9 Steps To Hiring Niche Talent


Business is moving faster than ever before, with new skill requirements constantly emerging, particularly within technology roles.

This shift presents a challenge for leaders of HR and talent acquisition - how do they locate and attract these niche skills?

This article will explore some of the methods forward thinking organisations are employing. They are not all appropriate for every company - that will depend on your specific circumstances and requirements - but should provide useful inspiration and direction for your next unicorn hunt.

 
1. BE CLEAR ON THE 1 THING YOU REALLY NEED

Hiring niche talent is notoriously difficult, so while there will be a long list of supporting skills and experiences you would like the ideal candidate to possess, your first objective should be to find those people who are world class at the one core thing you need from them. By all means, when you have a long list of all those people who tick this box, rank them by their secondary traits. Just don’t set yourself up for failure.

2. INNOVATE

Innovation tends to centre on technology, but increasingly some of the most interesting innovation is coming from HR and talent acquisition.

One current example is with the rapidly growing mortgage broker, Habito. Based in London, they knew that their goal of building a world class development team would be made near-impossible by the recruitment activities and eye watering salaries of Google and Facebook. So rather than competing in the general market, they set about becoming the number 1 employer for the niche coding language, Haskell. They even host meet-ups for Haskell developers. By adopting this ultra targeted approach they are no longer competing against the general market, nor on salary alone.

3. SOURCE GLOBALLY

With the growing trend towards flexible and remote working, more companies are opening themselves up to a global market. This is a huge advantage when hiring niche skills which may not exist locally.

4. UNDERSTAND THE COMPLEMENTARY SKILLS

Some skills are so new that almost nobody will possess them, and of those that do they may not have thought to mention so in their cv’s.

For these ultra niche positions, it pays to draw up a list of complementary skills. For example, someone who has skill C is also likely to have skills X, Y and Z.

This will allow you to cast the net significantly wider, whilst still ensuring you are speaking to the right kind of candidate.

5. FOCUS ON TRAITS OVER SKILLS
 
This point is closely related to that above. Things are moving so quickly that not only is the required talent pool likely to be more like a talent puddle, but in 6 months the skill in question may have been replaced by something different again.

One solution to this is to focus instead on attributes, rather than skills. For example, if you hire someone with exceptional speed, initiative and an appetite for constantly expanding their knowledge, you may find that they are not only able to acquire the niche skill you need today, but are also the 17 after that.

This focus on attributes over skills will enable you to retain and train, rather than developing a production line of talent that falls off the other end every 6 months.

6. INVOLVE YOUR EMPLOYEEs
 
This recommendation is sensible for most areas of recruitment, but has particular importance for niche hires.

Great people tend to know great people, so by establishing an employee referral scheme you may find that most of the work is done for you.

7. FIND A NICHE SUPPLIER

In response to the explosion of niche skill requirements over the last decade, many specialist recruitment firms have emerged. These companies have databases of thousands of highly targeted candidates that they can instantly access on behalf of clients.

Via Resource, as an example, were one of the first recruiters in cyber security, and have built up a vast network of specialists, possessing just about every niche cyber skill imaginable.

8. UNDERSTAND WHERE THESE PEOPLE ARE ACTIVE

Generic recruitment strategies are likely to produce generic results. You need to understand where these unicorns are active, both online and offline. Which events do they attend? What social networks and forums do they use? What magazines and journals do they read?

9. NAIL THE CANDIDATE EXPERIENCE

When you do eventually find a candidate who ticks the right box, it’s imperative you don’t then lose them to someone else. This is true of any recruitment process, but when hiring for niche roles the stakes are much higher. You must consider every moment of the candidate experience, and ensure it makes a big impression for the right reasons.