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Getting the most from your Talent Community

Who doesn’t want to be a step ahead the next time a vacancy needs to be filled? Having a Talent Community in place and actively communicating with the individuals in it, means you build relationships, are better prepared and can significantly reduce your time to hire.

Talent communities: the search for recruitopia

In an ideal world the HR departments of every organisation would have their talent pipelines, talent pools and talent communities well in place and when a position needed to be filled recruiters would just let their fingers do the walking, drastically reducing hiring times, processes and costs. Ah...recruitopia.

The two former processes are easily achievable with a bit of time and effort and analysis, and when put in place, are ready to be drawn on when the need arises. The latter - talent communities - not so much.

Keeping a talent community functioning, like any ongoing relationship, requires constant attention in interacting with candidates, answering their questions, uploading daily content such as blogs and videos to keep them interested, and moderating a chat forum if an organisation decides to add one to its career site.

Then there is the need to periodically analyse and take stock of potentials, coupled with the headache of how to disengage from those who a recruiter feels doesn't cut it, without damaging the employer brand. Hell may have no fury as that of a candiate scorned who has spent many hopeful hours cultivating a relationship with an organisation's HR only to discover they have no prospects.

All of this is a huge undertaking to find top talent somewhere for somewhere down the line given the investment of time required.

But do the benefits outweigh the risks overall? Probably, but only if it's done right because in theory it's a sound concept, and it's where social media networks are driving the future of recruitment to an extent. Like everything however, there are two ways of approaching the use of talent communities - the hard way and the slightly less hard way. There is no easy way. 

The hard but ideal approach

Building talent communities is often described as the next big thing so if an organisation feels it's the way to go, they first need to decide what platform or platforms they want to utilise.

The best place to begin would be an organisation's own careers page where HR, current and even past employees even can meet up with those interested in the company's brand or culture and who might want to work there. The more a candidate sees a lively and vibrant online community associated with an organisation, the more inclined they would be to stick around and wait for that opening.

Here, in addition to recruiters needing to make themselves available to interact with potential talent and answer any questions they may have, an organisation will need a steady stream of content to keep people coming back, from company news to, blogs to videos portraying the brand's culture and values. Disseminating information on new positions, new products or services, seeking their opinions on these, company events, charity work and social causes and industry events are all recommended but in an engaging manner rather than a long-winded press release.

Creating a chat forum onsite is one of the best ways to maintain an online community, bearing in mind that an un-moderated platform can degenerate into the wild west and ultimately brand suicide. It's also worth bearing in mind that a recruiter may not get the full measure of a candidate who is on their best behaviour because they are posting on the company's career site and hope to get a job there some day. But in general chat forums do keep people coming back especially if they are engaging in lively debates with others in the community. Offering a quick and simple 'membership' sign-up would add an air of 'belonging' to the community.

Many of the bigger companies like Google or Facebook that don't have to work so hard to attract talent to their home sites, also run fun personality quizzes, games and problem-solving tests for visitors that gives them extra insight into potential candidates.

According to Recruitment Grapevine, Uber is offering their customers a chance to play ‘Code on the Road’, a game that hopes to recruit engineers while they’re a passenger. If they’re good at the game, the app will offer them the chance to get in touch with Uber.

A company spokesperson told the site: "We are always looking for new ways to reach potential candidates that want to join our team and help us solve interesting problems."

An organisation pursuing these avenues would also do well to decide whether it wants its online community to be perceived as 'manufactured' or 'organic'. In the case of the former, potential visitors might be put off thinking that they're going to be hounded or grilled or tested by HR when they simply came to interact with other like-minded individuals.

While active candidates may not mind this, it could be off putting for passive talent who simply want to learn more about an organisation for future reference and would feel uncomfortable or disloyal if they were being viewed as a job hunter while employed elsewhere. Feeling they are on neutral ground would aid in holding their interest.

Ideally, the way to overcome these hurdles would be to differentiate the notion of 'talent community', which implies a rather exclusive club filled with talent there to be picked up by recruiters, from the idea of 'community', which implies a place to gather for like-minded individuals - a more organic mechanism that would grow naturally.

The way to do this would be to focus plenty of content on the industry in which an organisation is involved. A company does not have to be an industry leader to be the leading authority on everything to do with that industry from past history to current and future trends. Knowledge is free and costs little to impart to others.

Also by hosting a 'community' rather than a 'talent community' a company can shift focus to its audience - potential candidates - so they don't feel like a commodity. In other words 'ask not what a potential candidate can do for you but what you can do for a potential candidate' as JFK would have said had he been the president of hiring managers. In this way recruiters can learn just as much, if not more both about a potential, and about how their own organisation is perceived.

In addition to creating its own online community, an organisation can build similar ones on the social media platforms of its choice, be it Facebook or LinkedIn, or simply design these to attract people back to its own career site community where ‘it's all happening’... hopefully.

But even with all this time and effort, at the end of the day there are no guarantees someone a recruiter has their eye on will stick around for the long haul, or that the ideal candidate will be found through this process. There is never a magic bullet for a perfect hire. What it does do however is create additional possibilities.

The less hard but less effective approach

While an organisation can benefit hugely from creating its own online community, if not in terms of achieving recruitopia, then at least in terms of its branding and reputation, and to stress again, only if it's done right.

For those without such resources... what would be easiest, hosting a big party at home and persuading dozens of people to come, or jumping in a car and going to some else's party?

The fact is, the Internet is already filled with talent communities, across social media naturally, but also elsewhere on the web. Long before the advent of social media, professionals gathered in chat rooms to debate and discuss, and still do. As long as a recruiter knows what they are looking for, they just need a road map to the required destination.

Google the top ten professional forums in the desired fields and you’ll often find the best in the business hanging out, debating and problem solving with others of their ilk. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, IT technicians, many of whom don't bother or are too busy for social media chit chat seek out colleagues on specialised forums for professional and social exchanges and have done since the advent of the Internet. The Professional Pilots Rumour Network (PPRuNe) for instance has been running since 1996.

Using these forums as an extra tool to build a rapport, find potential candidates or simply just observe - the web term is ‘lurk’ - can pay off in dividends. Recruiters, if they wished could also enlist current employees in various fields to participate in discussions, evaluate technical talent, build relationships, start debates, and put out feelers when the time comes either to recruit or obtain referrals from those on the forum with whom they have built a dialogue. An organisation can also open its own thread on a discussion forum providing another outlet in widening its Internet presence, encouraging debate and feedback that is not just confined to social media.

This is no substitute for building an organisation’s own talent community, but finding potential candidates where they live on the web is the next best thing and can provide another tool for those without the resources to ‘bring the mountain to Mohamed’ so to speak.

On its own no single strategy is going to provide a cure-all for the perfect hire but the more options a recruiter has in their arsenal, the better it will be.