The Power of the Niche

When we post a job on a major job board, we get a zillion unqualified responses. We get swamped with resumes of unqualified tire kickers, of the hopeful but under qualified &mdash and we get only a handful of potentially good candidates. We waste time screening and sorting and often find no one who really matches our requirements. As the supply of people becomes tighter over the next several years, we will find that widely broadcasting jobs is a fruitless process. The major job boards will increasingly serve a junior level of candidate or they will migrate into offering different services than they do today. The promise that a single site can service an organization’s recruiting needs is a false promise. Most organizations will eventually use dozens or scores of highly specialized services to find the types and levels of people they want. Broadcasting is by definition something for everyone. It sends general information and is fine for disseminating news and providing mass entertainment. But, television, the widest broadcasting medium we have, has never been used very much for recruiting because it reaches too wide of an audience with few people in it that are qualified or interested for a particular job. To a lesser degree radio and billboards are also non-discriminating and non-differentiating. They present the same information to everyone in the same way. But the key to success will more and more lie with those who successfully pinpoint potential candidates and supply them with specific information about jobs they might be qualified for and interested in. Targeted marketing means focusing your efforts, tapping into and sending messages to small groups of people who meet your qualifications. Here are some tips on how to do targeted marketing better: Step #1: Know who you are looking for. I am often asked by clients to help them do a better job finding or attracting the right people, and the very first thing we do is sit down and spend time to defining what the top two or three most difficult positions are to fill in your organization. Even this activity can be tough, because we often do not discriminate between positions and treat them all equally. But it is obvious to anyone that certain people are more difficult to find than others, and these are where you need to concentrate your efforts. Step #2: Now you can begin to use the power of niche markets. Every profession, ethnic background and lifestyle has a job board specific to its members. Professional organizations such as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) maintain job boards that are specific to human resource professionals and training professionals. Likewise the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) maintains a job board for its engineering professionals as does and the Chronicle of Higher Education for professors and university administrative staff. With a bit of ingenuity and by asking the professionals in your organization which associations they belong to, you can build a library of niche sites that provide you with targeted candidates at lower cost than the big boards. If they charge you a fee to post jobs or search their databases, pay it gladly. Use the money you save by not using the big boards. If you are doing diversity recruiting, there are also many sites that offer ways to target a particular group of people. The Hispanic community is served by and by The African-American community by many sites. One site, Hire Diversity, also serves other communities including the handicapped and elderly. The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) lists career fairs and other links to employment opportunities for its members. These specialized sites are key to your ability to quickly find good candidates that meet the specific criteria your hiring managers are demanding. Step #3: When a potential candidate comes to your corporate recruiting website, design it to differentiate and market specifically. The generic marketing messages that abound on web sites are really not much different than broadcasting. They send an undifferentiated and untargeted message to the viewer. To capture the kinds of people who make a difference, you will need to be much more specific. For example, if a potential engineering candidate comes to your website, she should be quickly directed to information about engineering jobs and to marketing information about the kinds of things engineers do in your company. The information you collect about her should begin to help you profile what her interests are and what jobs might be best recommended to her. Automated screening tools can be simple and powerful: by asking questions they can automatically link to specific pages of information or to a very targeted marketing message that has a higher chance of convincing someone to apply for a job than your generic message. By collecting a small amount of information about a candidate and then using that to take them to a web page designed specifically for their job interest will provide the degree of specificity that makes people stay, read, get interested and perhaps apply for your positions. The future is all about niche, specificity, and focus. The sloppy, generic and untargeted messages we have been sending are too expensive and do not get results. Start simply and begin using the niche job boards for sourcing candidates, focus your online advertising toward those groups, and work to redesign your web site to make it more specific toward those most valuable to your organization. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

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Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


1 Comment on “The Power of the Niche

  1. Mr. Wheeler makes an excellent case for the need to target your recruitment messages. After all, isn’t placing the right message in front of the right audience successful marketing? Not always. There is a bit more to it than that.

    A solid understanding of media and audience motivation is frequently something a recruiter can use, but is usually learned only on the marketing side.

    There is absolutely nothing bad to say about placing a posting on a niche site – and the resources Mr. Wheeler mentions are outstanding.

    However, thinking that these niche postings are going to perform for you as those of the larger boards will, is a mistake. Why?

    A. Most niche site boards are very passively used, and not well promoted. These sites aren’t looking for major traffic or to make money from job postings. That’s why they’re often free.

    B. Even if any member of an organization that has a job board would be an ideal candidate for your position, if they aren’t looking for a specific job, chances are they won’t know about the job board of their own organization. That’s not going to get your posting any attention.

    C. How many times have you been unable to come up with ENOUGH resumes to satisfy that “seasoned” hiring manager who wants lots to choose from? You know that happens. If niche sites could provide volume and quality, wouldn’t exist.

    By increasing the bandwidth of your message through different media, an image is created in the mind of your target audience (and the local recruiting community as well) about what your company is, how it presents itself, its opportunities, etc. That is the essence of branding – and every message carries values there. The larger and broader the audience of the media, the larger and broader the immediate branding impact.

    Non-traditional media has become extremely valuable in recruiting, contrary to Mr. Wheeler’s assertion. Here in the Bay Area, 1/2 TV shows specifically devoted to recruitment in the form of “company profiles” or “snapshots” are have sprung up on at least 5 local stations that I know of.

    Radio has traditionally been one of the most targeted media available due to the wide variety of listener format preferences/choices and the listenership statistics available, completely contrary to Mr. Wheeler’s assertion.

    And as he mentions, screening tools can be simple and powerful, so the non-targeted response shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

    The niche messages are required, but a well-rounded messaging plan for the job (or better yet, the anticipated group of jobs in the same field) will serve you AND the company for which you work.

    The future is about branding your message to the right niche frequently and consistently, not just tapping it on the shoulder.

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