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if i’m being put up for an interview by a head hunter, do i cost the agency more vs a candidate their own HR or internal employee found?

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Depends on the agency and what their internal resources are. A headhunter is going to be paid a fee but not all agencies have strong internal teams to find talent.

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It's more complicated than that. Industry standard is external recruiters get around 20% annual salary of the placement, that is, if they're placed. Failure rate can be very high if they're not the only recruiter on the search. The flip side is, how many recruiters did the agency hire as part of their team? Calculating overhead isn't just one to one like that.

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Of course. In increasing order of cost to the company: employee referrals, internal HR, and then headhunters. Head hunters usually charge 10% of the candidate’s first year’s salary as their commission, and for that reason their goals aren’t aligned with the company’s goals. The company’s goals is to find the best candidates and that’s usually employees referrals; and it’s to do it as inexpensively as possible, which is the opposite of what a headhunter wants.

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Elaborate...

You’re likely to earn less due to the external recruiter cut, and agencies will be much more willing to recruit someone directly.

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Of course the agency does, whether you know it or not. It happens in real estate: if you make a deal without a broker, you’ll get a better rate than if you make one with.

this confirmed what i was thinking, thank you for the replies. follow up: i’ve been put up for 10-12 interviews through head hunters throughout my career, never worked out. hoping this one does bc it’s a good fit; anything i can do to make myself more attractive? any non-shady way to circumnavigate the head hunter? fyi - this is for freelance to perm.

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You cost more.

Yes

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