When Should You Go with a Generalist Recruiter?

When Should You Go with a Generalist Recruiter?

If you’re thinking of hiring a recruiting firm, you’re probably wondering whether to go with a firm that specializes in your industry. You’ve probably heard a lot of pretty convincing reasons why you should go with a specialized recruiter.

Full transparency: I run a generalized recruitment firm.

Full transparency: sometimes, a specialized firm is the right move for your organization. On the other hand, sometimes a more general recruiter is a better move for you.

A lot of the time, industry specialized recruiters will talk about how they have an extensive database of candidates in your industry. Sometimes this is exactly what you need. But sometimes it gets in the way of what you need.

How? I’ll explain. That’s what this article is all about. I’m here to show you a few of the situations where you might want to go for a general recruiter instead of an industry specialist. Just consider a situation where:


  • You Need to Go after Hard-to-Reach Candidates

One of the problems with recruiters that heavily specialize in one particular industry is that they can end up with a lot of conflicts of interest. This gets a little complicated, so let’s go over an example.

Let’s say you’re a recruiter who specializes in helping accounting firms find the right candidates. Accounting firms A, B, and C are your current clients. So far, so good.

But then Accounting firm D comes along and wants you to find the best candidate for one of their positions. Now, you know for a fact that the best candidate in the business works with accounting firm B.

But accounting firm B is already one of your clients. So if you’re running an ethical business, you can’t go after the candidate you know is the best for the position.

Now, this is just an example. But the more heavily specialized a recruiter is in any one industry, the more likely they are to have these kinds of conflicts develop.

Specialist recruiters like to talk about how they have a database full of candidates in your industry, and that’s true. But at any given time, they might have commitments that hold them back from even considering bringing many of those candidates to you. On the other hand, a more general recruiter has more freedom to go after any candidate they think is best for you.


  • You’re Hiring for Non-Specialist Positions

Sometimes you need to go with a specialist. If you’re hiring a research pharmacy technician who needs to have a half-dozen Ph.Ds and may very well be working to find the cure for cancer, you might need a specialist recruiter. If you’re in a fiercely competitive industry and need to hire a new CEO at a crucial moment, you might need a specialist recruiter.

But there are plenty of positions where a specialist recruiter is the wrong move. If you’re opening a new branch office and have a lot of clerical and administrative positions to fill, it might be better to go with a generalist. If you’re making a lot of hires in one particular position (maybe because of high turnover) it might be better to go with a generalist.

There are times when it’s better to go with a recruiter that has a lot of history in your industry. But there are also times when you need someone who is more specialized in the hiring process as a whole. These are two different kinds of tools, meant for two different types of situations.


  • You Need Somebody who is Invested in the Position

The right recruiter for you is committed to getting the right candidate for the position. And that’s not just talk, either—the right recruiter for you makes sure that their interests line up with yours.

Your success is their success. Your growth is their growth. Your hires are their hires.

Plenty of recruiters will pick up a client here and there, try to find a candidate for a position, and not worry too much about the outcome. The right recruiter builds a relationship that lays the foundation for a lasting partnership.

They take the time to really get to know your company. They learn how things work, how your organization plans to grow, and how you plan to move forward. The right recruiter gets to know your organization gradually, tending it carefully and helping you reach your goals. That’s why the best recruiters don’t only aim to fill a position today—they aim to earn a place as strategic partners with your organization.


  • You Want the Experience to be Like Working with Your Own HR Team

Ideally, you’d be able to do all your hiring internally. Your own HR team could make all the hires and find you the best candidates, no problem. Sometimes things work that way. Other times (hopefully when your company is growing rapidly) you need to bring in outside help to find the right candidates.

When you need outside help, you’re going to want it to be as much like working with your own people as it can be. That means finding a recruiter who takes the time to get to know you and your business.

Now, that can happen with a specialized recruiter or a general recruiter. Any recruiter who is dedicated to giving a high level of service will take the effort to feel just like part of the team. That’s part of what makes sets the best recruiting firms apart from the rest.

A good recruiting organization will keep you updated on the hiring process and take as much of the trouble off of your hands as possible. They’ll take care to understand what you need in a position, what the position means to you, and where your business is headed.

In the end, the real question isn’t whether or not to go with a generalist recruiter. It’s whether you want to go with the right recruiter for you.

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