How to expand your talent pool: 9 strategies

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How to expand your talent pool: 9 strategies

how expand your talent pool 9 strategies

Are you struggling to attract a diverse range of candidates with relevant skills and fresh perspectives?

You might be limiting your talent pool by using outdated talent acquisition practices or losing solid candidates because your interview process is too complicated and full of arbitrary steps.

Even if your hiring process used to work like a well-oiled machine, it’s wise to explore how you can improve it.

Here’s why:

  • The unemployment rate is only 3.5%1 in the US in September 2022
  • 80% of employers2 struggle with hiring due to candidate skill gaps
  • Meanwhile, voluntary turnover rates are on the rise3

A divide between employer and candidate expectations might explain why filling roles is a challenge.

It’s a good time to shake up your status quo recruitment process and try modern practices that are proven to make an impact in this challenging hiring environment.

Our strategies will help you open your talent pool to a broader, more diverse audience of skilled candidates.

Ahead of you:

Table of contents

What is a talent pool? And why should you build one?

A talent pool is an HR database of top job candidates, including those that have previously applied for a job with you, silver medallists, sourced or referred candidates, and other potential hires. It keeps your talent pipeline full and makes sourcing new workers easier and more cost-effective.

You’re probably familiar with the term, but we want to ensure we’re on the same page.

Now we can discuss:

  1. The ways in which your talent pool may be limited that you haven’t previously noticed or wanted to change
  2. How you can be prepared to meet the needs of your talent pool for greater hiring success and longer staff retention

You should build and constantly evaluate your talent pool of candidates because it enables you to:

Building internal talent pool serves in three significant ways

  • Fill positions more quickly
  • Improve the cost:result ratio of hiring
  • Hire the best candidates

We’ve explained this in further detail in the below table:

Benefits of a talent pool Why it matters
1. Fill positions quickly Reach out immediately to a database of qualified candidates; Remove the long process of creating a job ad and waiting for applicants
2. Better cost:result ratio Maximize the ROI of your hiring budget by reengaging with strong candidates from previous hiring rounds instead of starting each round from scratch; Reduce HR expenses because you’re not starting the process from zero each time; Reduce spending in the long run by hiring better candidates (more below)
2. Hire better candidates Dedicate more time to each candidate due to the head start you have; Have more options to choose from as candidates accumulate in your database over time; Avoid hiring the wrong person due to time pressure 

Many companies are still struggling to fill roles even with a strong talent pool because they aren’t adapting the way they build and use it to the current hiring market.

Your company might be reluctant to reconsider its “in-office only” policy or to consider candidates without a degree.

But it’s time to update your approach and expand your talent pool database to include more individuals.

Our 9 strategies for expanding your organization’s talent pool

The goal: Grow your talent pool in terms of candidates’ quantity and quality to make your hiring process easier, faster, and more efficient.

Here are the methods we’ll discuss:

Talent pool expanding strategy Overview
1. Drop unnecessary job requirements Keep in mind that degrees and years of experience aren’t necessarily a good indicator of skills and expertise; Rework your job descriptions to use inclusive language; Make sure your application process isn’t too long, repetitive, and complicated; Focus on results, skills, and characteristics, not the path candidates took to get to where they are
2. Use pre-employment tests and assessments to switch to skills-based hiring Be mindful of people switching careers; Give a chance to people who have the right skills but no formal training; Include candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds; Focus on personality traits and soft skills – you can train hard skills if there’s a gap, but you can’t train innate characteristics; Hire for high performance and upskilling potential
3. Employ people with criminal records Consider applicants with criminal records – excluding between 70 million and 100 million Americans narrows your talent pool unnecessarily; Gain motivated employees with unique perspectives and a hunger to prove themselves; Open the door to new opportunities to help them get a fresh start, reintegrate into society
4. Offer flexible working hours and locations Consider part-time, full-time, and job-sharing options; Offer office, hybrid, and fully remote setups; Attract and engage Gen Z and millennials who list workplace flexibility as a high priority; Include international candidates for a wider talent pool; Accommodate diverse lifestyles and circumstances
5. Try project-based hiring with temp staff and freelancers Have more options on the table; Minimize overhead; Gain easy access to specialized skills; Supplement capacity without risking a bad hire when you need urgent help; Staff one-off projects instead of training or hiring for skills you won’t need again
6. Build an internal talent pool to hire and grow from within Prioritize on-the-job training and support your staff with reskilling programs; Make the most of the talent right in front of you – it saves you time and money; Engage your employees with development and advancement opportunities; Avoid losing valued employees to competitors
7. Incentivize referrals to access “passive candidates” connected to your current workforce Tap into employees’ networks to reach top talent, such as former colleagues, acquaintances, or social connections you might “activate”; Create a referral scheme and add passive referrals to your talent pool, so you have more high-quality options
8. Head to recruitment fairs and events at universities and colleges for junior positions Make personal connections; Look for talent with suitable characteristics and attitudes
9. Make sure to keep your talent pool database updated! Include referred candidates, former employees, previous applicants that made it past skills testing, etc.; Have a landing page for talent that doesn’t fit your current vacancies; Have a reengagement process and catch up with candidates every once in a while; Update their details like phone, current status, etc.

Let’s dig deeper for a complete picture:

1. Drop unnecessary job requirements

Degrees and years of experience are valuable but don’t always equal relevant expertise or a perfect fit with your company.

To expand your talent pool, you need to prioritize other important things, like skills testing and making sure your application process isn’t too long and repetitive. A lengthy hiring process (or a lack of clarity about how long hiring would take) impairs the candidate experience, and you risk losing top candidates.

It makes more sense for employers to focus on the intent behind requirements like “X years of experience” instead of making it a strict requirement when considering potential candidates.

So how do you zero in on expertise instead of external expertise indicators?

  • Drop the excess weight that’s discouraging applicants, like a three-hour-long application process
  • Rework your job descriptions to use inclusive language and reflect what’s integral to each role, like testing for English proficiency instead of inviting “native speakers only”
  • Reconsider requirements related to a specific degree or number of years of experience

Everyone’s path is different. Always choose to test for the right skills and characteristics and focus on your intended result rather than the common method of achieving it.

2. Use pre-employment tests and assessments to switch to skills-based hiring

Pre-employment assessments for skills-based hiring open the door to more talent, such as:

  • People switching careers and people with gaps in their resume
  • People with the right skills but no formal training (for example, self-taught developers)
  • Candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds

So what does skills-based hiring look like in real life?

For example, Accenture prioritizes learning agility. They hire based on relevant skills and potential.

screenshot of Accenture prioritizing learning agility

To include more women in tech, they went to liberal arts schools and hired talent with excellent critical thinking skills, then trained them in tech.

That way, they accessed talent that would have otherwise remained hidden.

But how do you spot the right characteristics and abilities in candidates?

Skills-based hiring requires inclusive pre-employment tests and assessments. This way, you’re able to concentrate on candidates’ actual skills rather than on their formal qualifications.

With TestGorilla, you can combine up to five tests in a single assessment for a 360° overview of applicants’ qualities and knowledge and combine cognitive-ability tests with role-specific tests.

For example:

  • A Problem Solving test evaluates a person’s ability to analyze all variables and respond correctly in complex situations – a crucial skill for project managers, planners, and salespeople
  • Leadership and People Management test shows you whether a candidate can lead efficiently, guide their team towards success, and help your company grow

And there are many more tests to help you screen for the right skills and characteristics in different areas:

tests to help screen for right skills and characteristics

  1. Cognitive ability
  2. Language proficiency
  3. Personality and culture
  4. Software skills
  5. Role-specific skills
  6. Situational judgment
  7. Programming skills

Use them to get to know your candidates and determine how well they match the role. Then save their results in your database if you hire someone else – this way, later you’ll be able to instantly identify strong candidates in your talent pool. (But note that you should notify candidates if you do that and potentially ask for their permission to store their results and other data).

3. Employ people with criminal records

Consider adopting fair-chance hiring by including people with criminal records in your candidate search.

Between 70 million and 100 million Americans have a criminal record. Excluding them narrows your talent pool, makes it harder for them to join the workforce, and has implications for diversity and inclusion in your workplace.

One benefit of fair-chance hiring for you is gaining a motivated employee with a unique perspective and a drive to build an excellent track record.

Giving people with a criminal record a chance would also help you foster an inclusive and healthy workplace with the right values.

And the benefits for applicants? It gives them a fresh start and helps them reintegrate into society, open the door to new opportunities, and have a major impact on their life.

4. Offer flexible working hours and locations

Flexibility in terms of when and where your employees work gives you access to talent that might be perfect for a role but can’t meet the standard in-office, 9-5 work requirements.

This is the talent you might be missing otherwise:

  • Working parents or caregivers who have the right experience but have to juggle work with parenting or caring for family
  • Candidates in other countries who aren’t able to move for work but could do their job remotely, potentially for a lower price (depending on the location and your work arrangement)
  • Talent with disabilities or chronic health issues that require specific accommodation you can’t provide in the office or in a full-time role

Workplace flexibility also engages 77% of Gen Zers, whose numbers are slowly growing in the global workforce.

Attract, hire, and accommodate diverse talent by offering flexibility in terms of:

  1. Working hours: full-time, part-time, and job sharing options
  2. Locations: office, hybrid, and fully remote work

With this approach, you’ll be able to build a wider, more diverse talent pool and retain your staff long term.

5. Try project-based hiring with temp staff and freelancers

If you’ve only had experience with full-time, salaried employees, then project-based hiring or working with freelancers can look like a complication rather than help.

But companies are increasingly combining different work arrangements because they bring unique benefits (and challenges):

  • A project-based worker is there temporarily to fulfill specific requirements and work with you only until the project is finished
  • A freelancer could also fit that bill, but they might also work with you on an ongoing basis where you discuss their capacity and your needs monthly

So why should you include these types of workers to expand your talent pool?

It’s always a good idea to have someone on the bench, ready to jump in when you need reinforcement instead of risking making a bad hire in a rush to deliver a project.

With temp staff and freelancers:

  • You have more options on the table
  • Less overhead because you don’t pay taxes and insurance for them
  • Easy, on-demand access to specialized skills

Plus, when you need a once-and-done type of job, hiring a freelancer makes more sense than hiring or training for skills you’ll never need again.

6. Build an internal talent pool to hire and grow from within

An internal talent pool includes your current employees who have the potential to grow into new roles with some mentoring and training.

These are some signs an employee might be ready for more responsibility:

  • They’ve mastered their current role and deliver excellent work every time
  • You can rely on them to communicate and work with you on a problem
  • They have the right personality traits or habits and just need some time to gain subject matter experience
  • They take your feedback seriously, and their performance keeps improving
  • They’re asking you about opportunities to grow and develop new skills

You should keep an eye out for these employees.

Prioritize on-the-job training and support your internal talent with reskilling programs. For example, consider the professional qualifications employees complete while they work for you.

Building an internal talent pool serves you in three significant ways, as it helps you: 

  • Make the most use of the talent right in front of you – it saves you time and money because you don’t have to do extra rounds of ads, sourcing, testing, and onboarding, only to potentially have to rehire. Plus, think of the long-term savings from lower turnover and longer employee retention.

  • Engage your employees with development and advancement opportunities so they’re more motivated and perform better.

  • Avoid losing valued employees to competitors – make them feel appreciated and give them chances to grow and advance while working with you. Growth opportunities are the top factor employees link to work satisfaction.

An internal talent pool can change the way your company works and improve your employees’ experience.

Once employees are motivated to outperform themselves, nothing can stop them. Plus, you’ll have an easier time filling roles with people you trust and who know how your company works.

7. Incentivize referrals to access “passive candidates” connected to your current workforce

Passive candidates are people who are already happily employed or not actively looking for a new job but may be open to it eventually.

They could be your (or your employees’) former colleagues, acquaintances, or social connections who you think could make a great hire. Which is why you should include passive candidates in your talent pool to expand it further.

After all, if they used to work with your coworkers in a similar role, they might fit right in with your team.

So how do you add passive candidates to your talent pool?

  • Build a desirable employer brand by being clear about your mission and values, providing a smooth candidate experience, and improving the employee experience
  • Appreciate and engage staff so they can honestly recommend you to others and become your brand ambassadors
  • Create a straightforward referral scheme and incentivize employees with recognition and rewards

Following these steps results in genuine referrals and a wider talent pool. When passive candidates are ready for a change, you’ll make the top of their list.

8. Head to recruitment fairs and events at universities and colleges to hire for junior positions

A recruitment fair is an event where candidates can meet employers, network, and potentially have on-the-spot interviews.

You can participate in a recruitment fair along with other companies, which means you all get the chance to promote your brand to a large audience that may not have originally been exposed to you.

Someone who visited the event to interview with a specific company can still wander around to see who else is out there.

It’s you! You’re out there, using this opportunity to make valuable personal connections and expand your circle – and your talent pool.

Here’s why recruitment fairs are worth a shot:

  1. You can meet talent with a variety of specialized skills
  2. Increase your brand awareness
  3. They’re cost-effective

With campus recruitment, you make one trip to meet and interview a lot of candidates at once.

Add them to your talent pool and stay in touch.

9. Make sure to keep your talent pool database updated!

A neglected talent pool can do more harm than good. The point of having one in the first place is to make your hiring process efficient and help you focus on the right priorities – and find the right candidates quickly.

Outdated contact information, untracked career changes, and other details you might have missed defeat the purpose of having a talent pool database. And that happens when you add talent and forget about it until it’s time to hire.

But don’t worry. Updating your talent pool is easier when you create some rules. For starters, we suggest you include in it:

  • Previous applicants that made it past skills testing
  • Recommendations and referrals
  • Individuals you scouted
  • Former employees
  • Contacts you picked up at fairs, events, or online

And here are some guidelines to help you keep your pool updated:

guidelines help you keep your pool updated

  • Keep candidates informed on the status of their application: Don’t ghost applicants or stop all contact when you don’t hire them – tell them on the spot that you picked somebody else for the role, but you would love to keep in touch for future opportunities.

  • Sort candidates with notes as soon as you add them to the pool: You can have a dedicated landing page and community for talent that doesn’t find a suitable open position at the moment. For this, you could use a talent management system (TMS).

  • Catch up every so often to remain on their radar and see if anything changed – maybe a passive referral is now ready to interview. Or maybe they’re changing their contact information and you would have lost them if you hadn’t checked in.

  • Create rules around talent pool updating methods and frequency. How often do you contact candidates? Who’s in charge of updating the information? Create and document a process.

Creating a standardized talent pool system takes work, but it’s worth it.

Expand your talent pool and make better decisions

If you wait until you’re under capacity to start looking for talent, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Build a pool of candidates instead.

You’ll always be one step ahead and ready to handle talent shortages fast without making rash decisions you’ll regret.

By including disadvantaged candidates, adapting to employee requirements, and reskilling the talent you already have, you’ll get a wider and more diverse talent pool database to pull from as soon as you need people.

And they’ll be happy to work in an environment that appreciates their differences and needs.

You can consider a Culture Add test to help you make the right call at hiring time – and use skills testing to evaluate applicants, instead of relying on CVs and diplomas. Keep reading how to avoid unfair hiring next.


Sources:

  1. United States Unemployment Rate - September 2022 Data - 1948-2021 Historical. (n.d.). Retrieved October 28, 2022
  2. The future of work 2021: Global hiring outlook. Monster.com. (2021, December 15). Retrieved October 28, 2022
  3. Gartner says U.S. total annual employee turnover will likely jump by nearly 20% from the prepandemic annual average. Gartner. (n.d.). Retrieved October 28, 2022

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