Navigating the Specialist vs Generalist Dilemma in Job Searches

The Current Predicament: Specialist vs Generalist

Recruiters are increasingly favouring professionals with specialised skill sets. The reason behind this is straightforward: specialists often tick all the boxes in an employer’s list of requirements, making the hiring process faster and more efficient for everyone involved. This leaves generalists, who possess a broad range of experiences and skills, struggling to even get an interview.

The Challenge Facing Generalists

Being a generalist is a double-edged sword. Your diverse experience across multiple industries, technologies, and roles should make you an attractive candidate. You offer fresh perspectives and innovative solutions, skills that can lead to transformative changes within a company. Despite this, breaking through the specialist barrier can feel impossible at times. Some recruiters might see your value, but often, you may not even get past the preliminary conversation.

Strategies to Combat the Bias

So, how can you navigate this challenging landscape? Here are some practical steps you can take:

  1. Tailored Resumes: Alter your resume to focus on experiences and skills that align closely with the job you’re applying for. While this tactic has its limitations—many recruiters will still give precedence to your most recent industry—it can sometimes make the difference.
  2. Initiate Personal Contact: Before hitting the send button on your application, ring the recruiter or contact person to discuss the job opportunity. Establish rapport and seek to understand the specific requirements of the role. Mention any past connections you might have with the company during this conversation to add extra weight to your application.
  3. Leverage LinkedIn: Conduct research on the company and the industry. Use the information gathered to shape your resume and cover letter. Even incorporate some of the specific terminology or skill sets that the company values into your LinkedIn profile.

The Power of Networking

Never underestimate the value of a strong professional network. Contacts within your target industry can be your best asset when competing against specialists. Your connections can help in various ways, from putting in a good word for you to alerting you to job openings that haven’t been publicly advertised. Leveraging these relationships can give you a leg up in this competitive environment.

A Paradigm Shift in Job Searching

If you’re battling the “specialist versus generalist” bias, stepping outside traditional job search strategies could be your ticket to success. Harness the power of research, networking, and targeted communication to showcase your flexibility and broad skill set—the very talents that make you a valuable generalist.

What’s your experience with the specialist versus generalist preference? Have you found effective ways to overcome this bias?


  1. Marlon

    I’ve been thinking about it and arguing that the generalist could be a good background even for specialist positions and people after 30s ou 40s y old. For many reasons yet I’d say only two points – some positions don’t require several years experience to do a good job and the best insight could come from the differents perspective that naturally another experience could help. I’ve worked in companies (two) that have been trying to apply the learning organization process running people throw differents areas and in my experience I saw it as a good practice.

    • Gayle Howard

      I guess ultimately, it comes down to the employer’s brief and exactly what they want. If they keep on wanting specialists, then recruiters are going to want to keep searching for them! Thanks for visiting Marlon!

  2. Kathy

    Research into the company is a must! I’ve found that looking up Youtube videos on the company or watching the companies promotion videos in addition using LinkedIn is helpful as well. I think by doing that research, you’re absolutely right about how it’s easier to position your past experience from a generalist resume closer to a specialist resume causing an aha! moment in the employer’s brain.


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About Gayle Howard

If you are interested in working with Gayle Howard—an executive resume writer, Certified Master Resume Writer, multi-award-winning resume writer, and Master LinkedIn profile writer, drop her a line now using the contact form at the link above. Gayle can help you get interviews for your dream job and bring the world of business to you by maximizing your exposure and connections on LinkedIn.