Recruiting In An Unfamiliar Industry: Tips For Success

Recruiter on laptop thinks about how she can fill a role in an unfamiliar industry
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As a recruiter, you'll likely be tasked with filling a role within an industry you're unfamiliar with. Even if you're an experienced recruiter, this challenge can seem intimidating. So, how can you successfully recruit in an unfamiliar industry and expand your expertise?

In this article, members of Duffy Group will reveal their best tips for recruiting in an unfamiliar industry. Read on to gain valuable insights and practical strategies to navigate the challenges of recruiting in unfamiliar sectors, leverage transferable skills, and build effective networks to target successful candidates and expand your talent pool across diverse industries.

Sharon Grace

Have you been tasked with filling a role within an industry you are unfamiliar with and have not recruited in before? No need to fear; here are some tips that I use to help you get started:

  • First and foremost, approach this new project with wide open arms and a full glass of curiosity with a student mindset. The tools you use are transferable even if you are several years from being in a classroom.
  • Your client and hiring leader can help get you started and guide you on your journey. The hiring leader is the person that will help set the foundation.
  • Give yourself the grace to be vulnerable and welcome the phrase, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” We have all been and continue to be there in life and our career journeys. It is ok to let your hiring leader know that you haven’t had an opportunity to do much work in this industry yet. Express your interest and excitement to have this opportunity to learn.
  • Here’s where the curiosity starts. Ask questions, ask more questions, and ask clarifying questions. Think big picture and macro.
  • Do some initial basic research, starting with the company’s website and social media. Look at the articles they published and posted. Read the comments, notice who wrote them, and look at their profiles.
  • Research the hiring leader to learn about their career path. Plan to do a mini interview with them. Ask them questions like:
    • “How long have you been in the industry?
    • "What drew you here, and what keeps you?”
    • “What was the learning curve like?”
    • “What are some tips on how you learned?”
  • Ask for recommendations on industry newsletters and associations to research.
  • Ask for common industry acronyms, certifications, and jargon to sound like a pro out of the gate.

Have fun! You got this!

Sharon Grace is a veteran search executive at Duffy Group who helps hiring leaders hire great people because of her proven track record as a strategic partner and advisor to recruit, identify and assess talent.

Kristin Pozen

Recruiter on laptop researches a company in an industry she's unfamiliar with

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Doing some research upfront can help you look like an expert when recruiting in an unfamiliar industry.

  • Look for leading industry publications online or in print and subscribe to them.
    • Try to identify who the top players are in the industry (people and companies).
    • What is the trending technology in this industry?
    • What are some of the drawbacks of being in this industry?
  • Are there TED Talks, other videos, or podcasts for this industry?
  • Like and follow the top players in those industries on LinkedIn or search for recent articles about them in business journals.
  • What events and conferences are coming up in that industry?
    • Would it make sense to attend any of those events?
    • Consider being an event sponsor.
  • Join industry-specific groups in person or online (LinkedIn). Expand your network by picking up the phone and calling some members to ask them more about their industry.
  • Other online resources that can be helpful:
Kristin Pozen is a research recruitment recruiter at Duffy Group and a former HR recruiter.

Georgia Musgrave

Recruiter talks with professionals/coworkers while walking outside

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Conducting a site visit can be extremely valuable for a recruiter unfamiliar with an industry. It lets the recruiter learn firsthand about the company’s operations, culture, and work environment.

Recently, our team went on a site visit for a non-profit client that provides essential needs to foster families. By touring their facility, we explored their 50,000-square-foot warehouse and saw firsthand the impact this had on the families. We met the staff, took photos, and got a real sense of their operation and culture. This allowed us to identify the right candidates better and recruit enthusiastically because we could better describe the opportunity and environment!

During a site visit, a recruiter can observe how employees interact with each other, get a sense of the company’s values, and see the physical workspace. In addition, a site visit can help to establish a rapport between the recruiter and the company’s leadership team. This can lead to a more collaborative relationship and better communication throughout the recruitment process.

Georgia Musgrave is the VP of Strategic Initiatives at Duffy Group. She educates leaders on the value of "passive talent" as a means of attracting the best human capital to their company.

Colleen Neese

Recruiter/hiring manager talks to a job candidate during a job interview

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Everyone has to start somewhere! When recruiters are faced with recruiting for a role they’re unfamiliar with or in a new industry, it can initially seem daunting. But a few things can be done to get you up to speed quickly.

The first tip is to ask the candidates questions about their industry and to share their expertise. For example, asking "Where would you look if you were me?" or "What industry resources would you recommend?" or "Who are the top companies in this industry in your opinion?" or "Who do you follow as an expert in this industry?" are all excellent ways to gather competitive intelligence.

Also, in my experience, it is ideal to have a "benchmark candidate," meaning someone who has been identified as a perfect fit for the position, that way you can hunt to find someone with similar expertise and qualifications.

Recruiters are expected to be knowledgeable in their fields, and ensuring you are keeping up on industry trends is essential by reading industry publications, articles, and other sources of information. It’s our job to always be curious and never stop learning!

Colleen Neese is a practice leader at Duffy Group. She specializes in recruiting executives in non-profit and healthcare.

Kathleen Duffy

Recruiter/hiring manager looks at job applications at work

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The show Ted Lasso is about an American college football coach hired to coach a professional soccer team in England. Ted has no prior experience as a soccer coach, but his unyielding curiosity and vulnerability lead him to succeed in his role.

As recruiters, we are naturally curious and have to figure out how to leverage our curiosity to navigate new industries, functions, technologies, etc., while maintaining our credibility with the hiring leader, ensuring we can find the right candidates.

Let’s use technology to instantly become an expert in any field. Recently, a client asked if we could help them find a mechatronic engineer.

Where are mechatronics engineers working?

  • Automotive, aerospace, consumer electronics, robotics, industrial automation industries
  • Research and development in academia industry

Where do mechatronics engineers live?

  • Manufacturing hubs like Detroit, Michigan; Silicon Valley, CA; and Houston, TX
  • Other countries such as Germany, Japan, Canada

What key terms are critical to identifying a mechatronics engineer?

  • Control systems engineer, robotics engineer, automation engineer, along with others

Now you are closer to being an expert. You can go to the hiring leader and dive deeper into the specific skills and expertise their mechatronics engineer needs for the particular project or application.

Kathleen Duffy is the founder, CEO, and president of Duffy Group. The company's vision is to elevate recruitment research as an alternative to contingent and retained search. Since its founding, Duffy Group has been a remote workplace and a culture of work/life harmony.

Need help recruiting talent for your organization? Check out Duffy Group today.

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