Executive search consulting, headhunting and recruitment: what is the difference?

Executive search consulting, headhunting and recruitment: what is the difference?


At PIXCELL, we have been called both an executive search consultant and a headhunting firm. However, in practice, these terms refer to two distinct recruitment approaches.

It should be noted that this article focuses only on executive and manager recruitment, since this is our speciality at PIXCELL. There are more distinctions to be made when it comes to placement agencies and employee recruitment agencies.

From the outset, we can say that recruiters, no matter what kind, always have the same end goal: find the best candidate for the job, at the right time, and fast. But how do they do it?


What is the difference between executive search and headhunting?


The term “headhunter” is richly figurative, evoking a hunter who has a specific target in mind. And here, the target is none other than a head! In reality, headhunting is less barbaric than it sounds. Still, the metaphor works well in referring to recruiters who pull out all the stops to find the ideal candidate. These professionals look far and wide for top talent and do not limit their searches to people actively job hunting.

This is the advantage of working with a headhunting firm. Through their connections, tools and expertise, headhunters comb the market and present their clients with the best candidates based on their business goals. In addition, they try to convince managers who are currently employed to consider working elsewhere.

In practice, executive search and headhunting services are fairly similar. Like a headhunter, an executive search consultant will do all he or she can to recruit the ideal candidate for a position. The key difference is in the amount of follow-up provided to the client. The executive search process is much more thorough in this regard.

Headhunting is a simple and colourful way to describe our profession. However, while PIXCELL may be called a headhunting firm, we prefer to think of ourselves as executive search consultants. We have a strategic role that involves working closely with clients at every step of their recruitment process, from defining the position according to their business’ unique challenges to following up with continued support after the hire is made. While finding the right candidate is integral to the services we offer each of our clients, our involvement goes far beyond this initial stage and represents one of our added values.
– François Piché-Roy, President and Senior Consultant, PIXCELL

What is the difference between executive search and recruitment?


The distinction between these two recruitment approaches has to do with methodology.

The business model of recruitment firms is based on contingency. Since several recruiters are hired to fill a position, firms are in competition with each other and even with the employer’s human resources department in many cases. If multiple recruiters are working on a project, the client only pays the firm that finds the hired candidate.

This arrangement may seem advantageous to employers at first glance, but it has a downside: to get paid, recruitment firms try to find a candidate quickly, meaning they often limit their searches to people who are actively job hunting.

This is the key difference with an executive search consultant like PIXCELL: we work with you exclusively.

When you work with an executive search consultant, you know that they have your best interests at heart and are not just trying to win a race. At PIXCELL, we take the time to understand your organization and needs in depth, even when time is of the essence. We analyze your market and determine where to find the best candidates for your business. Our flexibility makes it possible for us to approach potential candidates who are not actively job hunting. Using our rigorous work methods, we assess each candidate based on the criteria of the position and your company culture. After the recruitment process, we provide you with two to four candidates, all of whom fit the requirements for the position. This shortlist is a big timesaver compared to sifting through a stack of profiles sent by four or five different firms.


How do you choose talent acquisition services that meet your needs?


Working with a reliable partner is the key to success when recruiting top-tier executives and managers.

To determine which talent acquisition services are the best match for your company, ask yourself a simple question: what (or who) do I need to hire an experienced executive who will be loyal to my company?

Filling a strategic position in an organization involves major challenges. While it may be tempting to choose a recruitment firm by simply comparing prices, keep in mind that replacing a poorly qualified executive costs a lot and has long-term repercussions on a company.

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