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7 Ways to Spot a Specialist Recruiter From a Generalist in Disguise

7 Ways to Spot a Specialist Recruiter From a Generalist in Disguise

As a business owner or hiring manager, it’s not always easy to keep on top of it all. You do everything possible not to drop the ball but the one area that is often the first to feel the cracks is recruiting. After all when you’ve got all the other balls in the air, who really has time to write a job description, performance profile or capabilities statement for every single role in the business? What about sifting through hundreds of applications to find that diamond in the rough?

How often have you asked yourself whether you should try to run the recruitment process yourself, or whether you should engage the services of a recruitment agency?

If you decide to “D.I.Y.”, then all of a sudden you are expected to become a specialist in personality assessment and behavioural analysis. How can you really identify the ideal candidate? What should you even be looking for in a cover letter or resumé? What questions should you ask during an interview? How can you really distinguish between a candidates’ skills and competencies?

Your pulse rate and blood pressure are probably increasing just thinking about all these questions. But then again do you have the budget to engage an external recruiter to help you? If so, the big question then becomes do you want to work with a generalist or a specialist?

That’s entirely up to you. After all, when you’re not feeling well do you make an appointment to see a General Practitioner or a Specialist?

Hopefully this post can help answer some of your questions or help to at least alleviate some of your concerns.

A generalist recruiter is one who works on a variety of accounts, recruiting for a wide range of job functions, industry sectors and locations. On the other hand a recruitment specialist focuses on a particular job function, industry or location and typically recruits up to higher-level jobs within a niche with less transferable skills such as accounting, legal, graphic design, healthcare, manufacturing, architecture etc.

The main difference between a generalist and a specialist recruiter is in the quantity and quality of candidates they deliver. Specialist recruiters should be able to produce superior results for you.

So how does your ‘specialist’ recruiter measure up? Are they really a specialist, or are they in fact a generalist in disguise? What sort of candidates are you getting from them? Are they a close match to your requirements? Are there a lot of applicants, but not much in the way of substance?

Believe me there are some amazing generalist recruiters out there, but if your recruiter is truly a specialist, they should ideally be able to demonstrate all of the following qualities:

1. They can define their niche

Your recruiter should be tapped into their area of specialisation. They should be able to answer with authority any questions you might ask them on the subject. They should be familiar with the industry terminology and know all the key players. In fact, they should know many of the same people you do. Knowledge is power and that’s especially true in recruitment. The more you know about your subject, the more accurate your decisions will be and the more positive results you will achieve.

2. They should be able to demonstrate a focused strategy

Your recruiter should know exactly where to look for qualified candidates. They should have a comprehensive and current database of industry contacts and potential candidates and employers. They also need to have a focused sourcing strategy where, rather than just looking on a job board just like everyone else, they target particular niche websites and industry publications known to be frequented by the most highly sought after candidates.

3. They have their finger on the pulse

Your recruiter needs to have their finger firmly on the pulse of their particular niche market. When asked, they should be able to point you in the direction of evidence that they are actively engaged with industry people on a regular basis, that they belong to relevant industry groups, and that they are up to date with all the latest industry news and trends. You will often be able to see this through your recruiters LinkedIn profile.

4. They should have a provem track record

A good recruiter will have a solid reputation around town and amongst their peers. They should also have a demonstrated track record of successful placements in their field of specialisation. It shouldn’t be hard to find out, because if they do, they will no doubt be more than happy to share their successes with you. I’ve yet to meet a recruiter not afraid to blow their own trumpet!

Your recruiter could even have a background in the field or industry you’re in themselves. The old saying ‘it takes one to know one’ is particularly appropriate in specialist recruitment and former specialists often make the best specialist recruiters.

5. They should be able to demonstrate an understanding of your needs

Your recruiter should have a good understanding of your organisation’s structure and its goals and particular needs within the industry. If they have successfully filled similar vacancies in the industry before, then they will know instinctively the kind of employee you are looking for.

6. They will really know their audience

Your recruiter should know what makes their candidates tick, what their general likes and dislikes are, their motivations, temperaments etc. While not everyone fits a stereotype, there are certain traits that appear more often in particular professions. By knowing their audience the recruiter can then highlight the aspects of your position that they know will appeal to them most (i.e. salary may be more important to some types of candidates than others).

7. They have built solid relationships

Your recruiter should have good ongoing relationships with their candidates. A good specialist recruiter goes out of their way to build such relationships, as these people are their bread and butter and a candidate is often placed more than once throughout the course of their career. They shouldn’t need to advertise for candidates and should be able to provide you with some solid prospects off the top of their head.

So, given all this, how does your specialist recruiter stack up? How many boxes can you tick?

  • Knows the industry
  • Knows the candidates
  • Knows your requirements
  • Knows where to look
  • Has the background and experience
  • Has the runs on the board.

Are you getting what you’re paying for? Or do you perhaps need a second opinion?

Cofounder at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for 20 years. Follow me @paul_slezak.

  • Mark Hall-Smith

    couldnt agree more Paul and also “hi mate, I hope you are well.”

  • Phil

    specialisation -> specialization, organisation’s -> organization’s