If you tune in to the keynote speaker at your next big industry conference, or leaf through the flashiest tome of professional self-help on your boss’s bookshelf, it is quite possibly you will come across the phrase “a mile wide and an inch deep” before too long. This is one of a long list of corporate-speak quips that has become popular with capital B Business types because it conveys an easy-to-understand idea with broad, useful applicability. The concept behind “a mile wide and an inch deep” refers to an individual or company with a wide range of professed competencies, service offerings, or skills but only surface-level mastery of those skills. The phrase is often used to drive home a point about a particular pitfall-sacrificing subject matter depth for quantity-that employees and businesses ought to avoid. In recent years, LinkedIn content creators and lecture series hosts have begun to advocate the inverse, arguing that professionals should strive for extreme specialization, going an inch wide and a mile deep in their expertise.
There’s certainly wisdom in the warning about the risk of running jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none businesses in this densely populated and highly competitive digital marketplace. It is difficult to stand out and demonstrating core competencies and subject matter expertise is important. Here at LOOP, however, we stop short of the inch wide mile deep alternative and encourage our recruiters to split the difference: our philosophy is to go a half-mile wide and a half-mile deep. As recruiters and staffing professionals, it is essential that we familiarize ourselves with our clients partners’ businesses, including the basics of their industry, revenue models, competition, and technology. The clients we recruit for span large business sectors, including finance, information technology, commercial operations, and consumer markets. Expert-level depth in any one of these areas is not as critical as being competent, capable, and well-informed about all of them.
This same half-mile wide half-mile deep philosophy can be applied to the maintenance of our candidate network. It is not ideal for us to have a narrow, highly constrained network of professional relationships, regardless of how deep the roster might be in any one specialty. On the other hand, if any given industry network s too shallow and broad, then it becomes less likely that we will be connected in advance to the right suite of potential applicants. When developing a candidate network, we strive to maintain an extensive but manageable portfolio of meaningful relationships across professional disciplines. When we receive a call from any one of our clients across a range of industries, it is imperative that we be able to mine a half mile wide and a half mile deep to find the right fit for the job.