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Spot a Tech Generalist

Tech Generalists, often called “IT Guys” or Jack or Jill-of-all-Trades, are valuable tech resources. They usually have a well-rounded background in all things tech.  For example, a tech Generalist will have experience in network administration, database administration, and technical troubleshooting. But how can you spot a tech Generalist vs. a Specialist?

For starters, note your candidates’ prior job titles. “IT Generalist” is not a common official title, and doesn’t refer to any real expertise. More common Generalist titles include System Administrator, IT Manager, and in some cases, Project Manager. But even these titles are vague.  Let’s face it—if you’re looking for a Generalist, you’re not looking for a title.  You’re looking for someone with a wide variety of technical skills. Preferably someone who has experience with the brands or software products that make up your IT footprint or project.

Another thing to look for in a tech Generalist is variety in work history.  If your candidate has significant experience in both database administration and PC support, the candidate might be able to handle some light network administration as well.

Soft skills are an important aspect of tech Generalists.  In order to be a Generalist, one has to have an excellent capacity to learn. Excellent communication skills, ability to work with others, and willingness to take initiative are all part of what makes a Generalist so versatile and effective.  Unfortunately, these skills aren’t necessarily identifiable at the résumé-sifting stage. Communication and organization are somewhat apparent on a résumé, especially when those skills are absent. But they can also be faked on paper. You’ll get a better feel for your candidates’ soft skills during the interview stage.

In a way, IT Generalists are in abundance. The Internet and mobile access to the Internet have made the general population a bit more tech savvy.  This is especially true for System Administrators who have found themselves to be a Google search away from solving a problem they’ve never encounter before. The easy access to information and solutions to known problems makes it easier for tech talent to cross over into new areas of expertise.

You have options as you look for a tech Generalist, but don’t mistake a good Generalist with a bad drifter.  In other words, too many diverse jobs over a short work history may be a red flag that the candidate has not been successful in those positions. But with tech industry tenure dropping, it could be difficult to differentiate.  Follow up with previous employers and insist on references if a candidate’s work history is suspect.

Finding the right Tech Person to fill your job opening comes down to a few simple questions.  What is your budget? (Glassdoor illustrates just how widely these salaries can range.)  How much tolerance do you have for a learning curve?  And on which skills or technology experience do you place the highest priorities? Perform your job seeker searches by targeting those skills, and keep an open mind regarding your candidates’ job titles. And of course, start your search on an IT job board that matches job seeker technical skills to employer technical needs.