Understanding Recruiting Roles
Before You Start - Clarity is the Key to Successful Hiring

Headhunter, Internal Recruiter, External Recruiter, Headhunter, and a Hiring Manager…. unless you’re employed in the Recruiting Industry, you could be forgiven for not know that there is a difference between each of these roles.  Some of these people do similar jobs, so it makes sense that people get them confused, but others play a distinct role within the hiring process. It’s a good idea to understand the differences between them before you start.

So, what exactly are these differences?


A recruiter is a professional whose job is to find qualified candidates to fill a job opening.  They may either work directly for the company (internal recruiter) or a recruiting company (external recruiter or headhunter). They are an integral part of the hiring process, working closely with the hiring manager and candidates. They work closely with the hiring manager to determine the most important aspects and skills.

The recruiter will then source and identify the best candidates for the job.  After conducting initial interviews, the recruiter will present their top candidates to the hiring manager.  After interviewing their top picks, the recruiter will collect feedback from both the candidate and hiring manager/s. This process continues until a candidate is selected and a job offer is extended.  The recruiter will often facilitate the offer, providing feedback and advice to both sides.

External Recruiter

An external recruiter is employed by a recruiting company.  In simplest terms, their primary role is to fill open jobs for their client: the company that has hired the recruiting firm.

Internal recruiter

An internal recruiter is a company employee whose job is to fill open positions within the company.  They are often part of the Human Resources Department.  In small to mid-sized companies, an HR Generalist will often provide internal recruiting duties.


A headhunter is an external recruiter who works to find, screen, and present the ideal candidate(s) to their client (the employer) for consideration.  Headhunters hired and paid by the company or corporation. Many headhunters specialize in niche markets.  Headhunters are typically associated with executive-level positions but generally work to fill positions of all levels.

Hiring manager

The individual within a company who oversees the hiring process for a specific position. The open position is typically within the hiring manager’s department or will likely be the best person to select the ideal candidate. They are typically not the internal recruiter or HR representative for the company.

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