Subject Matter Experts Rule! Best of reCareered

Today's employers hire Subject Matter Experts to solve problems. Managers and executives might not like this, but the day of the Generalist is over.

Now that it's easy to completely customize and individualize a resume to demonstrate Subject Matter Expertise, why would a hiring manager give a second glance at a general resume that didn't exactly match requirements?

These five statements summarize why hiring managers look for Subject Matter Expertise over general skills:

  • Leadership and management skills are no longer searched for skills: Sure, they are still valued, but these skills are now assumed, and validated during an interview – if you get that interview (

  • Contractors and employees are considered equivalent: Distinctions between contractors and W2 employees have blurred, as more workers embrace advantages of project work. Hiring managers started seeking full time employees to solve problems that consultants solve…for less cost. Employers complete workflow under times of headcount reduction by hiring contractors to do the work of employees - sometimes the same employees who were laid off are brought on as contractors. There's not that great a difference in the risk-adjusted cost between employees and contractors.

  • Shortened cycles: At the same time, technology life cycles have shortened, and employee turnover has increased.

  • Supply and demand: In the midst of the great recession, there's a great supply of workers who describe themselves as generalists. Generalists risk being viewed as a commodity labor source and commodities are purchased based on price over quality. On the other hand, there's a shortage of specific subject matter experts, who command a higher dollar and greater demand for their services - why else would employers still be willing to pay recruiter fees in the midst of a bad recession? (see:

  • The costs of delay have increased: As technology cycles shorten and the cost of technology increases, it has become critical for employers to deploy technology and get staff up to speed as quickly as possible. Employers have reacted by hiring problem solvers to make an immediate impact with minimal training or ramp-up time – Subject Matter Experts (see:

Back in the days of paper resumes, sometime between the Declaration of Independence and the year 2000, the common knowledge was to write resumes as generalists. Especially for management level professionals, the "rule of thumb" was to write resumes to appeal to a broad audience, as a generalist.
The reason made sense at the time…resumes were printed on paper then. Your resume HAD to appeal to a broad audience, because it was static. The only way you could change it was by changing the cover letter.

But that changed around 2000. Right around the new millennium, job boards exploded, and overtook printed ads. When job boards exploded, HR departments and recruiters responded by purchasing applicant tracking systems, implementing pre-screens that increased efficiency of searches, and enabling hiring managers to micro-target candidates. Hiring managers changed their expectations and expected exact fits, because they could … Subject Matter Experts.

Cover letters stopped being considered as part of a search … why look at the cover letter, when a candidate could easily customize their resume? That's why 96% of hiring managers today make their interview decisions based on the resume, not the cover letter (For the data, see:

There are a number of ways to demonstrate your Subject Matter Expertise, even for those who consider themselves generalists. Here's seven ways to start:

  1. Lose the cover letter & customize your resume -
  2. Use Fishing & Response resumes to customize your expertise for the employer -
  3. Use Resume Search Optimization for resume submissions -
  4. Use Online Reputation Management to brand your Subject Matter Expertise online -
  5. Focus on relevant accomplishments over industry and function -
  6. Make every communication address WIFT (What's In it For Them) -
  7. Stop looking for a job, start looking for problems you can solve -

So, all you generalists out there….How will you change your job search strategies to respond?

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