Tech recruitment: should you hire all-rounders or specialists?
Hiring new talent is a priority for many organisations – but what kind of talent should you look out for?
All organisations want growth – to grow their revenue, their reach, their share of a market, and their capabilities. It can be achieved in various ways, but sustainable, long-term growth is only made possible by growing internal teams. That means bringing new talent into your tech team but with it comes an age-old question: should you hire an all-rounder or a specialist?
When there’s a war for talent as competitive as the one in the tech industry, knowing what type of talent your organisation needs is crucial.
An all-rounder will have a robust level of understanding across multiple areas of IT knowledge. They can be flexible resources to plug into different projects as you need them – an increasing priority as we work with the sudden change of the pandemic fresh in our minds. As agile working has been adopted by tech teams across the globe, having workers with well-rounded skills has grown in importance.
Naturally, a specialist will have a deeper level of knowledge than an all-rounder, but this will be confined to a small number of topics. They can be instrumental in taking ownership of long-term projects or driving innovative technologies in their company (their experience making them a ‘go-to’ resource for advice and leadership). However, specialists often command larger salaries as compensation for their industry knowledge, which can price some organisations out of using their services.
Let’s consider the different scenarios you may face to explore whether you should hire an all-round or a specialist:
You may choose to hire an IT all-rounder in the following situations:
- Startups and small businesses: Small companies often have limited resources and may not have the budget to hire specialists for every area of IT. In this case, an IT all-rounder can provide a cost-effective solution, as they can handle a wide range of IT tasks and support the business in many different ways.
- Departments with limited resources: Some IT departments may have limited staffing and need someone who can handle multiple tasks and roles. An IT all-rounder can be a valuable asset in these environments, as they can provide support for a variety of initiatives, from software development to network administration.
- Projects with tight deadlines: In fast-paced projects with tight deadlines, an IT all-rounder can bring a broad range of skills and knowledge to the table, allowing them to quickly understand the requirements of the project and get started with delivering results.
- General IT support: An IT all-rounder can be an effective solution for general IT support, as they can handle a wide range of tasks, from troubleshooting hardware and software issues, to assisting with network administration and security.
You might prefer hiring an IT specialist in these situations:
- Complex projects: For complex projects that require deep expertise in a specific area of IT, a specialist can bring the necessary skills and knowledge to ensure that the project is completed successfully.
- Niche technologies: When a company is working with a new or niche technology, a specialist with experience in that area can be a valuable asset. They can bring the necessary expertise to help the company effectively adopt and integrate the technology into their IT infrastructure.
- Security: In industries where security is a major concern, such as finance or healthcare, a specialist in security can bring the necessary expertise to help the company secure their IT systems and protect sensitive data.
- Big data and analytics: For companies working with large amounts of data, a specialist in big data and analytics can help them effectively collect, store, and analyse data to make informed business decisions.
- Scalability and growth: As a company grows and expands, a specialist can help them scale their IT infrastructure and processes to meet the increased demands of the business.
The balance: a ‘T-shaped’ technologist
Many industries have ‘T-shaped’ knowledge concepts and IT is no different. And if you’re looking to hire entry-level talent, this concept may help you balance your recruitment needs.
The ‘T-shaped technologist’ refers to someone who has a broad range of knowledge across multiple areas of IT (represented by the horizontal bar of the T) but also has a deep specialisation in one area (represented by the vertical bar of the T).
For example, a T-shaped technologist may have a broad knowledge of:
- Computer networking
- Operating systems
- Web development
- Cyber security
- Cloud computing
- Project management
And they may have extensive knowledge of automation technology, from AI to Machine Learning, Robotic Process Automation, and test automation. This deep level of experience will often mean they bring creative solutions to project challenges and be comfortable driving new tools and approaches in their sphere of knowledge. Underpinning this deep knowledge is the broad understanding that keeps them flexible and able to be moved onto projects that use different technologies.
T-shaped technologists are well-suited to working in fast-paced and dynamic environments where they are expected to adapt to changing requirements and be productive from day one.
This ‘T-shaped’ approach is not exclusive to experienced workers. We’ve worked with entry-level talent for the past decade and seen many people develop a solid foundation of knowledge across core fields of IT – time and time again, people find their niche and quickly specialise in a field that clicks with how they think and work.