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Talent Community or Applicant Database?

by May 10, 2007

Almost every recruiter has a database of potential candidates, but the most successful have gone beyond that. They have developed a community of people who can be placed in the right positions quickly and with a high degree of quality assurance.

There is a huge difference between a database and a community. Imagine the difference between being a principal and a teacher. The principal has a list of student names, can see their achievements and grades, and can access all previous teachers’ comments, but he still doesn’t really know the student.

The teacher, on the other hand, has all of that information and sees the social interaction and classroom participation of each student. The teacher knows all the characters that make up any group of people; the funny ones, the thinkers, the socialites, and the jocks. Who has a richer knowledge set? Who could make a better placement decision?

However, in the corporate world, a talent community is a concept that many recruiters struggle to grasp. They often confuse a talent community for the database that has been built up using many impersonal methods including the recruiting website and mail.

Databases suffer from two major problems when it comes to being effective recruiting tools:

  • Problem one. They tend to get old very quickly and the data about the people is not current and often not even useable. While no one I know of has done actual research on the quality of the data in corporate resume databases, I know from anecdotal conversation that it is poor. I would guess that over half the people in the typical database are either no longer interested in a position or cannot be contacted.
  • Problem two. The recruiter has a one-dimensional view of the candidates, generally only from the resume itself. There is no additional information, no personal observations, and no reference data. Because resumes have been added mostly through electronic and impersonal methods, the candidates are completely unknown to the recruiters. This means that the qualification and assessment of a candidate begins after the resume is retrieved and may take quite a bit of time, assuming the candidate can even be contacted. Candidate quality is often poor, and the time to find candidates can become very long, especially for hard-to-fill positions. Ask yourself how many positions are filled with people you find solely by searching in your ATS database.

The Power of Community

What makes communities special? According to academic research, communities offer a feeling a membership, the ability to influence decisions, the fulfillment of needs at some level and a shared emotional connection to other members. Recruiters can be a part of their communities and create a dynamic Internet space for potential candidates to interact with each other and with employees, hiring managers, and recruiters.

By leveraging technology, organizations can achieve levels of personalization that are almost as good as face-to-face interaction. There are three distinctive features of corporate talent communities that make them more valuable than databases, including membership and influence, connecting and bonding members, and more flexibility.

Membership and Influence

A talent community is always growing and changing. People can become a member of a talent community in several ways, but each requires them to learn more about the organization and provides the recruiter with more information about them.

For example, if someone comes to the recruiting website and indicates an interest in a particular job, software can quickly assess a variety of things including aptitude for the job, interest, and skill level.

People who achieve certain scores can be referred to more suitable positions, turned away completely, or forwarded directly to a recruiter for immediate follow up. This way, no one is asked to just “dump” their unevaluated resume into a hopper and wait for a follow up call, which usually never comes.

This ensures that everyone who ends up in the talent community has been evaluated at some level and knows that they meet the basic requirements for employment in your organization. They have had a positive encounter, although that was entirely or almost entirely without actual contact with you or any other recruiter.

Organizations can build additional levels of information by allowing members to include additional information about themselves, even create their own personal Web page similar to MySpace.

Connecting and Bonding Members

Candidates actually perceive talent communities as very personal. If the talent community is set up well, candidates will frequently get emails and other messages about jobs and about the status of their own candidacy.

They may receive periodic requests to update their personal information and keep their address and email current. Candidates control their own information and can even drop out of the community if they become disinterested or decide to move on.

Blogs can help raise interest and get candidates to return to the site. Some organizations are trying out virtual work, using it as a method to screen candidates. For example, the Boston Consulting Group has potential candidates work small business cases.

Having candidates work together remotely on a problem or challenge increases the connections they have and raises their commitment to the organization. Allowing them to communicate freely with the organization’s members and with other candidates, close emotional bonds are forged that increase the likelihood that they will accept an offer.

Talent communities are like living organisms. They are always changing and becoming more mature and sophisticated. They help recruiters “know” the candidate well. This computer-aided interaction, as well as testing and assessment, can provide hiring managers with a very complete picture of a number of candidates.

More Flexibility with Higher-Quality Candidates

All of this means that talent communities are far more flexible than databases. Candidates who may have applied for one position are frequently referred to different ones after the recruiter knows them better through the interaction and testing. One candidate may be an ideal candidate for several positions, and fewer candidates get pigeonholed into a particular channel and thereby missed in the search.

It is not a simple process to set up a talent community, and it will take time and effort to make them effective.

There are minor legal hurdles to overcome, but the hardest part is not the technology or the law or the acceptance of the idea by candidates. Recruiters’ resistance is the toughest hurdle to overcome. Using these tools, and embracing the concept, can help all recruiters do what they do better than ever.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Bonnie OBrien, PHR, CTS, CPC, CSP

    This is the first article I have seen that gives such a great overview of the real importance of some of the social networking sites as well as the internet groups many of us belong to. As recruiters some of us have relied far too long on the aging resumes in databases that we have in-house or access to online. If we all learned to embrace the community invitations we receive we might find a greater source for qualified candidates when we need them! Thanks for reaffirming what some of us believe to be important to our survival as recruiters.

  • William Uranga

    Thank you for putting into prose what dynamics and challenges we’re facing. We’re only now starting to view this information/relationships as an opportunity to communicate, build brand/mindshare before the need. Spot on.

  • Carl Braun

    Great article Kevin. Sometimes the asnwer is right in front of our eyes but we need someone else to clarify. I see many uses and a few challenges with Talent Communities but as you pointed out, it is worth the effort. Nice work!

  • Doug Berg

    While I like some of the things that Kevin is saying here (including pinging candidate?s frequently with job notices, and inviting them to update their profiles frequently) I don’t think that these concepts will fly with larger companies recruiting strategies.

    To start with, even if hundreds of ‘talent communities’ where launched by every major employer, candidates aren’t going to join every one of them, and keep their information up to date. The good one’s don’t have free time to work on fuzzy projects at other companies career/community sites, just for fun.

    Also, companies are hyper-sensitive to controlling the recruiting conversation with any prospective candidates – no matter how cumbersome or inefficient it is, because if you turn the lights on inside within any candidate database and allow everyone to start talking with each other (future/past candidates, current/past employees, etc.) the conversation turns bad fast, which doesn?t help recruiting.

    Unfortunately, there are 100 people who will say bad things about any company for every 1 that will speak up because complaining is a key virtue of ?community oriented? websites, and this aspect alone will largely prevent companies from launching any type of ‘community’ element to their online strategy mix.

    Again, I do agree strongly with most of Kevin?s thoughts about modifying the companies website, make it easy for candidates (especially visitors/passive candidates) to subscribe to a companies website ? and provide basic information without having to apply, and of course to have companies optimize their career sites so the millions of job seekers using Google/Yahoo can find any companies jobs directly, versus through the job boards, and utilizing their applicant data better, so that they can re-recruit past applicants whether by using agents/matching technology, email marketing, or good old fashion phone calls.

    However, I can almost visualize how cross-eyed and confused hiring managers, low-level recruiters, and anyone else in the staffing supply chain would be when a well intentioned champion tries to sell them on integrating a ‘social networking community’ into their recruiting strategy, when they can’t even get the look and feel of their corporate career site where they want it to be.

  • Emilee Bowersox

    Kevin,

    The best thing about this site is the expertise in written communication. It does not compare to average blogs and articles.

  • Pingback: Talent Community Articles – Kahn and Wheeler « GrouperEye.com Blog

  • http://www.GrouperEye.com David Graham

    I really like the idea of a “Talent Community.” It is the future of hiring. The proliferation of information via the internet has made so many businesses rethink and retool their models. It is time for companies to do the same thing. And those that take advantage of this powerful new concept will reap the rewards- better employees. That is our vision at http://www.groupereye.com and we are working like crazy to realize it.

  • Sylvia Dahlby

    Any applicant database is only as good as the recruiter using it. This article speaks about quality vs quantity and building proactive recruiting methodology or an executive search level function.

    Recruiters that still view sourcing as a numbers game or that have grown too fond of the “spray & stick” method of recruiting will see the concept of building communities as too time consuming.

    I agree with David this is the future; community building isn’t about about filling the job fast, or even finding the most “qualified” candidates, it’s about best-fit and hiring for retention.

    The legal hurdles will be mostly about Diversity, discrimination and adverse impacts of relying too heavily on social networks to identify candidates, however these are solvable problems if an organization takes steps to reach out to minority groups and can demonstrate a level playing field.

  • http://www.ascendify.com Lauren Smith

    You can’t have a relationship with data.

    In order to build relationships with your candidates, you need to allow 2-way communication.

    A true talent community fosters communication and relationship building.

    Here’s a guide to some best practices for building a TC in case you’re interested.

    http://www.ascendify.com/10-best-practices-for-building-a-talent-community/