Best Practices for Your Talent Community
A talent community is a network of people who have expressed interest in working for your company, though current circumstances prevent them from entering the hiring process at your org. Maybe it’s that you don’t have open roles right now, or that the roles that are open don’t align with their interests or experience. Maybe it’s that they’re happy in their current role and plan to stick it out there awhile longer—but they’re open to considering you as their next (future) move.
The term is new enough that it’s still being defined. There are no set of “best practices” yet either—which is why we’re offering this tactical guide for setting up your talent community workflow, along with suggestions for your content strategy. For us at Gem, a talent community is made up of talent who arrive on your careers page, don’t see a position for them or aren’t ready to apply, but decide they’d like to keep hearing from your company until the timing is right. With Gem’s help, those prospective candidates fill out a customized form directly on your careers page; and you can use the information you collect (contact information, LinkedIn URL, department or location of interest, etc.) to nurture and engage with them over time. In time, sourcers and recruiters may also add candidates they’ve sourced who weren’t yet ready to make a career change into their talent community. As such, the community becomes a repository of interested talent that you capture, rather than lose to bad timing.
The point is to build relationships with this community by offering consistent, authentic glimpses of your company. Eventually, talent will have the “full view” of your org, its mission, its culture, and its values. Thanks to the content they’ve regularly consumed, you’ll be top-of-mind when they’re ready to make a career move. And you’ll have a warm pipeline to search and source from when a position opens—which means minimizing the time spent searching through multiple databases, reviewing unqualified applicants, and moving candidates through the pipeline who may not have the same excitement about, and trust in, your company as your talent community does. In some ways, the talent community pipeline builds itself, shortening time-to-fill and reducing cost-per-hire, while increasing candidate quality.
There are reasons this particular persona should be thought about differently than your other prospective candidates. For one, talent who joins your talent community toes the line between “active” and “passive.” They came to you, yes; but they may not be in a hurry to find a new job. Even active talent who signs up for your community to hear about imminently-open roles recognizes this may be a longer game of patience than they’d hoped for (and if they need a job now, they’re likely also looking elsewhere). And while your talent community is interested, they’re not necessarily committed: it may simply be that they’re being particularly thoughtful about their next career move. They may be thinking long-term (which might suggest something about their quality as a candidate); and they want as much information about your company and culture as they can get so they can make an informed decision about their next role.
One of the many upsides of talent communities is that they give recruiters and talent time to evaluate and assess each other. Recruiters can qualify interested talent before a role even opens; and talent uses each new piece of content that comes out of recruiting campaigns to gauge whether the company is right for them. The latter is worth keeping in mind as you manage and nurture your talent community.
But what does “managing and nurturing” entail, exactly? Different-sized companies that see different volumes of interest will necessarily require different approaches: there’s no one-size-fits-all set of best practices when it comes to talent communities. At Gem, we’ve observed that the majority of questions we’re receiving are from customers who are seeing 350 or fewer opt-ins/month to their communities; so we decided to create a tactical guide for that volume of interest. Below are some best practices for building processes into your talent community, using Gem.
Building Your Talent Community
Your talent community will be “built” directly from your careers page, where you’ll link to a talent community form. You’ll want to be clear around the messaging for the opt-in button so that talent knows exactly what they’re signing up for. Let them know they’re not just signing up to receive notifications about open roles, but also to get exclusive updates about, and intimate insights into, your company, and to be “in-the-know” about your industry. Talent who isn’t willing to commit, or who doesn’t want to be bombarded with job openings just yet, will be all the more likely to sign up. Remember, too, that “talent community” is a relatively new term in recruiting. Not everyone who arrives on your careers page will understand what it means. So offer a brief summary of what talent will gain by joining.
Before this opt-in button even goes up on your careers page, it’s important to have created a set of personas—the target talent you want to ultimately have in your community. Personas are semi-fictional characters that help you visualize the behaviors, skills, values, and goals of your ideal prospective candidate. Where are they in their career trajectories? What work/life experiences have they had that would make them a great match for you? What are their motivators when it comes to making a career decision? What personality traits do they possess that would allow them to thrive in a given role?
Most importantly, personas help you create (or share) personalized content that’s most compelling to your target prospects—because you know what drives them. So get to know the top talent that’s in, or that works directly with, the open roles at your org. Ask them about motivators, career goals, and the traits and behaviors that have allowed them to excel in their work. Find out where they hang out online.
This last bit of intelligence is important because once you have your personas mapped out, you can share your careers page in places where the talent you want to attract lives—whether that’s with professional groups that cater to underrepresented talent, career centers at colleges and universities, or organizations that serve talent with specific skill sets. If you’re recruiting for a larger company with strong brand awareness, that’s one thing—active talent will come looking for you. But if you’re a smaller company, it will be up to you to drive talent to your careers page. Some of our customers share word about their talent communities in blog posts, on social media, or through email if they’ve gotten prospects’ contact information from recruiting or marketing events. Other recruiters include the talent community link in their outreach sequences (“Not interested now but want to stay in touch?”), or respond with the link when they get a “thanks but not now” response from a prospect.
Talent has to come to your careers page in order to sign up for your community, yes—but they won’t know your careers page exists if you don’t spread the word in the right places.
Assigning a Talent Community Manager
As soon as someone opts in to your talent community, the information they’ve entered on your careers page is used to create a profile in a “Talent Community” project in Gem. We recommend you nominate a Talent Community Manager for this primary project, whether it’s your sourcing manager or someone else entirely. The entire team will have visibility into the prospects and their responses to your opt-in questions; but the role of the Talent Community Manager is to filter incoming talent by role, department, location, and so on based on those responses, bulk-select those prospects, and add them into separate projects. For example, you might have separate “Talent Community: Sales” and “Talent Community: Product & Design” projects that are then taken over by the recruiters in charge of Sales and P&D roles, respectively. Those recruiters can then sequence the candidates as they see fit.
Sometimes prospects will list multiple departments that they’re interested in. As a best practice, the Talent Community Manager should add them to all Talent Community projects that fit their selections, and let the individual recruiters for those departments qualify them. The first order of business is to push talent from the master project—the repository into which all talent lands—into more role- or department-specific projects, and send requests for recruiters to review those prospects. Recruiters have three broad options—a star, a check, or an X— to rate incoming talent. (We’ll get to those ratings in a moment.)
We recommend keeping all prospective candidates in the master “Talent Community” project as well as adding them to role- or department-specific projects. You won’t be sending nurture campaigns or one-off content to talent in your master “Talent Community” project. This project simply serves as a holding ground and a source of truth, and will be valuable when it’s time to determine source-of-hire metrics. Plus, if you ever want to create another segment of your talent community (e.g. female-identified talent who’ve expressed interest in your company), you can easily do that from the master project.
Qualifying Talent that Opts in to Your Community
Once incoming talent has been copied from the master project into role- or department-specific projects, someone more familiar with the skills or qualifications required for those roles takes the project over—whether that’s a recruiter, a hiring manager, or another Talent Community Manager. You’re likely to have a wide range of both qualified and unqualified candidates opt in to your talent community; and you want to ensure that the talent you spend most of your time communicating with will indeed be a great fit for those future open roles. That’s why recruiters should check in on their respective talent community projects regularly, see who’s been added, and take the time to qualify them through the LinkedIn URLs they entered or by researching them on other social platforms. “Qualifying” may also mean moving talent into projects for more entry-level roles (yes; you may want to further segment your projects) or determining they’re fit for other pipelines. For some talent, it may mean recognizing they’re not a good fit for any of your roles—or that they’ll need to be nurtured long-term while they acquire and develop the skills necessary for the roles they’re interested in.
One of the great things about building a talent community is that you have the time to qualify talent without an imminent deadline that might cause you to be a little less thoughtful about filtering. Recruiters should have a clear set of criteria—remember those personas!—that allow them to identify strong, and even priority, talent community members. Those criteria may be specific to a role, though they can also be more broadly focused on potential, skills, and experience—what the candidate might bring to your company down the road.
In Gem, recruiters can use a Review feature to rank talent with a star, a check, or an X. One best practice is to separate incoming talent into “stars” (high-quality candidates they want to be sure to engage regularly) and “not-stars” (the checks and X’s who are not—or not yet—a fit for an open role); though you might also want to put your “stars” and “checks” into the same project, depending on the quality of your opt-ins. Either way, your “not-stars” should continue to get content! Even if someone isn’t a fit, you should nurture them, because there’s nothing to lose in doing so. In fact, that talent may currently be gathering and honing skills that will eventually make them great fits for your org. They may also have top talent in their networks that they can refer to you after learning more about your company.
Just as the Talent Community Manager keeps all incoming talent in the master “Talent Community” project, recruiters should keep all talent that’s pushed to their department-level talent community (“Talent Community: Sales”) in that project, holding it as their source of truth. But they could further segment the community based on rankings, copying talent into more specific projects: “Talent Community: AEs (Stars)”; “Talent Community: SDRs (Stars/Checks)”; “Talent Community: Demand Generation (Not a Fit)”; and so on. You’ll nurture the talent who is a fit and the talent who isn’t a fit in (almost) the same way; but segmenting like this removes some of the noise when a role opens.
Ultimately, you’ll be putting more energy into nurturing those “star” candidates, which is why using Gem’s ratings feature is so important. If your “stars” and “checks” end up in the same project, you can sort talent by quality and send job-specific content to only your highest-quality talent community members. This is where your talent community becomes a top-of-funnel talent pool. When a recruiter has a new open role and is actively recruiting, they can filter a talent community project and move the “stars” into a nurture sequence about that open role on top of the standard content that talent has already been receiving. Recruiters can also filter and dig into the talent who received “checks,” reviewing them a second time for fit. This way, you’re never sending content about open roles to unqualified talent that’s signed up to receive updates from you. Which cuts out a ton of noise.
Sending a Welcome Email (and Managing Responses)
With Gem, talent that opts into your community will land on a “thanks for joining” page after they’ve submitted their form, so they’ll have the immediate gratification of knowing they’re in. This gives the Talent Community Manager and recruiters time to sort incoming talent before recruiters send a more personalized welcome email.
We recommend keeping your welcome email short and sweet, and include a summary of the kinds of information the community can expect to receive from you. Always give recipients the opportunity to opt out. That self-selection will ultimately make your job easier when a role opens up—plus you may be legally bound to do so. Finally, include links to all your social media feeds. You want talent to be able to follow you in as many channels as they’re on.
As a best practice, your welcome emails should go out from your Talent Community Manager. The job of the Talent Community Manager might be to nurture the community as a whole (larger companies may have a different community manager for each discrete department) as well as curate the content that goes out to that community. Ideally, recruiters will focus on utilizing their respective communities to filter out top talent and nurture them in more personalized ways.
(Further) Segmenting, Content-Planning, and Automating
Remember those candidate personas you created? They’ll come in handy when it’s time to map out your content. Marketers, salespeople, and engineers aren’t interested in the same content. Talent interested in your Chicago office needs different information than talent interested in your London office does. More advanced segmentation might take your diversity initiatives into account—female or Black engineers, for example. Segmentation allows you to take cultural sensitivities and nuances—like spelling differences for companies that have global offices—into account. One message doesn’t fit all. Think about whom in your company specific talent would most want to hear from, and about what. You’ll want highly-targeted communications that speak to their interests. This will maximize your impact.
Recruiters: reach out to your marketing team and ask for marketing materials you think prospective candidates would be most interested in. Think case studies, blog posts, employee spotlights, and solution briefs. Consider recent media mentions—Best Place to Work awards, funding rounds, product announcements, and new feature releases, for example. There’s likely more content about your company (and your product, and your people) out there than you imagine; and it’ll be worth keeping the lines of communication between you and the marketing team open for new content.
Then go a step further and reach out to your business units. Does engineering have its own blog? Are your SDRs willing to make a 1-minute video about life in sales at your company? Does your marketing team have photos they can share of their last team offsite? Remember: recruitment is a company-wide, collaborative effort; it’s okay to make these requests. Gather both company and team-specific content. List out your available assets and begin mapping them out—how can that content be spread over a long-term nurture sequence to tell a story about your business unit, or your org?
Once you’ve mapped out what content those core segments want, it’s time to get (and stay) in touch. The only way to cultivate an engaged talent community is through regular communications; and the easiest way for you to do that is to automate that process. We recommend a monthly nurture email—which means that if you set up a 6-stage nurture sequence in Gem, talent will receive automated touchpoints for the next half-year. With quarterly communication, you risk confusing talent when they receive an email from a company they haven’t heard from in three months and forgot about. You’ll see open rates decrease and unsubscribes increase if your cadence is too slow.
Over time, you might capture what kind of news certain segments are most interested in receiving (employee stories, company news, broader industry news, job alerts). Gem’s Content Stats show you the links recipients click on most often, and therefore the content that’s most compelling to them. Pay special attention to these metrics when it comes to your “star” talent. The more you can understand their goals and interests, the more you can tailor your content to match.
Talent has explicitly signed up for your community for more than jobs alerts—indeed, some of them may have signed up instead of applying for a job. They want to hear about your culture, professional development, industry updates, what your product development teams are working on, and more. They signed up because they were interested in your brand; but they’ll quickly become disinterested if you’re not feeding them content that’s valuable and relevant to them. For that “star” talent you’ll eventually be sending job announcements to, we recommend something like a 20/80 split: 20% of your messaging can be about openings; but make sure 80% is educational, value-providing, and exciting. This is the kind of content that builds trust.
Here are some ideas for content that will keep talent engaged, and you top-of-mind:
- Blog posts. You can repurpose what your marketing team is putting out there—whether it’s product-related, culture-related, or about best practices for customers and users. Share these as you see fit.
- Other marketing assets. Talent may also be interested in case studies, solution briefs, white papers, and so on. They want to hear how you’re positioning yourself as an industry leader and what your product is offering your customers.
- Content on company culture. These may be blog posts written by individual employees, photos or videos of your team in action, your diversity statistics, (more) links to your social platforms, interviews with your executives, and so on. You’re a recruiter; we don’t have to tell you how essential culture is to a career decision. Give talent a glimpse into a-day-in-the-life. Why do people love working for you?
- Employee testimonials. You can embed these directly in your email or link out to them. Whether it’s through a spotlight video or a simple quote with a photo, talent wants to hear directly from the mouths of your employees. How does your sales team celebrate wins? What keeps your recruiter happily coming back to work every day even when hiring is on pause?
- Industry news and trends. The best way to reassure your talent community that you’re an industry leader is to share news, trends, and thought leadership that shows not only that you’re tapped into and contributing to the conversation, but that you’re helping lead it.
- Company news. New funding rounds, new hires, new offices, awards and accolades, press releases and media mentions, product updates, company earnings reports… this is all great information to share.
- Career advice and information. This includes interview tips unique to your hiring process, resume advice direct from your recruitment team, available career paths at your company and the career trajectories the employees in your org have taken.
- Perks, benefits, and your overall employee value proposition. Create content that explains what your company has to offer employees in the way of personal development, collaboration, team-building activities and events, social responsibility initiatives, work-life balance… and of course, the ones that are top-of-mind for all of us: health and retirement benefits, bonuses, disability, holidays and vacation time, paid leave, gym memberships, tuition benefits, and so on.
- Events. Let your talent community know about upcoming networking events, career fairs, meetups you’re hosting or sponsoring, and events your employees or executives are speaking at. These will all be virtual these days, and they have their own energy; but talent will feel like they’re fully a part of the community to be invited to these events.
- Job openings and internships. This one’s obvious; we’ll leave it here.
As you can see, there’s an entire ecosystem of relevant and valuable information you can send on to your talent community, making their opt-in feel worthwhile. Remember that people receive hundreds of emails a day; so make these messages not only as personalized as possible (use Gem’s tokens!), but also fun and engaging. Regularly remind the community that they can find you on social channels, and encourage them to follow you there. You can post on social once or twice a week while sending those nurture emails every 4 weeks, and talent will have a steady drip of information and insights into your company from various channels.
There’s no one-size-fits-all set of KPIs when it comes to measuring the success of your talent community. Much will depend upon your business and hiring objectives. Plus, as the idea of talent communities grows over time, and as your own internal processes evolve, so will what you measure. That said, some common KPIs for talent communities include:
- Number of opt-ins to the talent community
- Ratio of career page visitors to talent community opt-ins
- Number of social posts and nurture emails sent
- Social engagement (number of followers, number of comments, etc.)
- Open rates / click rates / response rates for email messaging
- Number of people who entered process from your talent community
- Passthrough rates of candidates sourced from your talent community
- Overall offer-accept rates of candidates sourced from your talent community
As you track these metrics, use them to iterate on your talent community strategies.