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Will The Real Specialist Please Stand Up

Over the past 18 years, I have seen the world of recruitment change beyond belief! Today, I find it hard to imagine that I even knew a life before LinkedIn and question how I ever managed to do my job without emails and only hand-written faxes to use – yes, I’m that old!

But in many ways, life was easier back then or certainly a bit more straight-forward. For anyone working in the industry, you would absolutely know who your competitors were and if you didn’t, you would make it your business to find out.

Today, that has become an almost impossible task. With almost 40,000 recruitment agencies in the UK alone, the market is well and truly fragmented. The abundance of choice for hiring managers, talent acquisition teams and business owners could now be seen, as more of a minefield than a walk in the park.

One of the most mind-blowing aspects for me is the number of agencies out there calling themselves ‘specialists’. Now I can fully understand the motivations to be a specialist, particularly in a highly saturated and diluted market – having a clear USP and point of difference is critical to success. But my issue is when recruiters call themselves specialists when they are in fact ‘generalists’ in disguise.

Only the other day was I contacted by a recruitment agency to offer their services to our company promoting themselves as a specialist in a total of eight…yes, EIGHT areas!!

So what do we mean when we say a generalist versus specialist?

On a basic level, a generalist recruiter is one who works on a variety of accounts, recruiting for a wide range of job functions, industry sectors and locations. A specialist recruiter, on the other hand, focuses on a particular job function, industry or location. They tend to work within a niche or highly specialised area and can often work on high-level roles within this area.

The question though for all those hiring managers and talent acquisition teams out there, is who do you turn to when you need support with your hiring needs? Do you go to a generalist or a specialist? What are the risks? What are the benefits?

This is exactly the conversation we have with our clients when we are discussing the right approach for a campaign. This is not a decision that should be made lightly and the impact of choosing the wrong approach or the wrong agency should never be underestimated. It can have a detrimental impact on both the outcome of that particular recruitment campaign, as well as the impression of the business as a whole.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are many amazing generalist recruiters out there and some of the most successful recruitment businesses are generalist in nature, but by working with a specialist you will be able to benefit from the following things;

#1 Greater matching capabilities

Generalist recruiters tend to work across a variety of areas or a broad business function i.e. finance, but it will be unlikely they are true experts in one given field e.g. treasury. This can present some challenges as often being able to identify and match candidates within a specific niche area requires years of practice. Understanding where to find these types of candidates, what good looks like, what the ‘pull factors’ will be for them and how to manage them through a hiring process, is a skill that to be done right, really requires specialist expertise.

#2 Instant network of candidates

All specialist recruiters do day-in, day-out is talk to professionals within their chosen area. They will have their fingers on the pulse of the market and will often invest huge amounts of time and money on different ways to engage and communicate with their target audience. Because of this, specialists are in a prime position to be able to offer their clients instant access to an advanced network of industry-relevant candidates.

#3 Broader network of candidates

Working with a specialist not only ensures immediate access to a network of suitable candidates but also the chance to engage with a broader network of individuals who may otherwise not be identified. Specialist recruiters will spend their time proactively searching the market for unique talent, so they will target the passive candidate market as opposed to those candidates who are actively seeking a new role. Additionally, as an established and trusted specialist, it is likely they will be growing their network through recommendations and referrals from existing connections, again giving broader access to a pool of individuals who may not otherwise be accessed.

#4 Better understanding of your needs

By working with a specialist, you will have the reassurance that the person you are dealing with actually understands the role you are recruiting. They will understand what you are looking for and how best to approach the search. It is likely they will also be able to offer more tailored services to meet your individual needs and the requirements of the role specifically as opposed to a more blanket approach that can often be associated with generalist agencies.

#5 Improved candidate engagement

Candidate engagement and candidate experience are both critical to ensuring not only that you deliver a successful recruitment campaign but that there is a positive perception of the business overall. Working with a specialist ensures things are managed in a structured and methodical way, allowing for much more control over the message that is taken to market.

#6 Tried and tested search methodologies

Adopting the right approach to any recruitment campaign is absolutely critical to delivering a successful outcome. By working with a specialist agency, you will be reassured that the approach adopted will be appropriate for the position being recruited. They will have in-depth expertise and first-hand experience recruiting similar positions and be able to advise on the best search methodology for your specific campaign.

#7 Access to market-specific value-added services

Another added benefit of working with a specialist recruiter is that you will gain access to a wide selection of market-specific services which generalist recruiters just could not offer. Market Insights Reports and Salary Surveys are two examples here, offering hiring managers and talent acquisition teams huge value when it comes to delivering successful recruitment campaigns.

If you would like further advice on the best recruitment strategy for your campaign or would like to find out more about the services we can provide, please get in touch, we’d love to help.