A couple of months ago, CNA International IT had an interesting niche candidate recruitment case study. It was a challenging vacant position with numerous constraints that required the full scope of recruitment skills involved.

In retrospect, we could say it was a sort of test of skill for our recruiters.

This article recounts how it went down.  

Niche Candidate Recruitment: The Context

CNA International IT had an established relationship with the client dating back to 2015. Our primary task consisted of filling various development roles with qualified specialists and providing market research. The goal was to relocate specialists from all around the world with matching skills and good English. Because of the position’s niche specifics, it was a challenge that required in-depth market research and through candidate screening. 

Over the years, our agency closed numerous niche vacancies for the client’s international offices and handled related relocation duties. 

The client’s recruitment process involved over ten other recruitment agencies and also an internal recruitment team. 

Despite the competition, thoroughgoing sourcing and screening methods and diverse talent pool allowed CNA International IT to deliver a cost-effective recruiting performance with quality hires consistently. In particular:

  • a constant flow of relevant candidates from the European Union and Eastern Europe;
  • our company provided full relocation support for the candidates;

Eventually, the continuous high performance persuaded the client to hand our agency a high-priority project for the Israel office. It was another vacant position that required finding a specialist from Israel. 

The Set-up: Challenges of Niche Candidate Recruitment in Israel

why recruiting candidates for a niche is so challenging?

On the surface, the new task was more or less similar to the previous – niche candidate recruitment, i.e. find candidates with niche qualifications for the foreign office. Except for this time, something wasn’t coming together over after over again. 

  • An internal team had experienced difficulties with this position. 
  • Similarly, the two recruitment agencies located in the said country and armed with first-hand market research could not get it done. 

But why was this position so challenging? 

The answer was in details of the position requirements. 

  • On the one hand, it was a classic case of niche vacancy that required very specific domain expertise. It was indeed niche, as such specialists were few and far between. 
  • On the other hand, there was a caveat that rendered the task extremely hard. In addition to technical expertise, the position required solid soft skills as it involved interacting with the customers and solving technical issues in equal measures.
    • That’s a peculiar combination that substantially limits the talent pool. Because of that, approximately 70% of potential candidates were out of consideration from the get-go.
    • This aspect ups the ante, but it is still not unrealistic to get it done. Advanced screening techniques and thorough interviews take care of such requirements. 

But there was another aspect that made this position incredibly tough to handle. 

  • The overall candidate pool was around 200+ people in Israel. Because of its niche status and limited demand, most potential candidates were already employed and not interested in switching jobs regardless of competitive advantages. 
  • Most of the candidates were unwilling to return to technical support tasks. 
  • In addition to that, such candidates mostly hung out in the closed communities that weren’t embracing outsiders, not to mention recruiters. 

Such a set-up was like a chess problem. We needed to figure out the sequence. 

Here’s how we did it.

Niche Candidate Recruitment: Our Solution 

Our overarching goal for this niche candidate recruitment case was the following:

  • explore possible sources with viable candidates;
  • get in contact with the potential candidates; 
  • identify their needs and requirements to switch positions;
  • communicate the employee value proposition of the position;
  • prepare the candidate to go through the several interview stages.

The first step was to study the regional market and map out its specifics regarding the niche. The previous section summarizes our research. 

After that, we needed to source the candidates.

  • Job board postings weren’t particularly useful due to the overall uninvolved behavior of the target segment. Most of them weren’t hanging out at the job boards and weren’t receiving any newsletters.
  • On the other hand, the domain specialists were not very active on social media too. Because of that, social media sourcing wasn’t reaching the target segment. 
  • Besides, standard sourcing techniques weren’t that effective in generating leads from the outside.
    • Boolean search provided a meaningful selection of the matching candidates. However, most of them were out of consideration due to lack of interest, high expectations, current employment, or lack of qualification.

For the most part, the target audience seemed too passive to interact with us. 

We needed to find a workaround to get domain specialists interested in our message.

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

How to recruit niche candidates?

As a result, our niche candidate recruitment solution was to think outside the box. 

  • We identified several domain expert communities and went there to engage with the candidates directly and “talk it through.” 

Here’s what it brought to us: 

  • Engaging specialists with recruiters take a lot of time. In the beginning, most of the conversations stumbled into the “not interested” one. It is a predictable outcome, considering the prerequisite of the target audience. 
  • Over several conversations, we have managed to fine-tune the employee value proposition of the position. Eventually, it became intriguing for potential candidates. 
    • It evolved from a simple abstract “engaging work environment with a competitive salary” to more specific “valued and rewarded meaningful contribution to the community.” 
  • Over time, we have established a proper connection with the domain specialists. Our conversations immensely helped with researching the industry and the surrounding community. While the interest in the position was limited, some specialists were keen to refer to other specialists interested in applying.

That’s what happened next.

Finding the right candidate

Our solution to niche candidate recruitment

After five weeks of back and forth communication, we have managed to round up ten viable candidates. 

  • We presented three of them to the client. Over the course of the next two months, two of them reached the final stages of the interview process. 
  • One of them was rejected during salary negotiations. The other candidate fell through due to extensive other commitments.

Around this time, we received a referral to another potential candidate. His involvement with the community wasn’t as active and he wasn’t closely following related job boards.  

  • The initial screening showed a match with the position requirements. 
  • Upon contact, the candidate was modestly intrigued by the position and was interested in trying it out.

At this point, it all depended on passing several stages of the interview that covered both technical expertise and soft skills.  

That’s where our experience with previous candidates came in handy. 

  • We have gathered feedback from the client and the candidate after each interview stage to understand how things are moving.
  • Our recruiter was in constant contact with the candidate and provided emotional support during the proceedings. 
  • During our interviews, we have discussed in detail how the rest of the interview process will go down, what to expect, and how to stay on the same page with the client’s interviewers.
  • This approach helped the candidate to keep interested in the position and stay motivated to proceed.
  • Ultimately, the candidate passed through each stage of an interview with exceptional results. Within several months, he offered a position, and now he is finishing the probation period. 

Niche Candidate Recruitment: Our Results

 

Niche candidate recruitment case study results

Overall, the position statistics look like this:

  • 206 candidates were long-listed. Also, + 5 candidates were referred to us;
  • 16 interviews with our consultant;
  • 4 candidates were sent to the client;
  • 2 candidates passed the interview and received offers;
  • 1 has accepted an offer.

As a result of closing this position, we have accomplished the following:

  • closed a complicated niche position in the foreign market within six months;
  • strengthened our working relationship with the client;
  • practiced our sourcing, screening, and interview skills in an extremely tough case;
  • generated substantial domain research;
  • explored the niche expert community and established contact with its representatives;
  • as a result, developed yet another facet of our talent pool;

In conclusion

Closing this position was a great accomplishment for our team. It was a challenge that required an extra effort. Ultimately, the benefits of this challenge were far-reaching:

  • It was a test of our recruitment skills in a new market.
  • Our recruiters had a chance to hone their communication skills with different audiences.
  • The position provided an excellent case to test our sourcing skills. 

Overall, this niche candidate recruitment case proved that closing the position depends on recruitment skills and not geographical proximity. It is a testament to CNA International IT’s ability to close positions anywhere in the world. 

If you need to hire niche candidates and want quality recruitment through and through – contact us.

 

Author: Taisiia Mliuzan