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Many companies now are recruiting on social media websites, but how many fully understand how to use this relatively new tool to tap into communities of prospective employees? Today, more young people are aligning themselves with groups, or talent communities, in which they can network and learn from others in the same industry. For that reason, it is important to understand how to tap into these groups of individuals who share skill sets, interests, and talents.

Here is how Training Top 125 companies Sprint and EMC Corporation are utilizing talent communities to build their workforce, and what a couple of experts in the field recommend.

Define “Community” and Get Started

For companies unfamiliar with the concept of online talent communities, the effort to use this tool begins by understanding what it is. “Typically, it is an interactive group of job seekers and recruiters joined together by a common interest,” explain Karen Hoffman and Jennifer Schnack, managers, Recruitment Services, Sprint. “As an example, Sprint uses Jobs2Web (now SuccessFactors) as a private community of interested job seekers that may help match a person’s interests to available positions.”

The first step is to establish or build up your company’s social media presence on sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. “Set up a Facebook or LinkedIn profile and use that to build a personal or professional network,” say Hoffman and Schnack. “This can be individual recruiters setting up their own profiles or the company setting up ‘corporate’ profiles that are managed by the appropriate HR staff.”

The talent community Sprint set up allows job seekers flexibility to check in at any time to see if any position is of interest, but does not require them to apply at that moment. “When candidates visit but don’t see a specific position they want to apply for at that time, they can join the talent community and create a profile with their work experience and contact information,” Hoffman and Schnack say. “When a position becomes available that aligns with their skill set, they will receive an e-mail notification about the opportunity.”

Hoffman and Schnack point out the importance of keeping all social media accounts that are used in talent community recruiting in the company or business department name rather than using private recruiter or manager accounts. If the account is in an employee’s name, it should be a professional account used solely for the purpose of professional communications. “Keep your personal and professional social media profiles separate,” they recommend. “Don’t co-mingle the two. Also, be careful about who and what has access to your personal information.”

It also is important to remember that your company can leverage other social media outlets to publicize job openings and even the talent community itself. “As an example, a recruiter would announce a position on his or her Facebook page, providing a link back to the talent community inviting individuals to become a member of Sprint’s Talent Community,” say Hoffman and Schnack of how the process works for their company.

Companies must find ways to recruit that mirror how potential candidates engage and communicate, and social media is one way to do this, Hoffman and Schnack note. “We have seen this channel work for both exempt and non-exempt positions. At Sprint, we even have successfully used talent communities to recruit for director-level positions.”

Chance to Build Relationships

One way to look at recruitment via talent communities is as an extension of what companies have always done.

“‘Talent Community’ is really just a buzzword for relationship marketing. It’s what good recruiters do every day—they build pipelines of good candidates who are either active or passive job seekers, then look to reach and influence that community through communications,” says Tom Murray, senior vice president, Global Talent Acquisition, EMC Corporation. “The good (and bad) news is that there are many ways to communicate with candidates via social media. This is good because companies can informally get their message out via social media channels, and often that message will take on a life of its own. HR executives, however, need to change their current mindset of managing the message. Social media is meant to be open, allowing candidates to easily tap into their social networks to learn about an employer.”

Murray says social media sites such as LinkedIn make using talent communities easy. Companies that are not yet ready to build their own talent communities can take advantage of the communities already in existence on LinkedIn and other social media sites.

“LinkedIn has changed the way candidates look for jobs by transforming the job search industry from traditional commercial job board postings to professional networking,” says Murray. “LinkedIn continues to create new ways for candidates and companies to interface by building endorsements, delivering relevant content, and providing professionals the ability to manage their own networks. By spending time on LinkedIn, HR executives will get a good sense of how recruiters use this channel, how candidates build networks, and how companies can brand themselves to unique audiences.”

From LinkedIn, Murray says to move to other social media outlets such as applicants’ blogs or Twitter accounts to get a greater sense of their experience and who they are. “Twitter and blog accounts are informal, and potential candidates are more likely to connect and engage using these less invasive platforms,” Murray explains.

If you’re still confused about where to get started when on a social media site such as LinkedIn, Murray elaborates a bit more.

“For example, a recruiter would search using a skill as a keyword to find potential candidates on social platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter and online search sites such as Google or Bing to uncover bloggers,” Murray says. “The recruiter then would engage the candidate in a conversation. If it’s a passive candidate, the recruiter needs to be careful not to publicly expose the candidate. It’s important to have a strong social media presence, build and nurture relationships, and be able to pull from the talent pool whenever needed.”

Have a “Conversation” with Applicants

“Talent communities can and do form organically online via existing social networks, which companies then can use to source and recruit from,” says Kevin Grossman, director of Content Development, Peoplefluent. “According to Pew Internet, 69 percent of online adults use social networking sites. With more people participating in online social networks, there is opportunity for organizations to take advantage of these relationships to connect with hard-to-reach candidates, extend employment brand messages, and communicate company culture.”

Like EMC’s Murray, Grossman points out the overlap between recruitment and marketing when using talent communities via social media. “Marketers long have recognized the value of endorsements, and social networks transcend that benefit to how companies attract, recruit, and retain talent. This is why organizations such as Peoplefluent are embedding ‘social collaboration’ platforms into their existing recruiting and talent management solutions.”

Grossman says to be sure to have a conversation with talent communities rather than just promoting your own company.

“The biggest don’t is to only have one-way conversations. While important to immediate sourcing and recruiting, one-way conversations in the form of broadcasting and promoting employment opportunities, with no opportunity for reciprocal dialogue, means there’s no opportunity for the candidates to engage the recruiters or the organization, other than to apply for a job,” he says. “That’s great for active job seekers, but not so much for the passive ones who need to understand much more about the employer brand than just a usually unrealistic job description.”

That said, Ted Elliott, CEO of Jobscience, says a talent community is essentially a chance to extend your company brand. “A talent community should be a corporate-hosted website that profiles the employment brand, explains the values of the organization, promotes events, and profiles a career type as opposed to a specific job,” says Elliott. “Candidates can join to learn and stay updated about hiring opportunities.”

Elliott explains that talent communities offer prospective employees a bigger picture of your company than just one job opportunity. “It’s a change in the perspective of how you fill open jobs,” he says. “Instead of advertising a specific opportunity, you promote why you are a great place to work, you develop relationships with stars, and nurture them so you can drive them to jobs as they open.”

Reprinted from Training Magazine

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