As the number of top tier candidates dwindles in a swelling job market, recruiters are in increasing demand. Some have turned to expanding their recruiting scope in the hopes of attracting more business. But developing a more generalized recruitment strategy may actually backfire. Employers understand that in order to secure candidates in a competitive market, they need a recruiter who moves quickly and has a deep understanding of the industry, and general recruiters simply don’t have that ability.

Rather than serving multiple industries and recruiting in various professional stages, specialists focus on serving one industry and gain a unique understanding of the challenges that the industry faces. In doing so, specialists brand themselves as an authority in their field that can step into the hiring process with a sense of urgency and offer invaluable knowledge and counsel, which is far more than simply providing a candidate. By reassessing your recruitment scope and focusing on becoming an industry authority, you can position yourself as a must have recruiter and maintain a competitive edge.

Define Your Target

The first step in specializing is to define your target. This means having a clear understanding of your strengths and weaknesses as a recruiter, which will help you to make informed decisions on which clients to work with. To do this successfully, you’ll find that you might shut some doors on previous clients. This is okay, in fact, it’s encouraged, because with each shaky client door you close, you’ll further define a target that leads you to better business opportunities.

  • Conduct a survey - Construct a survey that asks for feedback and constructive criticism from your current and past clients. Try to ascertain why they chose you as a recruiter and if they’d choose you again. Invite honesty and don’t shy away from criticism. Here is an article outlining how to get the best results out of a survey.

  • Look inward - Take stock of your past and see where you excel and where you fall short. See if you can spot any trends. Is there a particular group of job orders that you are particularly good at filling? What is the type of client with which you work well? Is there a particular demographic of candidates whom you recruit well?

  • Build client profiles - Take what you’ve learned from the survey and inward research and apply it to your business development strategy. One way to do this is to build client profiles. Client profiles are designed to determine which sales leads are good prospects and which ones aren’t. These profiles cover the following:

    • Personality: What is their company culture like?
    • Size: How many employees do they have? How much do they want to grow?
    • Challenges: What common industry challenges do they face and how can you help solve them?
    • Goals: What are they trying to achieve? What do they need to get there?
    • Hiring Managers: How many and in what departments?
    • Hiring Process: How many interviews? How long do they expect the process to last?
    • Budget: How much can they offer for your services?

  • Defining your audience takes research and honest introspection, but doing so will help you determine what your strengths are and how to avoid bad leads. With a target in mind, you can now move on to making yourself known within that market.

Break Into the Market

With a good idea of the type of client you want to tackle, it’s time to build a network. Doing so will both demonstrate your dedication to industry professionals and allow you to learn what you don’t know, so go into it with an open mind.

  • Find the appropriate associations - Professionals who attend industry meetups are often in the same networking boat as you, so the connections you make there can be invaluable. College career fairs can provide plenty of young talent and will show you which organizations looking to hire. While physical meetups are preferable, online groups are also worth joining. In every case, you’ll find people to meet and learn from.

  • Make an impression - Networking is not only your opportunity to make connections, it’s your opportunity to paint yourself in a particular light. When talking to industry professionals, brand yourself as a knowledgeable specialist, but stay humble. Demonstrate that you’re always trying to learn by asking people to offer their industry insights. Ask them what challenges they face in the industry and how they overcome those challenges. Not only will this further help you gain insider industry knowledge, but it will put you in their mind. Studies show that people are more likely to remember you if you ask a lot of questions.

After establishing yourself in the community, you can start to position yourself for success. Knowing people is half the battle—the other half is getting them to work with you. For that, you’re going to have to demonstrate your effectiveness and knowledge as a recruiter.

Identify Ideal Candidates

It’s time to turn your attention towards learning about the ideal candidate. Demonstrating a deep understanding of what to look for in a candidate will be advantageous when trying to generate business. To do so, you’ll have to do some digging and planning.

  • Do your research - Due diligence is paramount. Read through industry publications to find out what people are looking for. What positions are in the highest demand, what are the necessary skills, and what is the culture within the industry? Talk to your connections, identify their best employees and ask them how they retain their top talent.

  • Build candidate personas - Candidate personas are a way for you to map out what your ideal candidates look like. When building them, it’s important to be very specific; there’s a lot more to a candidate than just their resume. Here is a list of things you should cover when building candidate personas:

    • Education
    • Skills
    • Experience
    • Career Goals
    • Salary Goals
    • Dealbreakers
    • Personality Traits
    • Interests/Hobbies

  • Specificity is important when making candidate personas. You want these personas to mirror real, potential candidates. A lot of recruiting firms give their personas names in an effort to make them more realistic.

By putting in the work on the front end, you’re helping yourself in the future because you know exactly what to look for. This accelerates the recruiting process, and a fast process is invaluable to both the candidate and the client. But a recruiting specialist does more than quickly placing a candidate in the hands of a client; they can also offer counsel and advice to a client.

Offer More Than Candidates

If you can offer consulting services on top of recruitment services, you’ll differentiate yourself from others, and that’s important in a competitive market. As a recruitment specialist, you should always strive to offer more than just a candidate.

  • Share insider knowledge - The more clients you work with, the more you’ll have a grasp of the common challenges they face. Perhaps you’ve already solved one of these challenges and can point to an instance in the past in which you were successful. Doing so demonstrates your ability not only as a recruiter but as an authority on the industry, and if you’re an authority on the industry, then the client will certainly trust your recruiting acumen.

  • Set expectations - The more you work in an industry, the more you’ll understand which candidates excel and which ones you should avoid. You can bring that knowledge to your clients. Intake meetings are the perfect opportunity to advise your clients on what they can expect out of a candidate. This is your opportunity to tell them what top tier candidates look like and how they can adjust their company to attract them.

  • Advise on interviews - Your knowledge will lead to you understand the candidate better than the client, that’s why hired you in the first place. So let them know how they can better communicate with candidates in the interview. Are there questions they should be asking? Have they been losing candidates in the interview room? Discuss how they can prevent that.

Consulting is the final step to being a specialist. If you can effectively offer more to a client than just a candidate, then you will stand out among the competition, and that’s the sign of a true recruiting specialist.

If you’re struggling to get business in a competitive market, then specializing might be the pivot you want to make. By clearly defining a target industry and diving headfirst into understanding it, you can start to gain valuable industry knowledge. This knowledge can be used to advise potential clients on more than just candidates, which will paint you as an expert in the field. That expertise translates to more clients, better candidates, faster placements, and more success.

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