Process Recruiters typically place ads to find candidates and maintain an extensive candidate database from which to pull qualified candidates as opportunities arise. Headhunters search the entire market (including people who aren’t currently looking for new jobs) to find the best candidate at that moment in time.
Positions Recruiters often look for candidates with broad skills who can fill a variety of positions as needed. Headhunters look for candidates to fill very specific positions (very specialized roles, executive roles), they usually search for people with highly specialized skill sets.
Time Recruiters need to fill a large number of roles, so the focus is on quantity. That means they’ll spend a small amount of time with each position and candidate and move on to the next. Headhunters need to find the best candidate for a very specific role, and that candidate is usually not easy to find. It is not unusual for a headhunter to spend a very long time on each position and candidate to ensure they identify the right match.