Many firms use headhunters to assist them in locating the best prospects when hiring top personnel. However, hiring a headhunter may be pricey, and many organizations question whether the expense is justified. In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of headhunter fees, including what they are, how they work, and whether they’re worth it.

1 Minute Breakdown

A headhunter is a qualified recruiter who helps businesses identify the best personnel. Headhunters find, evaluate, and suggest suitable candidates for open positions for the company’s benefit.

The cost of headhunters can vary significantly depending on several variables, such as the level of the post that has to be filled, the company’s industry and location, and the difficulty of the search.

Headhunters can save companies time and money when filling executive-level positions. If you decide to engage with a headhunter, choosing a reliable and skilled headhunter with a proven track record of success in your sector is crucial.

Table of Contents:

What is a Headhunter and What Does He Do?

A headhunter is a qualified recruiter who focuses on helping businesses identify the best personnel. Headhunters find, evaluate, and suggest suitable candidates for open positions for the company’s benefit. Employers seeking employees with particular knowledge or expertise or who are challenging to locate through conventional recruitment channels frequently employ headhunters.

Headhunter vs. Recruiter: What’s the Difference?


While both headhunters and recruiters seek out and place applicants in positions, there are some significant distinctions between the two. Headhunters are frequently better able to recognize and assess elite talent because they have a greater understanding of the area in which they specialize. Most of the time, recruiters work on behalf of employers to fill various positions, whereas headhunters are more concerned with locating qualified applicants for specific jobs.

What is a Usual Headhunter’s Fee?

According to several variables, such as the level of the post that has to be filled, the company’s industry and location, and the difficulty of the search, headhunter fees can vary significantly. Typically, headhunter costs fall between 20% and 30% of the range. However, some headhunters may charge a flat fee instead of a percentage of the candidate’s first-year pay.

How is a Headhunter Fee Paid Out?

Contingency or retention payments are the two most common payment methods for headhunter services. Only when an employer hires a candidate they have recommended do contingency headhunters receive payment. On the other hand, retained headhunters are paid in advance to undertake a search and are frequently exclusive in the market they serve. They prioritize filling the post as they go.

Is It Worth It to Hire a Headhunter?

Your firm’s budget and unique requirements ultimately determine if hiring a headhunter is worthwhile. Although headhunters might be pricey, they frequently have access to a larger pool of quality applicants and can help you hire faster and with fewer resources. In addition, headhunters could have industry-specific knowledge and skills that can be extremely helpful in identifying the best candidate for your company. However, it’s crucial to balance the possible advantages against the headhunter’s price carefully and to make sure that you and your headhunter have clear expectations and lines of communication during the hiring process.

It’s also worth noting that headhunters can save companies time and money when filling executive-level positions. Top Echelon states that the average time-to-hire for an executive position filled by a headhunter is just 49 days, compared to 70 days for positions filled through other methods. This can translate to significant cost savings for companies, as a longer time-to-hire can result in lost productivity and revenue.

Consider that the cost of not using a headhunter can also be high. According to a Society for Human Resource Management survey, the average cost-per-hire for companies in 2020 was $4,425. This figure includes expenses such as job board postings, recruitment events, and employee referral programs. However, the costs can be much higher if a company fails to find the right candidate and the position remains unfilled for an extended time.

According to Glassdoor, the average base salary for a headhunter in the United States is $62,343 per year, with additional compensation in the form of commissions and bonuses.

What Should You Look for in a Headhunter?
searching candidate

If you opt to engage with a headhunter, it’s crucial to pick one that is reliable, skilled and has a proven track record of success in your sector. Look for a headhunter with a thorough knowledge of your company and the qualifications and experience needed for the position you’re looking to fill. Additionally, seek out a headhunter with a solid reputation, credible testimonials, and a track record of successfully placing qualified applicants in similar roles.

Tips for Working with a Headhunter

Setting up clear expectations and communication is crucial once you’ve identified a headhunter with whom you feel comfortable working. Give the headhunter as much information as possible about the position you’re trying to fill, including the qualifications, background, and character attributes needed for success. Responding quickly to your headhunter’s questions and recommendations for applicants is crucial.

It’s critical to communicate well and comprehend the headhunter’s pricing structure. Usually, between 20 and 30 percent of the candidate’s first-year compensation is paid to headhunters. Although the charge may seem excessive, keep in mind that headhunters frequently have access to a large pool of highly qualified applicants that you might not have been able to uncover o

To ensure that you and your headhunter are on the same page regarding the search, it is still crucial to set clear expectations with them regarding the scope and timing of the process. It’s vital to remember that fees are frequently only paid if an applicant is hired. You will only be charged a fee if the headhunter can locate a qualified applicant.

Prioritizing the candidate’s experience is crucial when working with a headhunter. Verify that the headhunter is giving candidates a positive and courteous experience, and provide the headhunter input on how to enhance the candidate experience. Bear in mind that the headhunter represents your firm to prospective employees, and their interactions with the headhunter may affect how they view your organization.

Finally, it’s critical to prioritize the employee experience and onboarding process once a candidate has been hired. To facilitate a smooth transition, ensure the new employee is appropriately greeted and integrated into the team. A successful onboarding process can boost employee happiness and retention, ultimately advantageous to your business in the long run.

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