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Selecting the Right Niche

A tight niche is a fantastic way to quickly make a name for yourself and become extremely knowledgeable, which ultimately results in more inbound business and candidate reusability. That said, I believe an excessive amount of time is wasted in this decision-making process, and I’d love to be able to save you some time if I can.

Before going through a niche selection process, first make sure you’re approaching it from the right perspective. Here are some considerations:

Recruiting is recruiting. Instead of trying to go deep into an industry or specialty, go deep into recruiting. Learn the art and the craft. Build your methodology. Refine it. Figure out how to find anyone and get anyone to talk to you. Become an extraordinary headhunter. Once you do that, you can recruit anyone.

You probably won’t stay in the same industry for your entire career, and if you do, you’ll organically develop a specialty. Markets change. Industries collapse. Jobs transform. New technologies emerge. You’ll likely need to pivot at some point. Know that from the outset.

Most experienced recruiters didn’t select their niche. It was decided by their first agency. They accepted a job and were told what to do. The brave souls who went out on their own from the start, often change their focus repeatedly in the early years before eventually settling into a discipline.

When you’re first starting on your own, you’ll spend an exorbitant amount of time thinking, reading, asking people, talking about it, posting in groups, listening to opinions, changing your mind, doing more research… And that doesn’t serve you.

One of the core tenants of a successful recruiter is adaptability. No two deals are the same. No two clients, no two candidates. Practice adaptability. Pick an industry, build a list, and start prospecting. You might find you can’t stand talking to autonomy engineers, even though you loved the robotics industry and decided you were going to place engineers. You aren’t going to know if you like it until you do it.

Instead of falling in love with your discipline and deciding to go deep in that space, why not fall in love with your clients and go deep with them to provide whatever they need? The best niches develop organically.

Think about what you’re interested in. You’re going to be spending your days talking to people who do that work. Your candidates are going to go into detail about their professional experience. They’ll share what they do, why they do it, what challenges they face and their solutions. Your life will be better if you’re genuinely curious about the impact of your candidates’ work.

Make sure there are recruiters in whatever industry you pick. You might decide you love professional sports, and you want to place operations people for professional sporting teams. It makes sense if you love sports, but there isn’t enough of a market to sustain a search practice. And what is available is highly competitive. It wouldn’t be a great choice.

You want competition in your market. When you do your research, make sure there are established headhunters in your chosen industry. If there’s a lot of competition, it’s a viable industry.

Often, the hottest markets aren’t the best options. If you had no experience in recruiting, you could still easily decide there’s currently a shortage of nurses and hospital staff. If you don’t know the recruiting landscape, you might think healthcare would be a fantastic niche. It’s not. There’s a massive shortage of candidates and if you’re not already an exceptional headhunter, you’ll struggle to find people and likely fail. I wouldn’t recommend it for a new recruiter, or an experienced recruiter starting on their own.

If you still don’t know what to do, hire a coach in the recruiting industry that can help you decide and push you when it’s time to pivot.

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Tricia Tamkin, headhunter, advisor, coach, and gladiator. Tricia has spoken at over 50 recruiting events, been quoted in multiple national publications, and her name is often dropped in groups as the solution to any recruiters’ challenges. She brings over 30 years of deep recruiting experience and offers counsel in a way which is perspective changing and entertaining.

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