Differences Between Passive and Modern Headhunting

Crawford Thomas Recruiting Blog

The job market is competitive, and often there is a limited number of talented individuals with the skill set needed by companies. Headhunters and headhunting are a natural consequence of this. There are two different styles of headhunting. There is the older style involved visiting clients at their place of business or home. This usually raised ethical questions. The newer style of headhunting involves using the internet, such as sites like monster.com, linkedIn or Twitter and Facebook, to find potential candidates. The difference between these two types of headhunting allows recruiters looking for talented individuals to remain effective and ethical.

 Headhunting Defined

Headhunters are a hired third party used to target talented employees of a competitor. This is generally done to avoid litigation or ethically murky waters for the company. Headhunters usually receive a percentage of the annual salary of the target employee. Commonly from a human resources or corporate recruitment backround, headhunters have a reputation of being aggressive and are notoriously fearless.

 Passive Headhunting

These traits are linked with head hunters due to passive headhunting. Passive headhunting is so termed because the employees that they target are not actively looking for employment. They differ from an HR department in that they actively search out employees with a certain skill set, whereas the HR department simply waits for applications. Passive headhunting is the term for the older method of recruiting employees. This involves calling and visiting potential employees at their current place of business, home or even at their favorite restaurant. It can be seen as intrusive, aggressive, and slightly unethical.

 Ethics of Headhunting

However, head hunting is not unethical. In fact, recieving a call from a recruiter or headhunter can drastically improve the lives of many employees. Many employees are most marketable and clear headed when they are happy and content in the position they currently have. Most likely if they are content, they are good workers whom the company wants to take care of. Seeing a recruiter or head hunter can help them to see how marketable they are and to explore newer and better options. It is also expected in the modern, corporate world to look for better opportunities.

 Modern Headhunting

The bridge between the seemingly murky waters of passive headhunting is the modern approach that utilizes technology to make head hunting feel less aggressive and intrusive. Responding to an email at your business address feels far less like a betrayal of loyalty to your company than a phone call at work. Utilizing social networking such as Facebook and Twitter allows head hunting and recruiting to happen at a much more organic level, while websites such as monster.com and Times Jobs can be increasingly utilized to see if there are workers looking elsewhere for employment.


Overall, the days of passive headhunting are coming to an end. It can be just as effective to find talented individuals while remaining more visually on the right side of the ethics line. Head hunting is a necessary part of the corporate world, and now it can be done in a much easier way. Here is a list of websites should more information be needed:





Crawford Thomas RecruitingDifferences Between Passive and Modern Headhunting