6 Tips for Hiring in Emerging Fields

As technology and society evolve, careers come and go. Fewer jobs exist today in fields such as print journalism or domestic manufacturing compared to 10 years ago. At the same time there has been an explosion in social media, data science, user experience design, sustainability and mobile application development. How do you hire for openings in new fields when it’s unlikely that a candidate has more than a few years of direct experience, if any at all? Here are six factors to consider as you look at filling your next opening for a social media analytics manager, an optimization scientist or some other job that didn’t exist just a few years ago.

1. Be flexible about requirements. Give up looking for the unicorn, and be willing to allow candidates to develop skills on the job. Jike Chong, head of data science at Simply Hired, identified three specific skills (data analysis, algorithm design, and hypothesis forming) that employees in his department need to have in order to perform well on the job. He says that in graduate school the tendency is to focus on one or two of the three skills. Chong’s candidates must be very strong in at least one of the three skill sets. In the interview he gauges a candidate’s learning ability and level of interest in acquiring the remaining skills.
Maintaining flexibility by evaluating candidates’ aptitude, interests, and transferable skills as well as proven ability allows you to bring capable employees onboard faster.

2. Interview for passion. Many new fields are so specialized that there are few people who hold jobs in them. Those who are most passionate about fields such as sustainability or user experience connect with their global community of peers online by reading blogs and topic-specific books and publications. Ask candidates how they stay current with trends. In fast-evolving fields, online reading is evidence of their passion and a necessity to stay on top of new developments. Also check to see if a candidate maintains a blog or an active presence on an industry-related forum.

3. Evaluate problem-solving ability. New fields require employees to do things that have never been done before. Whether you’re hiring a new grad or someone with experience, probe for problem-solving abilities by asking about past projects in which they had to do something new and how they went about doing it. Also provide hypothetical scenarios based on your company’s unique problems to get a sense of how they will deal with challenges specific to the field.

4. Be ready to move quickly. In some locations candidates with specific skills are in high demand with multiple employers competing for their attention. If you sense that a top candidate is about to accept another job, be willing to take a risk and prepare an offer quickly. If the candidate meets most of your criteria but not all, weigh the value of filling the position sooner rather than later.

5. Consider short-term contracts or internships. It can be hard to know what the impact of a new hire will be until someone is actually on the job. Hiring interns and contractors is a great way for your company to get the help it needs in a new field while evaluating if the person is right for a permanent role. Simply Hired’s 2013 data intern program resulted in several hires. Interns who develop the appropriate skills, demonstrate interest and show a willingness to go the extra mile are your future star employees.

6. Develop relationships with universities. If you don’t have a college recruiting program, now is the time to start. University undergraduate, graduate and continuing education programs are great sources of candidates in new and emerging fields. Consider expanding your relationship beyond just recruiting. Professors are always looking for real-world scenarios to use in their coursework.

Job descriptions for new roles often are created from imagination. Instead of searching for the perfect candidate that likely does not exist, find enthusiastic candidates who show a willingness to grow into the role after they are hired. As we mentioned last week, consider the whole candidate. An individual worker is the sum of their work experience and skills, education, interests, life experiences and past industry and company type. Just like the employees in emerging fields who will be solving new problems, recruiters can get creative in embracing the challenge of finding candidates to fill newly-created roles.

Over the next several months we’ll be sharing best learnings and best practices on how to adapt and thrive in this new era of changing careers.

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