Do you need a second opinion after seeing a recruitment specialist?

By Paul Slezak - Mar. 20, 2012
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Many recruiters call themselves ‘specialists’, but if you peel away the layers, they often turn out to be doing nothing different to the more generalist recruiters. So, what is your so-called ‘specialist’ recruiter really offering you and are you getting real value for money?

Generalist vs specialist

A generalist recruiter is someone 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, graphic design, architecture etc. Because they are channelling all of their resources into a particular skill set, specialist recruiters should be able to produce superior results for you.The main difference between a generalist and a specialist recruiter is in the quantity and quality of candidates they deliver.

What makes a specialist?

So, how does your ‘specialist’ recruiter measure up? Are they specialist or 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?If your recruiter is truly a specialist, they should ideally be able to demonstrate all of the following qualities:

Tapped in

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.

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 like SEEK just like everyone else, they target particular niche websites and industry publications known to be frequented by the highly sought after candidates.

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.

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.

Understand 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.


Your recruiter could well have a background in the field or industry 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.

Know their candidates

Your recruiter should know what makes their candidates tick, what their general likes and dislikes are, their motivations, temperaments and the like. 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).

Foster 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.


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?

Do you think you need a second opinion?

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years.


Paul Slezak

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years.

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