How to Build a Talent Community And Set Yourself Up for Recruiting Success

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As a university recruiter, you face many challenges. Limited time and resources. Unrealistic hiring expectations from your manager and other departments in your company. A constant need to justify your efforts and back them up with metrics that prove their return on investment (ROI).

But maybe one of the thorniest problems you’ll deal with is how to outwit your sneaky competitors. These rascals might not even be your direct industry rivals, but they’re snapping up students early in their academic careers and making it hard for you to drum up interest in your company.

The key to university recruiting is building your brand so students know who you are, what you do, and why working for you is the best thing ever. We’ve talked about reaching students as early as possible through scholarships, strengthening your relationships with schools through corporate affiliate programs, and telling a compelling story during your info sessions.

In this post, we’re going to look at an essential tool that ties all your efforts together—the talent community or talent network.

What is a talent community?

A talent community is basically a pipeline of potential talent—people who aren’t yet applicants, but very well could be someday.

And let’s just make a brief note that sometimes the terms “talent network,” “talent community,” and “customer relationship management/CRM” are used to describe the same thing. In our case, we use the terms “talent network” and “talent community” to refer to the people who you are interested in communicating with, and CRM to refer to the tool you use to keep track of those people.

Who goes into a talent community?

For a university recruiter, your talent community will generally be composed of students you meet or who discover your company through the results of your on-campus recruiting efforts. Anyone you’d like to build a relationship with is a good candidate to include.

As you probably already know, during your campus visits, you’ll often meet students who aren’t quite ready to apply for jobs or who might be a good cultural fit but aren’t right for any positions you have open at the moment. And you might meet eager freshmen or sophomores who aren’t eligible to apply for jobs or internships yet, but will be in a year or two. Any of these types of potential applicants can be added to your talent community.

How do you populate a talent community?

If you’re participating in any type of on-campus events, you’ll want to add the students you meet there to your talent community. This is super important in order to be able to track the ROI of your campus visits. As students progress through their academic careers and begin to apply for internships and jobs, you’ll want to be able to identify when and where you came into contact with them, and the talent community allows you to do that.

In addition to the students you encounter in person, you may also want to consider allowing any students who express interest in your website to join your talent network. You can accomplish this by adding a widget to your university recruiting website to invite visitors to share basic information like their college, major, expected graduation date, and contact details.

What do you do with talent community?

The main purpose of the talent community is to let you stay in touch and nurture relationships with potential applicants. There are a few ways to go about this.

  • Divide and Conquer

Depending on your company size and the types of positions you have available, it might make sense to segment your talent community. For example, you might choose to separate potential applicants by major or by the department they’d be most likely to join in your company (engineering, sales, marketing, etc.).

  • Stay in Touch

Keep your talent community informed of all the fun stuff that’s going on in your company. Remember—the idea is to establish your brand and get students excited about working for you. So save the dry press releases and make these updates fun. Did your CEO just run a marathon or volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in Sri Lanka? Is there a group of employees in a band who just went on tour of dive bars in the Southwest? Give students a glimpse into what it’s really like to work at your company.

And of course, make sure the members of your talent community know if you have any upcoming campus visits; relevant events you’ll be sponsoring; or scholarships, internships, or job opportunities they’d be interested in.

You’ll probably find that it’s much easier to manage your talent network if you create a communications calendar. Will you plan to reach out once a year? Once a quarter? Once a month? Spend some time planning the ideal frequency of communications, but of course leave some flexibility in case a really cool opportunity or announcement comes up.

  • Revisit & Review

One huge advantage of maintaining a talent community is that it means you never have to turn any students away. Even high school students (especially those applying to your scholarships) can be included in your talent community if they express interest.

This means that you’ll want to periodically check back to see if the timing is right to inform any segments about your open positions. You might find it beneficial to set up a recurring calendar for yourself so that you can revisit and review specific segments on an annual basis (or however often makes the most sense based on your hiring schedule).

How do you manage your talent community?

In order to keep track of all these potential applicants and your interactions with them, you’ll need a place to store all that information. This could be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet, or you could use specific customer relationship management (CRM) software.

Let’s take a moment to make something clear—there’s a big difference between the potential applicants who make up your talent community and the actual applicants that are contained within your Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

Once someone becomes an official applicant and is tracked in your ATS, there are a number of laws and guidelines that apply to ensure that you’re giving them equal opportunities and treating them fairly. Plus, most Applicant Tracking Systems weren’t designed to be used in the same way as CRMs, so they won’t have the same functions and abilities.

But ideally you’ll want to make sure that your ATS and CRM will be able connect and communicate with each other so that you can track your ROI for particular schools and events. If you’re thinking about setting up a CRM and you already have an ATS in place, it’s a good idea to start by contacting your ATS provider to see if they can offer any kind of CRM capabilities.

You can also continue to educate yourself about university recruiting best practices and tools through learning events such as webinars. AfterCollege offers several webinars each quarter to help you maximize your recruiting efforts. See the schedule and sign up for these free sessions here.

The next step: Does a talent community make sense for your recruiting purposes? If you don’t already have a CRM, see if your ATS provider offers any CRM services. If you already have a CRM in place, is there anything you could do to enhance your communication style and content?


2 Responses to “How to Build a Talent Community And Set Yourself Up for Recruiting Success”

  1. What's the Difference Between Employer Brand & Consumer Brand? Ask AOL! - AfterCollege Employer Blog

    […] The next step: Chris talks about the importance of building talent communities to stay in touch with students and inform them of all the exciting things that are happening at your company. Do you already have a talent community in place? If so, create a plan for the types of content that you could share with its members. If you don’t have one in place, be sure to check out our post on talent communities. […]


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