Recruitment Agencies, Head Hunters and an Online Job Portal

While the process still involves placing Job Seekers in job vacancies, there is a world of difference between recruitment agencies, head hunters and online job portals. While Job Seekers tend to only pay attention to the core function of being placed in a suitable role, it is best for candidates to gain an understanding of these core differences.


With a better comprehension of each of these methods of recruitment, Job Seekers will be better equipped to understand disparities between each of these placement techniques and which works best for their individual needs during various phases of their career lifecycle.


To find an understanding of the role of recruitment agencies, executive search agents and job portals, its best to define each element in isolation to one another. Yes the recruitment function remains unchanged however each has their very own special place in the South African job market. Finding a job in South Africa requires that each of us identify with each these symbiotic means to placement in order to apply the correct method to our job seeking needs. To comprehend such differences, this article will proceed to define each method of Job Seeker placement and classify their variations into every day application and practical purpose.


Recruitment Agencies


The most commonly understood function of candidate placement is that provided by recruitment agencies. A recruitment agent provides the core utility of human resource management, candidate sourcing and vacancy placement. A Recruiter is more often than not a third party (3rd party) governed by an affiliation between the agent (Recruiter) and an employer. Smaller employers (SMME's) often outsource the role of HR or human resource management to Recruiters to facilitate and manage. HR Generalists or even specialists proceed to assist employers with the task of sourcing, screening, interviewing and the accurate placement of relevant Job Seekers in applicable job vacancies.

A recruitment agency is considered to be the bridge or the middle man if you will, between Job Seekers and employers, ensuring that the right candidate ends up in the right role and fulfils the staffing requirement of that of the employer.

A Recruiter is only as successful as their personnel network and contacts. Without contacts or a reliable network of skilled Job Seekers a Recruiter will cease to exist. Based on the level of skills placement, a Recruiter's livelihood is defined by the salary of the Job Seeker, successfully placed in a vacancy. Generally speaking, recruitment agencies earn a commission like structure based on the placed candidates' annual or monthly salary (again, depending on the Recruiter's specialisation and level of skills sourcing). Employers are also known to outsource their staffing requirements to multiple Recruiters so as to amplify their reach to a greater pool of Job Seekers and thus improve their chances of finding the perfect fit between candidate and vacancy. Equipped with client brief (employer staffing specifications), Recruiters are required to locate, interview and place suitable candidates in the relevant role. After advertising a vacancy, screening and short listing, co-ordinating interviews and 'selling' the Job Seeker to the employer, Recruiters are either successful or not in placing the right candidate in the right role. 


Head Hunters


While this may sound a little like impaling shrunken heads on sticks and putting them out on the lawn like swanky garden ornaments, head hunting is in fact a high level form of recruiting. As the name would suggest, head hunting is a form of recruitment by which Recruiters, specialising in head hunting, proactively tap into the passive Job Seeker market. A passive Job Seeker is someone who may not proactively be looking for a new job or be out of work, but would consider a job change should it be a lucrative one. A passive Job Seeker is reflexive in their approach and quite candidly, 'keeps their options open'. Since cliché's seem to be the order for the day; a Passive Job Seeker always keeps their ear to the ground and considers opportunities as and when they arise, even if they are not entirely unhappy in the current role they fill. Head hunters generally breach to a higher level of recruiting to that of an agent in that they actively search and 'hunt' for smart heads. Head hunters are highly specialised in both the industry in which they recruit and often in a geographical area too. Also know as executive search agents, these niche' Recruiters have complex, interconnected networks and are often found loitering at industry specific networking events so as to keep up to date with who's who in the zoo. With fierce competition to contend with, head hunters have to be quick on the draw to identify a suitable candidate for a specialised vacancy, which means their job, is a high pressure zone of continuously having to revise the specialised pool of candidates in which they operate. Head hunters also rely on the level of skill and salary bracket of each candidate they place but on a higher level of earning.


An Online Job Portal


The most misunderstood of candidate placement, job portals usually hosted online, in fact do not provide a direct placement of candidates in employer job vacancies. An online job portal fulfils the role too of a middle man, but between the Job Seeker and Recruiter / head hunter. Job portals provide a platform whereby Job Seekers market their skills and Recruiters search or advertise to find them. Job portals veer away from the screening and placement of candidates and rather facilitate the interaction between Recruiters and candidates. Many Job Seekers understand this function to being different to what it really is and anticipate a portal to provide the same function to that of a Recruiter. Online job portals do not partake in the screening, interviewing or placement of Job Seekers. Instead, job portals facilitate this process and enable Recruiters to advertise and search candidate databases and in turn allow for the initial interaction between each party. Providing online application functionality, Job Seekers manage their own career portfolio on an online portal and opt in by selecting to apply to and proceed with the recruitment process as it ordinarily would take place. Online job portals such as should not be confused with that of a recruiter or a head hunter but rather as a facilitator in the coming together of each party and aiding the process of candidate application and recruiter selection and placement.


Finding a job in South Africa requires that candidates need to understand the difference between Recruiters, Head Hunters and Online Job Portals, in order to best manage a successful career portfolio. Each element is practiced in the South African job market and to best navigate your way to finding your ideal vacancy, a clear understanding and healthy balance between each is required on the Job Seekers part.