Your talent pipeline is one of your most important resources. A pool of qualified candidates means your reqs will get filled fast and well. But to create that pool, you need to be proactive—essentially, you have to prepare to be prepared. One way to get ready for the hiring you’ll do in the future is to create a talent network now.
What is a Talent Network?
A talent network, also known as a talent community, is a network of individuals who have opted in to receive your communications. Job seekers provide their contact information, which then allows you to share open jobs, company updates, interview tips, discussions, and other relevant information. Opting in to these types of communications can happen several different ways:
Fill out an acquisition form
Select opt-in during an application process
Opt-in via email captures on a website
There are even other ways to opt-in. These all depend on the method of communication. If you are running a talent network on a social media site, opting in could include joining a community or subscribing.
A talent network can include passive and active job seekers, as well as candidates who previously applied. Members may be happy in their current position but want to keep an eye on your company for future opportunities. They may be waiting for a role that fits their skills. Or if your company isn’t currently hiring, these members will be kept as potential candidates until positions become available.
How to launch your talent network
There’s no template for setting up a talent network. Hiring challenges are unique to every organization, so your community may look very different than someone else’s. However, there are some universal best practices to get your talent network off the ground.
1. Determine Your Goals
Are you looking to engage or convert your talent network? Do you want to educate job seekers or simply tell a story? When you know your objective, you can start building the network and messages that will help you achieve it.
2. Offer Choices
Give your network options from the very beginning by inviting prospects to opt into your talent network. Never build a community of people who don’t want to receive your communications.
Even when someone’s opted in, however, they won’t be interested in everything you say every time you say it. For example, if a segment of your community is primarily interested in available roles, they may not want to hear about corporate social responsibility. Offer a “preference center” for members to express their interests, and then message according to those segments. (More on segmentation below.)
Choices are vital at all levels, not just the point of sign-up. If a job seeker moves to unsubscribe, offer them the option to adjust subject matter or timing instead of opting out completely. The more choices you offer your talent network about your communications, the more responsive they’ll be to messages they receive.
3. Segment Your Content
Once you’ve created a community that’s anticipating and interested in your messages, then you need to deliver content segmented according to stated preferences. Perhaps your organization has different offerings—in that case, you could deliver content on those individual subjects. You could segment content by lifestyle and technical subjects, company news, career advice, or other content breakdowns. Consider sharing video, blogs, case studies, white papers, press, day-in-the-life content, or interview tips. The goal is to make sure the right content gets in front of the right people at the right time. When it's time, your audience will be ready to receive communications about specific opportunities you have available.
4. Stay Visible
The number one method I recommend for growing your talent network is also the easiest: ask. If people don’t know your community exists, they can’t be a part of it. In addition to the application process, you can promote your network via social media, affiliate marketing, retargeting, your company’s main website, and your careers site.
5. Set Realistic Expectations
You’re going to have a degree of attrition, no matter how carefully you craft your network and messages. Attrition can be measured by the number of people unsubscribing and the number who aren’t engaging at all (i.e., not opening your emails).
There is no generic benchmark for talent network communications -- success rates are organization and industry specific. (For example, when you get an email from your bank, you probably open it right away. From your florist? Not so fast.) Every talent network and audience should be approached and measured differently. To start researching, check out these industry-specific benchmarks for open, click, and bounce rates.
6. Stop While You’re Ahead
If someone isn’t engaging with your talent network after about 3–6 months, take the hint. You can continue to check in a couple times a year, maybe. But if you keep regularly emailing that person, you’ll cause issues with your metrics. To know if your content is effective, you need a healthy read on engagement. If your numbers include people who don’t open your messages at all, you can’t accurately gauge if the content is resonating. You can even run into problems with your email's delivering to the inbox of recipients in your network.
7. Understand What Your Audience Wants
Speaking of content that resonates: the one misstep I see companies make consistently is not understanding what their members want. In addition to the preference center during opt-in, consider using a third party to send a survey once every 6–12 months asking if community members are happy with what you’re sharing. Let your audience help guide the content you create.
You can also measure receptiveness by analyzing how many people are opening, clicking, and unsubscribing from different types of content. If you see a lower amount of opens on emails about company updates, consider changing the content or reevaluating who is seeing that message. You can even consider removing that communication all together, or incorporating it into other emails.
8. Consider Your Technology
Without the right platform, you won’t be able to effectively communicate with your talent network. Make sure your applicant tracking system (ATS) can export data and/or message based on it, and that your email provider lets you segment into different audiences as well.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
A customized, agile talent network is a powerful tool. But before you launch it, make sure you want to. If you’re not serious about developing your community, your efforts can backfire: a poorly run talent community reflects badly on your brand. A successful talent network, on the other hand, can create a pipeline of qualified candidates who are ready when you need them.