A Talent Pool is NOT a Talent Community

Many recruiting organizations have built talent pools filled with potential candidates who will often never be hired. Most of these talent pools are just a collection of disparate people who have perhaps indicated some interest or dropped by the career site and left their email addresses.

A talent pool, at best, helps you gather potential candidates together, and it provides a way to deliver information. But typical talent pools tend to be poor at getting candidates engaged or excited about the firm or a position.

Research has shown that effective and engaging communication needs to provide in-depth information about the organization and position that a person is interested in. Engaging candidates means you have to sell the organization to them and encourage them to participate in learning more about what you do and how they might play a role.

While we agree that engaging candidates and providing personalized information sounds ideal, we also know that it is not an easy thing to do. Because we have time limitations and can handle a finite number of people, we can only ever treat a handful of candidates in a personal way. So what we have to do is create communities – not talent pools.

Community vs. Talent Pool

The most important concept to grasp is the difference between a talent pool and a community. We toss the word community around, but most of us do not have a very clear definition of what makes it different from a database.

A talent pool is a group of people who have registered in the hopes of eventually getting an interview.. It is the equivalent of a database with the additional plus that we can immediately reach out and communicate with the folks in them. But everything is one way: we reach out to them, but they still have difficulty getting in touch with us. Even if we provide chat or email access, the responses are often slow in coming and are most likely boilerplate or insufficient to meet their needs. We are in control, and we regulate what they see and what they can do. Rather than being a dynamic environment, it is a highly controlled one.

A community is entirely different. First of all, it is two-way: both you and the candidate exchange information, and both of you give and get. But a community also has several other distinguishing features:

You Are Not In Control

Perhaps the most fundamental difference lies in that notion of control. A community goes where it will, does what it wishes, and, while influenced by trends and information, takes its course. No one person or group can prevent others from talking with each other, and most communities are relatively open to new members. Ideas are challenged and discussed. Comments fly, and information is shared without previous vetting. This is a major feature of all communities and one that often creates fear in corporate community leaders. Yet, the evidence is that this fear is overblown, and almost all online communities tend to be self-regulating and have not created any issues for those who originate them. The more open they are, the more valuable they become because you can see what people are like and what the organization’s character feels like.

Collaboration and Sharing

People in a community share information and often work together to solve problems or come up with new ideas. They are organic and alive with conversation and sharing of opinions and thoughts. True recruiting communities would include your employees as well as potential candidates talking about the organization, what it does, how it does it, and who does it. This give-and-take process is the best way to personalize the company and provide candidates with information about what it is like to work there. It saves you the need to tailor responses or have lots of facts at your fingertips – the employees and perhaps even other candidates will provide what you need. It lowers the time you spend in communication and raises the quality of communication.

Feeling included

Being part of something is also a key ingredient in a community. By being with others of similar interests and sharing ideas, people come to feel part of the team. Good communities make recruiting much easier because candidates already feel like they know people and relate to them. When candidates get hired and start work, they have people to talk with that they already have met online and have shared with.

Shared Values and Goals

No one is forced to join or stay in a community. Unlike a database, I can remove myself from the community and move on. Therefore, people who stay in a community and engage in conversation are most likely to have the same values as those in the organization. Cultural compatibility is much higher, and it becomes easy to spot those who aren’t comfortable in your organization’s culture.


People are looking for authenticity from organizations, and it is within communities that so much can be explained and made available. Employees may bring up issues and discuss how they were resolved, while candidates may also contribute their ideas. Members of communities are much more likely to share their feelings and express their true opinions about issues. Potential employees feel that the organization is open and honest in its communication.


And finally, those in an active community are genuinely engaged and interested. Communities can act as self-screening tools as candidates who are not excited about the possibilities of working for your firm will move on. Some firms build games or hold contests to keep candidates involved and interested. By providing up-to-date information about the organization and keeping candidates in the loop regarding openings and needs, you can create a positive and exciting atmosphere and lower the need to “sell” candidates upon closing.

Those who evolve their talent pools into communities will find multiple benefits in faster sourcing of higher quality candidates that better fit the corporate culture and are motivated to work for you.

This article originally appeared in the Future of Talent newsletter and has been republished here with permission. Kevin Wheeler is also our speaker at ATC2022.

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