Are You Using Your Talent Networks Effectively?

For many companies, their talent networks are a missed opportunity for connecting with passive candidates.
By: | April 2, 2019 • 3 min read

When it comes to recruitment marketing, a good chunk of companies receive a failing grade.

That’s according to the latest research from SmashFly Technologies, which finds that many organizations aren’t making the best use of their talent networks. Indeed, many are neglecting them: The survey finds that 45 percent of Fortune 500 companies with a talent network never send any communications at all to the network members after they’ve signed up.

Of the companies that do send out communications, 95 percent share nothing but job postings. This represents a lost opportunity, says Elyse Mayer, director of marketing for SmashFly, which builds candidate-relationship-management platforms.

“Candidates are hungry for information about your company and what it’s like to work there,” she says.

“More Than Just a Job”

Talent networks are typically comprised of candidates who’ve applied to jobs in the past at a company or who are interested in working for the organization and are waiting for a job opening that matches their skills and experience. Mayer and others say talent networks can be highly effective for engaging passive candidates.

Julia Levy, director of global talent acquisition at financial-technology company Fiserv, says she and her team are seeking out new ways to engage passive candidates other than just sending them job postings.

“We use content to sell passive candidates on more than just a job,” she says. This includes information about the company itself, which has been named to Fortune‘s list of Most Admired Companies for six years in a row.

Doug Berg, who describes himself as “the godfather of talent communities,” has spent much of his career in the HCM-software industry convincing companies to add content to their career sites beyond just job listings.

“There’s lots of things people want to know about a company,” says Berg, who launched Jobs2Web and later sold it to SuccessFactors in 2011 for $110 million. Today, he’s the founder and CEO of ZapInfo.

Building a viable talent network doesn’t require purchasing an expensive new platform, he says. Instead, many companies are using existing platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to create channels populated with company news and related content.

“These networks can be used for things like Twitter chat sessions with your top product guy,” he says. Candidates are hungry for useful information about a company and its products, he adds.

Where to Find Content

Content that resonates the most with candidates should be segmented to their areas of interest, says Berg. “If I’m a designer or an engineer, I want to know how you’ve applied your expertise in those areas to your projects,” he says. By networking with department heads and others within the company, talent acquisition leaders can identify employees who might be interested in presenting webinars about the work they’re doing, he adds.

Employees themselves can be an excellent source of recruitment-marketing content, says consultant Katrina Kibben.

“There’s a lot you could share from every department in your company that would be super-interesting to your hiring demographic,” she says. “You wouldn’t be giving away trade secrets, and you’d attract a whole lot of people.”

Candidates want to be “enchanted” with the idea of working on a particular team, says Kibben. This can be addressed via short questionnaires filled out by employees, such as “I’m excited to come to work every morning because of ‘fill-in-the-blank,’ ” she says.

“Videos, blog posts and social media posts that profile company leaders, or show what a day in the life at the company is like, can be used as a starting point to build engagement with your talent network,” says Michelle Armer, chief people officer at CareerBuilder.

Candidates are especially interested in information that’s useful, says Kibben. This can include emails offering helpful tips on preparing for an interview, she says.

This sort of information doesn’t need to be created from scratch. Career sites often contain useful information that can be repurposed for distribution to talent networks, says Mayer. Content from outside sources can also fit the bill, she says.

“We’ve seen companies syndicate content and send it out to their networks,” she says. “ADP sent out an email to its talent network with the subject line ‘Have You Read These 9 Books to Advance Your Career?’ That’s thinking like a smart marketer—what can we utilize without having to create content from scratch?”

When determining which content resonates the most with candidates, Armer suggests asking candidates what drew them to the company during the interview process. “This can give hiring managers a candid look at what is and isn’t working,” she says.

Personalized Job Postings

All of this isn’t to say that sending content to talent networks that’s exclusively job postings is a bad strategy. So long as the postings are tailored to what candidates have indicated they’re interested in, this can be a reasonably effective way to find new hires, says Berg.

However, only 28 percent of companies in the SmashFly survey are “personalizing” their job-posting content—ensuring that it matches with the types of positions candidates are curious about, says Mayer.

“We’ve seen examples of a senior marketing person getting sent postings about warehouse jobs and marketing-intern positions,” she says. “If I was in that position, I’d unsubscribe from that talent network.”

Content needs a strategy behind it, says Berg, with information tailored to specific groups within the talent network. “If you really want engagement, you can’t just have a ‘push the button once a month’ approach,” he says.

Initially, Fiserv wasn’t doing much more than sending job postings to its talent network, says Levy. Then the company began publishing a general community email to its members, and eventually launched a strategy of targeted communication sent to specific groups within the network.

Someone who’s indicated an interest in sales roles, for example, will receive specialized information pertaining to that area, she says. Fiserv is also using “personas” to target specialized information.

“We’re looking at personas around more general job-seeker characteristics, and even generations: how do millennials prefer to be communicated with, as opposed to Gen X or baby boomers?” says Levy.

Levy gauges the effectiveness of this outreach via embedded links included with every piece of communication that let her track whether recipients end up applying for a job. She recommends working closely with business units to understand their needs as well as conducting new-hire surveys to get a clearer picture of what sort of content resonates the most with passive candidates.

“We’re also working with partners like our global-branding team to learn about content we might not otherwise know about, and then using it to help sell passive candidates on the company, not just the job,” she says. “We don’t have a robust budget or a large team, so it was helpful to start out small and partner with others.”

Andrew R. McIlvaine is senior editor for talent acquisition at Human Resource Executive. He oversees coverage of talent acquisition and recruiting and also edits the weekly Recruiting Trends Bulletin e-newsletter and its associated website, RecruitingTrends.com. A Penn State graduate, Andy also spent two years in the U.S. Army prior to attending college and attained the rank of sergeant while serving in the Army Reserves. He can be reached at [email protected]