If you work in human resources (HR) or talent acquisition, you’re constantly posting job listings and scouring resumes to find the right candidates. This requires a good understanding of the positions you’re hiring for. But what if you have to hire for a role you’re unfamiliar with? 

Maybe you’re new to HR or you’re filling in for another recruiter. Even if you’re a seasoned hiring specialist, the world of work is constantly changing; chances are, you’ll be faced with this at some point in your career. Hiring is challenging enough, but hiring for a position you know very little about can be even more formidable. 

So how can you make sure you’re finding the best candidates for the role? Follow these three steps to get started.

1. Do your homework

As you would with any new subject, gain expertise about the role by doing your research. Utilize a variety of resources to gather all the knowledge you can about this position, from day-to-day tasks to long-term goals. 

First, speak with the hiring manager; ask them for tips on hiring for the role, and have them point you toward other helpful resources. Ask the same things of your own recruiting network, as well. 

You can also search on job sites and read descriptions of similar roles to gain a better understanding of the requirements and responsibilities. Note what other companies are seeking in terms of preferred skills, education, experience and more. 

It’s important to talk to people who already work in this field, too, so you can approach hiring from the job seeker’s perspective. Even if the exact role doesn’t yet exist on your team, meet with people at your company and beyond who have similar backgrounds to learn more about their jobs. When possible, shadowing someone who works in this role for a few days can be extremely helpful to your hiring process. 

2. Conduct in-depth interviews

Once you’ve learned all you can within the time you have, apply this knowledge to your candidate interviews. Here are some best practices when interviewing for unfamiliar roles: 

Have a clear checklist. Use the knowledge you’ve amassed to create a list of the skills, knowledge and experience your candidate needs to succeed. Review this during resume screenings and interviews to see how applicants stack up.

Evaluate both hard and soft skills. The most capable hire will have a good mix of both. Hard skills are quantifiable abilities that can be learned, such as fluency in a certain coding language; soft skills are the behavioral or personality traits that help employees succeed, such as communication skills and motivation. Candidates with the right balance of knowledge, experience and drive will be able to jump in and take initiative once they’re hired. 

Consider experiential interviews. An experiential interview is like an audition for a role; it allows candidates to both show and tell you about their skills through demonstrations and assessments. For example, if you’re hiring a writer, you could conduct an in-person writing test. For a coding role, assign the candidate a programming exercise. You can then share this assessment with someone who understands the role to help gauge the candidate’s qualifications. 

Go beyond yes or no questions. Ask candidates open-ended interview questions to give you a sense of how they’d behave on the job. For example, to evaluate a candidate’s communication skills, ask them how they would explain a complicated concept or topic in layperson’s terms. 

3. Create feedback loops

Congrats! Your hard work has paid off, and you made a great hire. But it doesn’t end here. 

Observe your candidate on the job in order to gauge performance, and set up regular check-ins with the hiring manager to ensure they remain a good fit over time. 

Be sure to ask for feedback from both the candidate and the hiring manager regarding what you did well and what you could improve upon. If you’re hitting it out of the park, that’s great! But if not, make sure to listen and refine your hiring method, incorporating feedback from all parties involved.

Finally, if you’ll be hiring for similar roles in the future, consider enrolling in an industry conference or seminar to learn more about the industry and positions.


Going out of your comfort zone can be intimidating, but with these tips, you can take control of hiring for an unfamiliar role. By researching the position, going deep with your interviews and continually following up after the hire, you’ll end up with a candidate who has the experience and skills to get the job done.