Do Industry Specialists Really Make Better Recruiters?


HR Practices

If you need to do the hiring and are thinking of getting a recruiter, you might think an industry specialist is an obvious choice. After all, an industry specialist knows the ins and outs of your industry and has an extensive database of candidates in your industry. What’s not to love?

Quite a bit, actually. While there are some situations where it’s your best bet to go with an industry specialist, a lot of the time they can cause more problems than they solve. In this article, we’ll talk about a few reasons why it might be better to go with an all-around recruiter over an industry specialist.

  1. A Good Recruiter Finds the Right People

Recruiters are in the business of bringing the right candidates to your business. That’s true of any recruiter, whether they run an all-around business or whether they’re hyper-specialized in your industry.

You work in a specialized industry. You face challenges every day that people in other areas don’t know about, don’t appreciate the importance of, or don’t have to deal with very often. When you start looking for a recruiter, it makes sense that you might think the best recruiter for you is someone who’s already deeply engaged in your industry. But is that really true?

Let’s look at it this way: isn’t recruiting another specialized industry? Recruiters are in the business of finding the right person for the job, no matter what industry they’re hiring for. Day in, day out, recruiters are sourcing candidates, conducting interviews, and generally working on the problem of how to find the right person for the job.

The best recruiters get pretty good at solving that problem. Now, maybe your industry specialists are excellent recruiters who just happen to have found a niche in one industry. But maybe they’re so-so recruiters who depend on the fact that they’re industry specialists to bring in any business.

The better recruiter wins every time.

  1. Even in Technical Fields, Most Positions are Non-Technical

Sometimes there might be a position that takes specialist knowledge to hire for. If you’re hiring for a position for a Ph.D. in nuclear physics, you might need someone with a similar qualification to make the hiring call. But the fact of the matter is, most positions don’t call for that level of specialization.

In every business, most of the positions you’re hiring for will be non-technical. For every nuclear physics Ph.D. you need, you’ll have to have a few administrators, some receptionists, a handful of accountants, HR personnel, and all the other staff members you need to keep your organization running smoothly.

What do all these positions have in common? You don’t need to be an industry specialist to know if you’ve found someone who can do the job. A solid recruiter can hire just as well for these positions, whether they happen to be an industry specialist or not.

So even if there are times when you need to go with an industry specialist for the hire, the vast majority of the time it’s better to go with the best recruiter. And this is even more true when you consider the biggest drawback of going with an industry specialist.

  1. Industry Specialists Have Serious Problems

Here’s the big problem with industry specialists: they like to sell their services by letting you know they have a big database of candidates in your industry.

That sounds great, right? Who wouldn’t want to go with the recruiter who already has all the contacts in your industry? It seems obvious that they’re the best choice.

Slow down, there. It’s true that an industry specialized recruiter will have access to a database full of candidates. But just because they have those candidates on record doesn’t mean they can get those candidates for you. In fact, they’ll probably be barred from sending you their best candidates.

Why’s that? Well, let’s say you’re the recruiter. You send a top-quality candidate to one of your clients, who hires them on the spot. Then another client comes along, and the candidate would be an even better fit for them. What do you do?

If you’re an ethical recruiter, you do nothing. You can’t poach a candidate from one of your clients to give to another client. It would be a conflict of interest.

The thing about industry specialists is that this situation comes up all the time. An industry specialist is probably already working with most of your competitors. So when you hire an industry specialist recruiter, you’re either a) picking an ethical recruiter who can’t send you the best candidates, or b) picking an unethical recruiter who will very likely poach candidates from you in the near future.

So even though it sounds like a selling point, the industry specialist’s database is a big problem. Sometimes it’s better to go with an all-around recruiter who can go after anybody.

  1. All-Around Recruiters are Invested in Giving Great Customer Service

You’ve heard the problems with industry specialized recruiters. So why should you go with an all-around recruiter instead?

Simply put, an all-around recruiter is more invested in you and your success. While an industry specialist can “rest on their laurels” by letting people know about their contacts in the industry, an all-around recruiter has to depend on their ability to provide excellent service and consistently find the right hire.

Or to put it another way, an all-around recruiter has more skin in the game. They have to do a better job at finding out what you’re looking for in a candidate. They have to be better at sourcing, interviewing, and all the processes that contribute to a great hire. They have to consistently provide excellent service to their customers.

And don’t forget, they have more freedom to go after top-quality candidates than any ethical industry specialist would.

If you have hiring that needs to be done, it’s possible that you might need an industry specialist. But in many situations, an all-around recruiter is able to bring in the best candidate faster and more effectively. If you’re thinking about going with a recruiter, consider trying an all-around recruiter instead of a specialist.

About the Author

Jeffrey Audette is the President of VMG Recruiting.

With over 25 years of experience in recruiting, Jeff has partnered with small, medium, and Fortune 500 firms, helping them to find the talent they need.

You can learn more at or contact Jeff at


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