If the industry you’re recruiting in is on a downward slope and you aren’t getting much business anymore, you may have considered changing your recruiting focus. But if you’ve spent years, or your lifetime, working one industry (such as IT), it can be daunting to drop everything and change to something completely different (like healthcare). An NPAworldwide member since 1980 successfully changed his recruiting focus to a brand-new specialty during a down economy and shared tips on on developing your niche:
Have a good reason for changing your niche:
For years, I was doing mostly Information Technology and some Aerospace Defense, importing and exporting, for clients in FL, and was also helping NPA trading partners with their positions. A couple things prompted me to change: 4-5 years ago, aerospace defense was on the decline; budget cuts caused big contractors to pull back on what they were doing. Clients were slow to respond; it was also getting tedious, and I was tired of doing that. I just wanted a change, so I decided to take a look around within NPA, and see what else I might be able to do. In the network at that time, there was a big demand in engineering, particularly chemical engineering – there were lot of jobs, and what seemed like a shortage of candidates.
I’d been in NPA quite a while, so even some members who didn’t know me as an engineering recruiter, knew me anyway because I bumped into them at meetings. A great way to get exposure is to attend meetings. Jump on conference calls to get a feel for what’s going on in that area. To really get good exposure and establish yourself, actions speak louder than words. Once you decide what you’re going to do, talk to 1-2 members who maybe have some jobs in that trading group, and get a feel for their positions. When you’re recruiting, come up with candidates and provide the detail they’re looking for, knowing what their requirements are.
Spend some time – I did lot of internet research on new terminology and educating myself on some of the things that were completely new to me. That helped rather than going in blind. Candidates love talking about themselves, so they’ll be glad to explain something to you in their resume, but don’t go in totally green or they’ll think you don’t know what you’re doing.
Honesty is the best policy
One of the first candidates I sent out was a process engineer and I thought I nailed this guy, he was perfect, until I got on the phone with the recruiter working this job, who said ‘don’t ever send me anyone from these firms, I can’t use those guys for anything.’ I skipped that step of talking to the member about it. Honesty is basis of network; your reputation is all you’ve really got in the network. When you talk to the candidates, pay attention to detail, provide as much information as you can, don’t skimp. If you’ve got a client, be honest with the exporters: ‘hey, my client takes 4 weeks to get done, if you’re recruiting a candidate that’s actively looking, he may be gone.’ It’s important to be honest from both sides. I follow up fairly regularly with my candidates and NPA members.
Do a little bit of research before you decide what you want to switch to. Talk to a couple members who are successful in that niche and make sure you understand the plusses and minuses of that area. For every one of them, it’s not all roses. I knew a bit about engineering – I had worked electrical engineering in aerospace defense — so I knew some of the technology, but it is a learning experience. Before you up and change niches, talk to a couple recruiters who are top recruiters in that area about the pros and cons, and get a feel for what their market is like.