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Niche Recruiting: What it is, how to do it, and Why You Should Care

Ilinca Draganescu


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You know that one guy...I think he’s in IT? The one who nobody can say precisely what it is that he does, yet the entire company went into a tizzy when he took an offer elsewhere. Everybody is sure the company will come grinding to a halt without him, yet they still can’t tell you what he does. Do you know how you’re going to find a replacement for that guy?

niche recruiting is anytime you need to fill a specialized role.

Welcome to niche recruiting. This is the part of the job nobody told you about, the hunt for the elusive needle-in-a-haystack candidate who has the skillset and knowhow to fill that guy’s seat.

Niche Recruiting: The What


In short, niche recruiting is any time you’re recruiting within a given niche, or specialty, within your company. Whether your entire company fills a niche segment within your industry, or it’s a one-off position in a larger department— you have a seat to fill that requires specialized knowledge and you know only like 1 in every 100 potential candidates you work with comes even close.


Niche recruiting isn’t any different than regular recruiting within your industry. Fundamentally, at least. In reality, you’re going to have to use your own niche knowledge of your industry as a whole, the department, and what you can learn from the outgoing employee to come up with a plan of attack that will get that seat filled with the right person, and fast.


Never fear, the next two sections will help you get a firm foothold on the processes involved, and set you on the right path to finding that person and getting them in that seat ASAP.

Niche Recruiting: The Why


Specialized positions aren’t exactly rare. Most companies have at least a handful of people like the proverbial ‘that guy’ discussed above. The problem is that in most companies, these roles are lumped in with others in their department, leading to ineffective recruiting efforts because the recruiter doesn’t understand the core differences. 


From experience, these roles require an understanding on the part of the recruiter that simply goes beyond what most HR departments teach. For example, there’s one person at a large software company who works with machine code to write the driver software that tells a PC how to interact with your new printer. That person actually writes in machine language, not in a commonly known programming language like Ruby or Python. There is an exceedingly small number of people who do this, so when he changed positions they were left in a lurch since none of their recruiters understood this nuance and couldn’t write an accurate job description.


The reason you should care about niche recruiting is therefore so you can fill these roles quickly, efficiently, and with the right person the first time. This will keep costs down and managers happy. It will also broaden your reach as a recruiter, opening up new possibilities for recruitment marketing efforts in the future.

Niche Recruiting: The How


Alright, it’s time for the nitty-gritty. You ready to take notes?

Find people where they are


And it’s crucial at this early step to know what to say, and how to say it, to these people. People with specialized skills often congregate in their own groups on larger networks or within their own niche forums. They also tend to belong to industry organizations that focus on these specific skills. So talk to the departing employee, interview their manager and teammates, and compile copious notes on the skills needed and some ideas for where to look for folks with them. Then get out there and start participating in discussions, getting the word out about how cool your company is and why someone who fits this niche should want to come on board.

Make sure you’re offering the right stuff


Millennials make up the majority of the global workforce. It’s up to you to formulate a pitch that will explain your employer brand (EB) and highlight the right aspects of your employee value proposition (EVP) to entice the right person to leave their current position to come fill your niche role. Spoiler: millennials want a mix of the right salary, benefits, culture, and importantly company values that match their own.

Update your job description


The day is past where a list of duties is enough to attract someone to apply for an opening, let alone a niche role. Your job description needs to list the specific skills this role requires, as well as going into enough detail on that EB and EVP to tell your audience that your company values them as people and wants them to be happy working there.

Use your current employees’ networks


Like knows like, so if you have another employee whose role is similar to the one you’re filling, get them involved. Set up a good employee referral program with swag on offer for each new hire that a person refers to you. That driver code writer was a member of a national group of driver coders, so chances are the right replacement would have been easy for him to refer, if only someone had asked.

Follow general recruitment marketing best practices


Knowing all of the above is only half the battle for finding niche talent. The rest is putting all that knowledge to use, and to that end recruitment marketing (RM) is the way to go in today’s job market. With the heavy emphasis on the candidate in the market, it’s crucial to build up your talent pool year-round. That way, when a role opens, you have a pre-selected group of awesome potentials to work with. This goes double for the niche roles since you won’t know precisely what role is going to come up when, the bigger your talent pool, the more likely you won’t have to look as far and wide to fill the seat.


A brief synapse of RM best practices for building your very own talent pool, full of awesome passive job seekers:


  • Social media is an amazing tool, use it.
  • Be sure your career portal is current and mobile-friendly.
  • Use automation whenever possible.
  • Stay in brand voice across channels.


And when all is said and done, be ready to continue the conversation with candidates. Should they reach out to you via social media, respond in-channel. If they’re not right for this niche role, you never know when a more mainstream one will come up that they’d be perfect for.

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