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Talent pooling for small businesses: What, why and how.

Talent pooling for small businesses: What, why, and how.

Tags: Candidate Experience, Recruitment Process

Talent pooling is a proactive recruitment tactic that starts to make a heap of sense once you’re hiring over about thirty people a year (give or take). Here’s everything SME recruiters need to know about talent pooling – including what it is, why it matters, and how to get started.  

Does this sound familiar?

  • The CEO breathing down your neck
  • Trawling back through endless emails looking for what’s her name again? 
  • Spending your whole lunchbreak scouring Indeed without luck
  • Looking for a needle in the 10000-row-spreadsheet-haystack 
  • Finding your perfect hire only to have your offer rejected for another company
  • The CEO breathing down your neck again

If bells are ringing, you could be stuck in the reactive recruitment cycle that’s so common for growing businesses. Talent pooling is the start of a solution – ultimately delivering better candidates, faster and cheaper. 

But how do you get started? Read on for everything small business recruiters need to know about talent pooling. 

What is a talent pool?

Let’s start with the definition of talent pool. A talent pool is a collection of candidates grouped by similar characteristics, who could be suitable for future jobs. You might build a talent pool of customer service assistants, for example, or nurses in the Northeast. 

This means you’ll get a warm head-start on hiring, instead of starting from scratch every time you hire. 

How is building talent pools different from traditional recruitment? 

Traditional recruitment is like order-taking

You’re told you need a software engineer so you start hunting for a software engineer. You write and post your job ad, start scouring boards, and maybe search your ATS (if you’re using one) or your spreadsheet. 

This whole process is time-consuming and usually involves lots of duplicate work. Who was that great candidate you spoke to last month?! Where was that job description from March?

Talent pooling is much more proactive. 

You anticipate hiring needs and source possible candidates upfront, so you’ve got lots of warm existing relationships when you’re asked to hire. 

Not everyone in your talent pool will be available right now – but the idea is, you’ll keep those relationships going over months and years. And when those great people are looking for a role, guess who they’ll think of?

What are the benefits of talent pooling? 

Building talent pools makes a whole load of sense for a whole load of reasons:

Hire faster

Having a ready-to-go pool of talent means you’ve got warm candidates to call instantly. If the recruitment gods are smiling, you might even get lucky and place someone in days.

In a competitive hiring market, slow time-to-hire is often why small businesses lose out on talent.  You’re more likely to land the people you need to grow if you speed up hiring. 

Cut recruitment costs

Most growing businesses share the headache of spiralling recruitment costs. As you scale, headcount growth typically gets harder so you wind up spending ever-more on agencies and advertising. For the same, or worse, results.

Talent pools are one tactic to help break the cycle. (Another great tactic is branding – check out five low-cost employer branding tips here). 

Prep your foundation for growth

Right now, you might (just about) be able to manage your recruitment targets in the traditional way. But as your headcount targets grow, recruitment is likely to become a bottleneck if you only use reactive methods.

If your business has ambitious growth plans over the next couple of years, a talent pooling strategy ensures you can scale-up when you need to. Talent pools can be beneficial immediately but realistically, it’s a longer-term relationship-building strategy.

Bypass competition with passive candidates

When you recruit in the traditional way, you’re heavily reliant on the same competitive sandpit that everyone’s playing in. LinkedIn. Indeed. Etc. 

So when you find someone great, they’re already talking to seventeen other businesses. It enters you into a race – how fast can you hire, and how much will you pay?

Talent pools give you access to passive candidates who might not be actively jobseeking. Typically, these candidates aren’t getting constant calls from other recruiters but will often consider great-fit opportunities. Especially if they already know and trust you. 

Stop wasting time and effort

Many smaller businesses aren’t getting value from their candidate records, so you’re doing lots of duplicate work to rediscover people.

Spreadsheets aren’t designed as a candidate database, so they’re hard to search unless you know exactly who you’re looking for. If you don’t use an ATS, you probably waste hours trying to remember names and trawling back through your email history. 

Talent pooling is a system for organising candidates so you can find them easily. So the work you’ve done to build connections is useful again and again.

How to build a talent pool? 

In essence, talent pooling is a straightforward system for organising candidates. You’ll need:

  • A strategy for how you’ll build talent pools
  • A process for sourcing and grouping candidates
  • A process for keeping candidates engaged
  • Ideally some tech to make talent pooling simple

Let’s talk through each.

A strategy for how you’ll build talent pools

Here’s where you work out which talent pools you’d benefit from. What are your likely hiring needs over the next 12-18 months? Collaborate with the C-suite to answer that and look back at past recruitment to spot trends.

Talent pools do take an upfront investment of time. To make sure your time’s well-spent, it usually makes sense to prioritise:

  • High-frequency roles
  • High-priority roles
  • Hard-to-find roles
  • Competitive roles

A process for sourcing, storing, and grouping candidates

How do you find candidates, and how will you group them into the pools you need?

  • Direct applications
  • LinkedIn
  • Job boards
  • Social media
  • Previous employees
  • Referrals
  • Jobs fairs

You can handle this stuff manually but honestly, it’s a pain. You’ll find you’re spending hours entering data and faffing about with spreadsheets. And categorising candidates into pools is possible with colour coding, sorting, and filtering but it’s unwieldy and takes ages. Especially as your hiring needs grow.

Talent pooling is dramatically easier with a purpose-built applicant tracking system for small businesses. Depending on the software you choose, it’ll make it easy to parse candidates from various sources and add tags to categorise them. 

For example, you might have a diverse talent pool, internal talent pool, international talent pool, or freelance talent pool. Or you might group candidates by location. Or by seniority. Or by qualification, if you need something specific. 

Small business recruiting software makes that easy.

Talent pools and GDPR compliance

The General Data Protection Act governs how organisations use personal data, so it impacts anyone who’s dealing with employee, customer, or candidate data. 

You have to ensure data is used fairly, transparently, securely, and accurately – and there’s even stronger legal protection for sensitive information like protected characteristics.

In the context of talent pooling, this means you shouldn’t be adding people to your talent pools and marketing to them without their consent. Candidates should also be able to update their data or withdraw consent. And you’ll need to keep records that you’ve got consent. This is another reason to consider recruiting software, because the tech should be built with these regulations in mind. 

A process for keeping candidates engaged

Building a talent pool is the first stage. Then you’ve got ongoing talent pool management.

Many candidates in your talent pool won’t be active jobseekers. Or you might not have the perfect position for them yet. That means you’ll need to develop a process for keeping those candidates ‘warm’. AKA: maintaining the relationship with them; staying on their radar. 

This doesn’t mean bugging them every time you have any random open position. Think about ways to add value. For example:

  • Sending a quarterly email sharing hiring trends you’ve seen and what they might mean for jobseekers
  • Having a semi-regular career catch-up call so you know what someone’s dream role would be if it cropped up
  • Sharing some input on current salaries, so candidates can see if they’re being paid fairly
  • Sharing cool stuff your company’s done or is doing with new hires, so candidates can see how their own employer stacks up

Again, this is possible (but hard) manually. Or super simple with the right recruitment tech, empowering you to communicate with candidates at scale.

Recruitment software to make talent pooling simple 

We’ve said throughout this guide – talent pooling is possible manually. But honestly, it’s inefficient, less effective, and a heap of unnecessary work. (Read more about when’s the right time for SMEs to consider recruitment tech).

Good recruitment software should make building and managing high-quality talent pools easy, with functionality like:

  • CV parsing from boards and social media. Pull candidates from common sources into your database in a consistent way, without manually transferring data. 
  • Custom talent pool tags. Add tags to candidates, per your talent pooling strategy, to group them into pools around each tag. For example: #MarketingLead #Newcastle.
  • Automated tagging based on skills. Recruitment software often allows you to set rules, so candidates are tagged automatically based on the keywords and phrases in their CV. 
  • Automated tagging based on source. If you go to careers fairs, it can be helpful to add all your candidates from that source to one talent pool. An ATS can often do this automatically, providing a unique event URL or QR code. 
  • Targeted job advertising. Segmenting job adverts by talent pool means you’re targeting your roles at the people who’re best suited to the role. Higher application quality; less burdensome poor-fit volume to sift through. 
  • Talent pool comms. Recruitment tech typically empowers you to communicate with people in your talent pools, either one-to-one or en-masse. High engagement, low effort. 

Small business recruitment can be tough, especially if your organisation is growing fast. The workload can be enormous and often, you don’t have the time, tools, or budget to tackle your targets.

Talent pooling isn’t a quick fix – but long-term it will make life easier. If the business plans to keep growing, it could be time to start moving towards a more proactive recruitment function. 

Tribepad Gro is ready built, ready-to-go recruitment software for small business and growing teams. Take your recruitment to the next level. Get your free recruitment diagnostic session with Tribepad’s Neil to learn what could be stalling your growth.

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