Dan Appleby

What’s the difference between generalist and specialist recruitment?

The recruitment industry is a huge sector in the UK, employing many thousands of people. Recruitment agencies work with companies to find appropriate people for their roles and help individuals find their next job. Some agencies specialise in a single industry, such as healthcare or manufacturing, whereas others cover a much broader market, working with any local companies they can find.

Generalist recruitment

Generalist recruiters register candidates from all backgrounds and experience levels. However, looking for the right candidate for a particular job can be challenging and time-consuming, as you’ll need to look through a large pool of varied CVs and an extensive list of skills and experience that are not always relevant to the position you are looking to cover.

As a generalist recruiter, you work with clients from a wide range of industries, whose requirements can be anything from entry-level to managerial jobs. To understand a client’s requirements, one must learn about their company, the job role, the industry and the skills they need. While this is very interesting, the knowledge you gain of a particular industry tends to be superficial. Once you have placed a candidate, you will potentially move on to a different client from an other sector, meaning you will need to start the learning process all over again. Likely, you won’t work with highly-paid specialists, as they usually prefer to deal directly with specialist recruitment agencies.

Specialist recruitment

Specialist recruitment agencies work in a niche market, focusing on a specific industry, skill set or location. Whitehall Resources, for example, is a specialist recruitment agency that provides its clients with software system experts for their SAP, Oracle and IT job roles. These areas are further broken down into permanent and contract recruitment for each category and per country.

As a specialist recruiter, you connect with candidates and clients at a more in-depth level due to the knowledge you have about the industry, becoming an expert in what you do, enabling you to build stronger business relationships and becoming an advisor to your clients. You also work only with candidates with key characteristics your clients would be looking for.

In contrast with generalist recruitment, specialist recruiters manage their own clients throughout the whole recruitment process, especially when the role is as a 360° recruiter, in which you also search for new clients and build your own client portfolio.

Why clients prefer specialist recruiters

Specialist recruitment agencies build relationships with candidates with niche skills. Therefore companies looking for specific skill sets benefit from the niche pool of candidates a specialist can offer. They also benefit from expert advice, which can be particularly helpful when the clients aren’t in the industry. For example, if a warehousing company requires an IT manager, they might not know how to interview or test the IT knowledge of a candidate. 

In contrast, the specialist recruiter would know precisely the skills and expertise the client requires for the role and can therefore advise them in that respect. They also gain access to what’s happening in the market as the recruiter will speak with hundreds of people in a month. They’ll be aware of projects that companies are working on, places where people might be moving to and from, and where the best people are currently working.

Whitehall Recruitment Party

Why should you choose to be a specialist recruiter?

  • You manage your own desk and your own clients. You actively seek new business and expand your client portfolio and enjoy the financial rewards as a result of your hard work.
  • You become an expert and an adviser. Clients and candidates know you are the person to go to, that they can benefit from your experience and knowledge, and that you are able to deliver the results they need.
  • You build strong relationships with candidates in your industry. Candidates trust you and become familiar with you, they contact you when looking for a job and can give you useful information about the industry and ongoing projects or company changes.
  • If you work with highly-experienced candidates in a specialist agency like Whitehall, your commission is a percentage of a contract of high value, which consequently means you have higher earnings.

Interested in becoming a specialist recruiter? We are hiring! Take a look at our latest recruitment jobs.

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After working at Whitehall for a number of years now, I look back and wonder why I didn’t get into recruitment sooner. The company values, team spirit and the atmosphere is what makes Whitehall the place to be. On top of that, the commission structure, company rewards and career progression are second to none and I am excited for what my future holds and the goals I can reach.

Nicola Saxham - Senior Consultant – International (DACH) team

Since I started working at Whitehall, I am the happiest I have ever been in my career. The company really do look after you and I enjoy coming into work every day. The operations team always get included in all the incentive schemes, so no one is ever left out. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for me here at Whitehall.

Keeley Bell – Operations Coordinator

I have worked at Whitehall for a long time now and it has been a pleasure to be part of the company’s continued growth. It is an exceptional place to work, with a family orientated mentality, and you are rewarded for working hard and being dedicated. I have loved my time here so far and look forward to progressing further.

Jason Wood – Credit Control Supervisor

Whitehall has really helped me curate my career into one I can be proud of – starting as an admin assistant,  I was promoted to the Facilities & Senior Administrator after just 18 months! Just recently, I was part of a project to help the company become Carbon Neutral, which is the best news!! The camaraderie of the whole team is wonderful, and I would thoroughly recommend Whitehall to anyone who is looking to kickstart their career into something amazing!

Abbie Elwood – Facilities & Senior Administrator

I joined the company as an entry-level consultant in the newly formed Key Accounts team back in 2010. Throughout those years I have progressed within the company and have had multiple promotions along the way and have never once looked back. At the moment, I’m looking to continue the growth of my team by adding to the current headcount and in supporting their development to help them to achieve their aspirations.

Adam Edgell – Associate Director – Key Accounts Delivery

The environment here is second to none, I am constantly learning and improving thanks to those around me and from the support of my managers. This is a company that rewards hard work and gives you all the tools you need to develop and succeed. I would recommend Whitehall to anyone, from those looking to start their journey into recruitment to those who already have a number of years’ experience as you will be joining a close-knit team and have the opportunity to thrive and work with some of the best in the industry.

Nathan Joseph – Principal Consultant – UK Permanent – ERP & IT Client Development

Since joining Whitehall Resources, they have given me the opportunity to grow and develop from a trainee position. Whitehall Resources is the ideal company if you are looking for career progression.

Kirsty Small – Contracts Administrator

I joined Whitehall with no experience in recruitment or IT and I could barely use a computer myself. Since joining, I have built a career and a joined a family here. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity I have been given and the guidance I have received from my managers and colleagues (friends). With hard work and a bit of tenacity, Whitehall can give you the chance to change your life for the better.

Jacob Lee – Executive Consultant – UK SAP Contracts

I joined Whitehall Resources with zero recruitment experience and a background in pharmaceuticals. Fast forward six years I have been promoted on multiple occasions and can vouch first hand that Whitehall Resources is a great place for career progression whilst having lots of fun along the way. On top of the career available you get to win lots of incentives including holidays abroad and overall, it is a great place to work.

Georgia Pike - Executive CSM - CSM

After joining Whitehall, I have really found myself within recruitment and even achieved rookie of the year! I am continuously learning and growing. I am looking forward to challenging myself in the future and seeing what I can achieve here at Whitehall.

Hannah Pile – Consultant – UK SAP Perm

I joined Whitehall in late 2015 as IT Support Engineer and have now progressed to Team Lead. Whitehall is a fantastic place to work, where hard work and a strong work ethic is rewarded in both Sales and Operations alike.

Dan Appleby – IT Team Lead