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The role of talent assessments in recruiting for specialized roles

Recruitment | 6 Min Read

The role of talent assessments in recruiting for specialized roles


According to a Gartner report, the current industry standards are facing a significant skills gap, where 70% of employees admit that they do not feel that they have mastered the skills needed for their current job role, and 64% of managers find employees being unable to match the skills required for the role.

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Attracting, hiring, and retaining candidates with niche skills for specialized job roles is a challenge faced by several businesses across industries. Hiring niche skills that are high in demand but relatively uncommon requires special recruitment strategies, of which skills assessment tests form a major part.

Integrating assessment tests in niche skills recruitment allows organizations to:

  • Break down the complexities of specialized roles.
  • Assess candidates for the right personality traits and skills.
  • Gauge the niche abilities of candidates in an objective and unbiased manner.
  • Determine high-quality hires.
  • Hire niche candidates.


Understanding niche skills

Niche skills refer to unique, specific abilities and skills gained by candidates from specialized training or work experience. These skills are innate for certain job roles and help people resolve complex problems and challenges in industries. Candidates with niche skills bring a lot of value to a business through traits like innovative thinking, critical reflection, technical or role-based insight, unique perspectives, etc.

Often, niche skills hiring is associated with the IT sector regarding the latest emerging and innovative technologies. However, niche skills exist in all industries where highly specialized candidates are required to solve complex challenges. Ensuring the presence of niche skills in recruitment allows businesses to gain a competitive edge that also helps them better serve their customers.

An example of this lies in how the requirement of general skills in AI has risen in recent times. According to the World Economic Forum’s ‘Future of Jobs,’ report, skills in AI have become the third-highest priority in corporate training requirements today. This reiterates the importance of hiring candidates based on their niche skills to meet the rising demand.


Top examples of niche skills

  • AI and machine learning expertise
  • Data analysis and visualization
  • Virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR)
  • Telehealth
  • Cyber security
  • Intellectual property law
  • Green architecture
  • Blockchain management
  • Strategic public relations
  • Financial due diligence


Challenges in niche talent acquisition

1. Niche skills are a result of extensive training

A candidate may need to put in months and months of dedicated training to learn niche skills, and it may take longer for them to master these skills. Whether it is advanced 3D modelling or specific language coding, niche skills that are demanded by a particular career path are generally a result of consistent training and a combination of courses (both online and in-person).


2. Applicants do not always list niche skills

A major challenge in hiring for niche skills is the fact that not many applicants tend to share these skills on their resumes. Having to recruit people based on other proxies leaves companies open to the risk of bad hires. Recruiters must look for expertise in skills that complement the niche abilities they are looking for.


3. Assessment of niche skills is challenging through resumes and interviews alone

Screening resumes, checking the references, and verifying the work experience of candidates is not enough for recruiters to be able to gauge if an applicant is talented and has the specialized skills required for a particular niche. Additionally, recruiters cannot always rely on having a personal knowledge of the necessary niche skills when they are hiring and often have to take an applicant’s word at face value.


Seven ways of optimizing niche skills hiring using talent assessments

1. Reduce dependence on resumes and experience

Education and experience may not always be concrete proof of a candidate possessing the niche skills recruiters are looking for. Additionally, relying purely on these attributes may exclude highly skilled candidates who may have developed their abilities via non-conventional ways. An assessment-based recruiting process can help firms hire based on objective skills in niche areas as well as general skills.

2. Implement training and development to bridge any existing skills gaps

It is alright to hire candidates who do not have all the niche skills required for a job role if they show an aptitude and willingness to learn. However, determining whether a candidate fits the description requires more than a resume, experience, and references. Talent assessments help spot skills gaps and determine whether a candidate can be trained to the required level. Skills testing should also be integrated into an organization’s L&D programs for employee training and development.

3. Determine personality and cultural fit

Possession of niche skills that recruiters are looking for does not guarantee a cultural fit. This is why it is equally important to gauge a candidate’s personality and ethos as it is to assess their core skill set. This again supports the importance of using custom assessments that include personality tests in the recruitment process to help HR managers understand the candidate better.

4. Assess complementary skills

Any skill assessment test must be built around assessing a candidate’s complementary and niche skills. This can help recruiters hire niche experts who can prove to be a value add for the organization in case their niche skills become obsolete in the industry due to technological advances.

5. Enable future development plans

Many candidates with niche skills are well aware of the value they bring to an organization and tend to look for development and learning opportunities within the organization. By integrating leadership potential assessments into recruitment processes, organizations send a clear message that they are interested in helping candidates grow and take on managerial and leadership responsibilities in the coming times. Assessment tests help organizations identify key focus areas for skills development, which can be used to outline clear development programs for niche skills candidates once they have been hired.

6. Build ideal candidate profiles

The skills of existing niche employees in an organization can be tested to help recruiters build ideal candidate profiles for various roles. The job descriptions for the roles must be built based on these identified skills and the skills that the team does not have at present to fill any skills gaps in the organization.

7. Use individual tests to break down the complexities of job roles

Hiring purely on experience, references, and education is a common occurrence in recruitment for complex roles that demand multiple skills that may be difficult to hire for. However, to avoid bad hires, it is important to break down the complex role into its core and niche skills. Then, with a talent assessment platform like Mercer | Mettl, recruiters can build a custom assessment framework that efficiently tests candidate attributes.



Finding talent with excellent skills may sound challenging, but organizations can easily find the most suitable hire with proper planning and utilization of talent assessment tools. Utilize Mercer | Mettl’s skills assessments to assess talent and streamline the organization’s talent pipeline holistically. These assessments are scientifically designed to help identify the best-fit candidate for different job profiles.


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What are niche skills in recruitment?

What are niche skills?

How does an organization find niche talent?

Originally published December 1 2023, Updated December 1 2023

Written by

Harsh Vardhan Sharma, with 6 years of content writing expertise across diverse B2B and B2C verticals, excels in crafting impactful content for broad audiences. Beyond work, he finds joy in reading, traveling, and watching movies.

About This Topic

Lateral hiring, also known as 'experienced hiring,' involves initiatives to hire experienced talent for the organization. It involves planning and finalizing JDs, searching for the required talent, conducting pre-employment assessments and selecting the best-filtered talent based on final interviews.

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