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Who Would You Hire? - A "Jack of All Trades" or a "Master of One?

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  • Who Would You Hire? - A "Jack of All Trades" or a "Master of One?

    Back in the corporate world, I was asked this question during an interview:
    When building my own team, would I prefer a "jack of all trades" or a "master of one"?

    I preferred to have a group of people who are "masters of one", rather than many "jacks of all trades". I still do. Each "master of one" in my team can focus on performing tasks under his/her expertise and continue to develop the skill. I don't need each team member to be able to do and be good at everything. They have their teammates to count on. Each expertise complement the other, allowing better project implementation, problem solving and decision making. And as each one expands his/her expertise, thus the entire team grows.

    What are your thoughts?

  • #2
    Not a hiring manager but given a chance to choose, I'd prefer the jack of all trades. There's a certain versatility and utility to knowing a lot of skills instead of being a specialist who is only good for one, single job. A varied set of skills will lead an individual to more career options, and if they feel like specializing, it wouldn't hurt that they know so much more than just their chosen specialty even if they were late in specializing. Covering a lot more ground, skill-wise, just sounds better than a tunnel-vision focus on a particular skill.
    Last edited by Kamille; 07-02-2020, 10:30 AM.

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    • #3
      Why not something in the middle? Looking back, I think I've only been part on deciding who we'll hire in one of my jobs. Being a "master" of a specific skill may be required for some jobs however, one should be open to being trained and learn new skills. This is part of professional growth. I remember that was something we looked for when deciding who to hire; people who possessed the skills we were looking for but are not so set in their ways that they would not be open to learn something new.

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      • jcoppi29
        jcoppi29 commented
        Editing a comment
        I actually agree with this. It depends on the work-setting and the demand of particular tasks. Generally, Jack of all trades types are the most adaptive, but they generally lack specialty and focus, while the inflexible master of one types, would be difficult to teach something else as they're used to a sharp monotone method.

        I'd generally prefer the Master of a Few Trades. Gets the good sides of both opposites.

      • Skye
        Skye commented
        Editing a comment
        jcoppi29, I agree with you that it depends on "the demand of particular tasks."

        There are just some tasks that are too specialized that you need a master of it.

        The way I think of it is like doctors. We have general practitioners and we have specialists. If you got general body malaise, you can go to a family doctor or GP first. Then you can escalate and go to specialists later on. And you do not go just to any specialist. You go to a specialist depending on the symptoms and diagnosis.

        So it is crucial to determine the demand of particular tasks first.

        And it is not bad to be a jack of all trades at one time. It may be one's way to feel out what they really want to do. Hopefully, eventually, they will also get to master one trade.

    • #4
      i believe it depends on the job or position. If the position entails a one track mind so to speak then hire someone who is a master of one (i.e. accounting, bookkeeping, data entry, etc...) but if the position is similar to social media, e-marketing, or something that requires a dynamic person then a jack of all trades would be the best fit.

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      • #5
        In my opinion, it depends. In some instances, one is required to know at least the basics of the "trade". Not necessarily an expert, but at least an idea of how things work. Especially in a small company wherein there are a limited number of employees, one must have redundancy. As an employer, you should always have a back-up plan. You'll never know when an employee decides to quit. At least, when that happens, your company will still be able to move forward without getting affected much.

        In another viewpoint, an employee who is a "jack of all trades"may have a better understanding of how things work. Thus, making it easier for him/her to decipher if there are things that need to be updated or if there is a mistake that needs to be corrected, etc. Just as Kamille mentioned, a jack-of-all-trades covers more ground, skill-wise compared to single-focus expertise.

        However, in large companies, I believe "masters of one" is better as they have different departments taking care of various business needs. These companies need experts in certain fields for whatever purpose it may serve them.

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        • mjmnl
          mjmnl commented
          Editing a comment
          This is true. I have experienced working in both big and small companies. Startups need someone who can be very adaptable and flexible due to limited manpower. You can be assigned doing different things day by day. Big companies, however, require someone who has a specialization because they have people doing every task that you can imagine to make the processes more efficient.

          Although, in my opinion, it is always beneficial for both employer and employee if the employee has knowledge of daily office tasks or the business together with his/her specialization.

      • #6
        Maybe the question is just missing the fact that no one really stays 'master of one' nor 'jack of many trades'. Hiring while having to choose either one seems to suggest there is no job description and job specifications to guide the hiring process -even the recruiter stands as a 'jack of many trades' when they interview and 'short list' candidates for the hiring officer. And then you have the hiring manager who wants to stand as the master of his operations trying to fathom the 'fit' of an applicant -who without the necessary training and frequent practice also flies blind into divining (literally just 'gut feeling' who to hire) whether a candidate will in fact work.

        I think the better question would have been "how do you find out if you are getting hired for your skills or for your 'vibe'?" (smh)

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        • JerryYan
          JerryYan commented
          Editing a comment
          I agree that no one stays "master of one" or "a jack of all trades". This also ensures that tasks or skills required in the work place or role applied for do not remain stagnant or stagnant with its goals. Finding either in hiring also doesn't ensure them to still be the same "master of one" or "jack of all trades" when already functioning under their role.
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