In an incredibly competitive market, finding and attracting talent in niche industries presents tough challenges. When talent appears absent, how do you go about finding the right fit? On the rare occasion that you find the right candidate, they might accept an offer elsewhere.
Sometimes, the search for the right fit becomes a search for the ideal candidate that possesses the best mix of skills and raw talent. It’s someone who is talented and trainable and that you plan to make every effort to retain — once you find them, that is. Don’t lose confidence in finding that rare specialist, but don’t let that quest make you blind to recognizing raw talent emerging in the industry. It all depends on the position.
Here are a few ways to improve your strategy in finding and attracting that talent:
1. Think Outside the Mold
The candidate must check particular boxes in order to show they will do the job well and contribute at the level you need to run a successful company. Thinking only within the typical candidate profile sets you up for hiring the same type of professionals to repeat the same job without ever-diversifying the talent pool in the office or the position itself.
Diversify the pool by opening up the profile, and encourage candidates to color outside the lines with their experience. Take the initiative to research candidates beyond what they present on paper. Do they have a website or list a volunteer position? What are their passion projects? These accomplishments show how hard a candidate will push on the job to exceed expectations and grow their potential.
Ask similar questions during the in-person interview, such as: “If you could spend time giving anything back to the world, what would it be? Why?”
Think outside the mold. If the candidate possesses a relevant skill, give them a chance. Many professionals have transitioned from one industry to another successfully. If you need a go-getter to restructure a department, nurture a budding leader if they show transferable initiative and the skills to back that up. Besides, people are so much more than who they present themselves to be on paper.
2. Take It International
Not catching anything in the small, local pool? When regional, statewide and national don’t cut it, open up the net to the planet. Why not?
Talent is a widely untapped resource available around the globe. When you hire from an international pool, your company’s competitive advantage opens up, and you gain the benefit of cross-cultural insight. Consider this: Of all existing Fortune 500 companies, 40 percent were started by immigrants or their kids, and the current political climate has interrupted the flow of diverse talent into the country.
By 2024, a shortage of 1.1 million STEM candidates will affect this niche industry due to a 60 percent drop of interest in international talent for tech positions as of 2016. Foreign job seekers are also hesitant, though those numbers slowly rise with more engagement from companies and applicants.
Interestingly, among U.S. tech workers, 81 percent think international talent brings innovation to the industry, and 77 percent believe it brings necessary diversity to the workforce.
Also, consider recruiting and hiring remote workers internationally. Think your company’s hours of operations and schedule are not flexible for time differences of six or twelve hours? You might be surprised. Night owls exist around the world, and they’re just as productive. Look beyond your time zone and comfort zone. Don’t stagnate — innovate.
Don’t be afraid to take the search internationally and create competitive relocation packages. Bringing in domestic candidates with international experience is beneficial, but greater diversity lies in taking the search global.
3. Consider Contractors
Time is money. Sometimes you have to accept less-than-qualified candidates, try to train them on the job and hope it works out in the end. It often doesn’t work out.
It’s time to consider contractors for time-sensitive and highly specialized areas of need to fill in during the interim. If much of the work is project-based, consider the advantage of hiring on a more permanent basis, with the aim to retain the contractor over a longer term. Freelancers will compose the majority of the workforce in a decade, and 50 percent of millennials are already taking this route as their career path. If that’s where the talent lies, that’s where the search should go, too.
Many candidates see flextime and remote roles as an attractive advantage, and offering this an option opens up the role to diverse and talented folks you maybe haven’t even thought of — such as a new stay-at-home mom or an international candidate who can’t yet afford to travel.
4. Pull From the Pool You Already Have
Opening up candidacy for a role internally comes first in many organizations, but the routine is lackadaisical: Put the call out, let candidates apply, and open it up to outsiders when that fails. Ideally, an internal candidate is nurtured and trained for succession to a higher position.
Unfortunately, it’s often the case that the internal talent pool remains untapped due to a lack of focused encouragement and training beyond initial onboarding efforts. Though continued education may be offered on the job, does that go beyond the odd communication or presentation skills workshop? It should! Pull from the pool you already have, and develop customized training programs to strategically nurture and develop specialized candidates from within your own company.
For example, electricians face many hazards, but truly qualified electric workers must meet standard training requirements as determined by OSHA and NFPA 70E to be properly authorized to the job right. However, those same electrical workers may not be considered qualified to address hazardous tasks even if they meet the standard requirements. The solution is found in training task-specific niche electric workers, and planning similarly for existing talent your niche industry. They advise reviewing qualifications both before and after hire and implementing training relevant to your niche by working with industry standards and company protocols.
Closely monitor and work with existing talent to see what emerges and grow highly specialized candidates. Guidelines and standards are always changing for specific industry requirements, but training existing talent can be more cost-effective and create a motivated and positive work culture.
Use these four tips to find and attract talent when the pool appears absent or lacking. As when fishing, sometimes you need to cast the line further out, go deeper, or visit more shallow waters to get bites from the right school.
Often, there are alternatives you hadn’t even considered, and it’s a matter of shifting your mindset to where the talent lies and what they think of as advantageous. This typically turns out to be mutually beneficial, making the company even more successful and competitive in the market.
Sarah Landrum is a millennial workplace expert and the founder of career and happiness blog, Punched Clocks. Her career development advice has been featured on Forbes, Levo, The Muse, Business Insider, and other top publications. Sarah has been listed as one of the top career websites and career experts to follow.