Recruiting: Generalize or Specialize ?

I just read an article that advises recruiters to generalize.

Recruiting is a core competency and a good recruiter can find any type of candidate. However, most organizations do not accept that reality and never will. Beware of being known as a just a technology recruiter or a finance recruiter.
He's got a point. Once you become expert in one area, people tend to stereotype you and refuse to consider you for any other assignments. But it's hard to be a generalist as well.

Last year we contacted lots of prospective new clients. They were willing to consider using us but every last one of them asked "What's your specialty?" When we said that we are generalists, they all lost interest. One guy, in retail, said "Look, you recruit two or three retail people a year. The recruiters I'm working with now recruit fifty."

He had a point. If you recruit a lot in a certain area, you understand the job requirements without having to be told, you understand the structure of the departments of the competing firms and, presumably, you already have some contacts in the field. So, you might have an advantage over even a very good recruiter who only dabbles in that specialty.

Steven Levy agrees. He claims that the biggest problem with recruiters is "lack of content knowledge" and says:

The best recruiters -- who are able to drill down and discern the great from the masses -- are the one's who possess an in-depth knowledge of functions, industries, etc. and continue to build this knowledge base year-after-year.

Recruiter training? Take college courses in areas pertinent to your practice. Become a regular attendee at CAD User Groups, etc.

As an engineer, I know several areas of technology very well. Yet I am frequently contronted with recruiters without a similar background who claim to be be able to assess talent based upon 'feel.'

This gut approach works great for assessing talent's alignment with your personality (and even here consider how many relationships go south) but not necessarily with the companies. And skills assessment is an entirely different issue.

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