Recruiters vs. HR Generalists

Recruiters use traditional advertising and social media to recruit candidates.
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Recruiters use traditional advertising and social media to recruit candidates.

The Human Resources function has a generalist and a specialist career path. Generalists are typically aligned with business units to provide direct support to employees and to implement policies, programs and procedures. Specialists are usually part of a central HR group that supports all business units. They have deep knowledge in a particular area of HR, such as recruiting. Generalists provide input to corporate specialists who create the policies, programs and procedures that generalists implement.

HR Generalist

An HR generalist provides direct support to employees and managers for HR issues. Generalists have broad knowledge of most human resource areas but may not have a specialty in any one area. As they encounter issues that require more specialized knowledge, generalists get advice or assistance from a specialist in a corporate HR group or from an outside consulting firm.


A recruiter helps bring the right talent into an organization. Recruiters gain an understanding of the types of skills and competencies needed to fill vacant positions. They develop a network of sources for candidates and use traditional advertising and social media to locate candidates who are a good fit with the role and the company. Recruiters usually screen prospective employees so a hiring manager spends time interviewing only qualified candidates.

Field HR Staff

An HR generalist usually supports a business unit and is physically located with the business unit employees rather than with corporate HR staff. Generalists develop a thorough understanding of a unit's business strategies and priorities and provide input on corporate policies and programs from a business unit perspective. Generalists sometimes have a dual or matrix reporting relationship to both unit business and HR leaders.

Functional Recruiters

A recruiter is often part of a corporate HR group that provides specialized support, usually to management, across all business units. Many recruiters have or develop a specialty in a particular functional area, such as information technology, to gain a greater technical understanding of job duties and skills. Recruiters with expertise in a functional area recruit employees for that area across the entire organization.

2016 Salary Information for Human Resources Specialists

Human resources specialists earned a median annual salary of $59,180 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, human resources specialists earned a 25th percentile salary of $44,620, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $78,460, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 547,800 people were employed in the U.S. as human resources specialists.

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