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Niche Recruiting for that 'Perfect' Candidate
 

By Antonio Franquiz  8/16/2013
Web developer, intern and product manager are all conventional positions that any employer might be looking to fill. But on the Vegan Job Board, run by marketing-services company Vegan Mainstream, employers are promoting these openings to a particular pool of candidates: vegans.

Niche-site recruiting presents unique staffing challenges to human resource professionals tasked with finding the most qualified candidates who’ll also best fit within a company’s particular culture. Being successful requires customizing general recruitment pitches to attract the best talent.

Vegans, who abstain from eating animal-based foods or using animal-based products like wool or leather, use the Vegan Job Board to find vacancies within companies that support their lifestyle choice. Stephanie Redcross, founder and managing director of Vegan Mainstream, points out that connecting recruiters at vegan companies with vegan job applicants is mutually beneficial, providing “marketing viability” to the companies and representing the “ethical importance” of veganism to employees. In each case, she said, “you want to hire someone who understands and can relate to the customer.”

Veganism Mainstreamed

Organizations that advertise on the Georgia-based company’s job board include People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), vegan clothing companies Reneu and forAnima, and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a nonprofit that advocates for preventive medicine and ethical treatment of animals.

PCRM requires its employees to adhere strictly to its vegan policy while on the job. But rather than being a source of conflict, this policy helps the advocacy group appeal to the type of potential employees it seeks within the vegan niche.

“We introduce [the vegan policy] at the phone-interview stage,” said PCRM HR Director Stacey Glaeser, SPHR. The policy, she noted, is a “benefit to our work environment” and ensures that the organization “practices what we preach.”

“Most people have done their research, and they know what our mission is,” Glaeser added. “A lot of them expect that that’s probably the case, and they tell us that that’s part of the reason why they’re interested in working here.”

Tracy Reiman, executive vice president of PETA, concurred: “Most people who come to PETA to work already have an understanding of these issues and already embrace a vegan lifestyle in every way.”

Mining-Industry Niches

Niche-site recruiting is often necessary when seeking candidates for positions that require highly specialized skills or multiple certifications, too.

“We do a lot of Internet recruitment and focus on different associations and blog sites that are specific to those technical areas where niche recruiting is necessary,” said Mary Anne Aadnesen, senior manager of talent acquisition at NANA Development Corp., an Alaska-based services company operating in the mining, oil and gas, and transportation industries. “There are different kinds of technical knowledge, and you really have to find those pools of people and where they hover around out there on the Web.”

Aadnesen said that NANA has shifted away from posting positions on bloated job-aggregation sites in favor of a more targeted recruitment strategy. The HR department worked closely with the marketing department to craft a LinkedIn career page that clearly communicates the competencies unique to different positions. Because NANA is a multinational company with 11,500 employees, these positions’ requirements and specs vary broadly, but Aadnesen said the careers page has “outstanding [capabilities] to focus on different candidates.”

“People think of mining as just putting on a hard hat and going down into a mine and drilling, but it’s extremely specific,” said Aadnesen. “As far as the science and operational techniques, mining north of the Arctic is an entirely different kind of mining with different challenges”—from staffing to addressing specific environmental issues—than mining in another part of the world.

The oil and gas industry presents similar staffing difficulties, as does the transportation sector, which in Alaska often requires finding workers with a “high level of expertise” in hauling trailers across dangerously icy roads, Aadnesen explained.

Along with mining niche websites, such as those run by trade associations and organizations that train and certify industry specialists, Aadnesen must build relationships with industry professionals when recruiting for highly specialized jobs.

She admits she still prefers old-fashioned one-on-one interaction over all other methods when it comes to recruitment. “There’s nothing better than picking up the phone, contacting people and saying, ‘Hey, are you aware of someone who can do this job?’” she said. “A lot of times, word-of-mouth reputation is still really strong in field positions like drilling and drivers.”

Marketing Company Culture, Required Competencies

Even when employers aren’t actively pursuing talent, branding is key to attracting desirable individuals who could thrive within a company’s culture. Marketing is an essential part of ensuring that the right message reaches the right talent.

“If you’re trying to recruit vegans, you want to talk about what in your work culture a vegan would find very attractive,” said Ryan Namata, GPHR, a former recruiter for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

One of the best ways to present the culture to potential candidates is to list clear and detailed job descriptions on the organization’s website—or create a microsite within the company’s employment or careers site to do so, said Namata, who is now senior specialist of chief human resource executive engagement and HR projects at SHRM.

“We make sure that we list 100 percent of the job very accurately, specifically and realistically,” he said. “Describe what the [job will be like] day to day for that person.”

But while marketing the company’s culture is important, take care not to compromise certain qualifications for employment in pursuit of an applicant who may seem to be a good fit for your company.

“You need to look for both, competency and culture fit,” Namata said. “Once they’re qualified, which is the absolute first step, you can then focus more on culture fit.”

“Go over the competencies with the hiring managers and get them to really hone in on them,” Aadnesen said. “There could be extremely advanced skills that need to [be listed in the job qualifications], but make sure you really understand the competencies and [that managers] do, too, so you don’t filter out good people.”

And remember: Applicants don’t necessarily have to fulfill every competency in order to be eligible for employment, said Namata. When it comes to jobs that require specialized skills, Namata recommends leaving a little room for candidates to stretch.

“It’s not such a bad thing if someone isn’t a 100 percent match to the job description, because then they can grow into it.”

Antonio Franquiz is an intern for SHRM.

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