to identify hard-to-find talent in niche markets.
  • Long-term vs. short-term needs: If your recruiting needs are temporary, for example due to project needs or seasonal fluctuations, interim recruiters could provide a cost-effective solution. However, if you are planning on long-term hiring, headhunters or recruiters may be better suited to your long-term recruiting goals.
  • Company culture: Consider the company culture and preferred approach to recruiting. Some companies prefer to use internal recruiters or interim recruiters to maintain control over the recruiting process, while others prefer external experts such as headhunters to use specialized services.

It is important to carefully consider your budget and specific requirements, and perhaps also consult with recruiting professionals, to choose the most suitable option for your company. It often makes sense to consider a combination of these services to meet the unique needs of your business.

3. Quality characteristics

The choice between a headhunter, a recruiter and an interim recruiter should be made carefully based on several quality characteristics. Here are some important factors to consider when evaluating these service providers:


  • Headhunters: Experience is crucial as headhunters recruit highly qualified executives and professionals. Look for headhunters who have a proven track record of recruiting candidates for similar roles and industries.
  • Recruiter: Experience recruiting employees at various levels is important. Good recruiters have a wide range of industry and position experience and can help you fill a variety of positions.
  • Interim Recruiter: Experience in managing recruitment projects and covering temporary HR needs is an important factor. You should be able to get results in no time.

Industry knowledge

  • Headhunter: In many cases, industry knowledge is crucial, as headhunters often poach candidates from certain industries. You should ensure that the headhunter has in-depth knowledge of your industry to understand the specific requirements.
  • Recruiters: Good recruiters should be able to adapt to a wide range of industries. You must be able to understand the culture and requirements of different companies and industries.
  • Interim Recruiter: Depending on the project or needs, industry knowledge can be an advantage, but is not always essential. Interim recruiters are often versatile and can quickly familiarize themselves with different industries and corporate environments.

References and success stories

  • Ask for references and success stories from potential service providers. This can give you insight into their past successes and how they work.
  • Talk to previous customers or business partners to get feedback. Successful service providers should be prepared to provide positive references and success stories.
  • Look for signs of proven success, such as filling positions quickly and efficiently and a low turnover rate for the candidates they place.

Ultimately, you should choose the service provider that best suits your specific needs and offers the right combination of experience, industry knowledge and proven track record. Careful research and assessment of these quality characteristics will help you make the right choice.


Recruiting can be challenging, but choosing the right service provider can make all the difference. Think carefully about what you need and examine the qualities and experience of potential partners. This way you can ensure that you receive the best possible support to attract the best talent and achieve long-term success.

If you have any further questions or need professional support with recruiting, I will be happy to help you. Together we can find out which solution best suits your needs. Contact us to take the next step towards finding the best talent.

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