Recruiting for a job that didn’t exist three years ago? Hiring experts from Korn Ferry, Kforce, The Jacobson Group, and more explain what matters more than experience.

For recruiters working amid the COVID-19 pandemic, meeting the hiring needs of companies seeking to fill emerging roles is a top priority. This rush to hire has increased the pressure to find candidates for new, niche post-COVID-19 jobs in high-stakes industries like cybersecurity and healthcare—where personal information, livelihoods, and lives are on the line.

“The biggest challenge is simply supply and demand,” says Curtis Britt, Vice President of Projects in North America for organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry. In short, there are more emerging jobs open now than there are candidates to fill them.

On top of that, given the ongoing Great Reshuffle, workers can be more selective about which company to work for—and many are opting for self-employment: There were 618,000 more self-employed American workers in March 2022 than the average in 2019, according to the Center for Economic Policy and Research.

That’s why smart talent professionals are getting creative and considering different types of hires without experience requirements for in-demand emerging jobs. Taking into account a 2021 McKinsey & Company report that found 1 in 16 workers will need to switch occupations to meet the demands of industries after the pandemic, this reshuffling of career paths means companies have access to new talent.

“Emerging roles allow companies the chance to bring on these experienced, curious, innovative and engaged employees,” says Erin Zaller, Senior Vice President Vertical Delivery at staffing services firm Kforce. “Skilled professionals will be drawn to opportunities where they can expand their skill set and enjoy a high level of flexibility.”

Here are six strategies that recruiters are using to connect with top talent for some of these emerging jobs post-COVID.

    1. Swap transferable skills for specific experience.

    The nature of emerging jobs means there may not be a pool of candidates with prior jobs in that specific role. In turn, companies are rethinking what it means to be qualified for a job—and past experience is not always at the top of the list.

    “The recruiter has to see at a different level to find skills that are truly transferable,” says John Crant, a New York-based career management coach.

    In the absence of experience, focusing on referrals and transferable skills is critical, says Dan Lindenmeyer, Vice President of Talent Acquisition at digital safety company Aura. The company has rethought its hiring process to emphasize employee referrals and deploying new strategies to assess transferable skills. Rather than measuring candidate experience against a set of bullet points, Aura develops ideal “personas” for an open role, which include skills, markets, and industry segments that could make a candidate the right fit.

    “We take an approach that defines what a successful candidate would look like versus the old-school required experiences approach,” Lindenmeyer says. “In many cases, ‘successful’ ends up being a broader definition of the talent we are looking for.”

    2. Understand how legacy roles evolve.

    Emerging roles may seem to have no precedent, but they’re likely to have grown out of a legacy role. Product manager positions evolved out of business analyst positions, data engineers grew out of database development positions, and data science has roots in data analytics, says Korn Ferry’s Britt. “Understanding the lineage of these roles will allow you to find candidates that can develop into these new roles with little assistance.”

    Once a recruiter has identified those legacies, they can focus on companies where workers have similar attributes. “It’s about knowing what companies are more mature with these skill sets and job functions, and targeting those companies to find the right talent pool,” Britt explains.

    3. Focus on curiosity.

    Gauging candidate passion is always an X-factor in recruitment, but it’s especially critical for emerging roles. Candidates who may not have direct experience with a job but express a desire to learn are highly valuable in these fields. Recruiters can use online tools, including LinkedIn Groups, to identify workers who are seeking ways to connect and learn more about a given field.

“Familiarize yourself with the social platforms for these talent communities. Those groups can introduce us to people who are eager, open to learning, and interested in upskilling in their next position,” says Zaller of Kforce.

Crant also suggests recruiters identify candidates with genuine passion—not just those who express enthusiasm during the recruitment and hiring process. For example, if a candidate has volunteered their time to a relevant project in an emerging field, it’s often a sign of real dedication to a particular area.

“Passion trumps everything else, when you bring most of it to the table,” Crant says. “Deeply understanding what's 'driving the desire' for this new role will help ensure you get a person who is looking for more than just their next job.”

4. Look for examples of adaptability.

Finding employees who have had to adapt to changes in the labor market in the past can be a good bet when hiring for emerging roles. After all, the job functions of a security analyst or vaccine specialist may look quite different a few years from now than they do today. Prioritizing candidates who have successfully upskilled in their current roles or switched functions based on demand can help to locate adaptable employees.

Ultimately, employees who have demonstrated their skills in quickly changing organizations are an asset to the entire company, says Julie Dunn, Assistant Vice President and Engagement Director of recruiting firm The Jacobson Group. “Individuals who are willing to take on new opportunities and grow within emerging functions and roles are often those who can help drive innovation and effectively adapt as part of a future-proof team,” she says.

5. Identify core functions.

Dissecting the combinations of skills or core functions needed for an emerging role can be an efficient way to find the next hire, says Crant. Consider the needs of the role and what types of core functions are necessary for success. Many positions most likely require people skills, as well as analytical thinking and project management, which candidates may have demonstrated in their previous roles.

“It's natural that such a unique combination of background items may not exist yet,” he says. “In this case it's about the recruiter understanding what the core functions of the role will be and how different types of experience could deliver that same skill.”

6. Be prepared to onboard and train—thoroughly.

Because the pandemic has resulted in entirely new jobs amid a tight labor market, companies must be prepared to train quality talent on the particulars of unfamiliar software, tech stacks, and procedures. Employer training consortiums, which connect businesses with workers and reimburse them for training, are a cost-effective way to develop skills in emerging areas.

This can seem daunting, but it pays off in multiple ways.

“The benefit is twofold: It shows investment to the candidate in their training and development, and companies can then expand the candidate pool,” says Jenna Resnick, Unit Manager of Technology Services at LaSalle Network, a national staffing and recruiting firm.

Onboarding for such roles also takes on even greater importance than it does normally, as new hires may have previously worked in unrelated fields or in nonanalogous jobs. While putting in time and resources to train a new hire might seem burdensome, Zaller says it’s critical to make that investment because of the outsize impact new jobs in healthcare, cybersecurity, information technology, and other industries will have on the world.

“I love partnering with our customers and candidates to be a part of something bigger than we are,” Zaller says. “Oftentimes, these emerging skill sets are linked to products and services that don’t exist on the market today and can have a global impact on consumers.”