By Gillian Hasley, eBusiness Manager, Monster UKIE

Making sure you have the best talent in the right jobs within your company is the Holy Grail for recruiters. But how do you go about ensuring you've always got a good group of candidates to select from?

In an ideal world, when you have a vacancy the people you want to fill the position would be actively job hunting and ready to step into the role immediately. In reality it's unlikely they will be available when you want them, and when they are, you're not on the lookout for any new employees.
Talent pools are a database of people who could effectively fill the boots of any of your current employees should they decide that it's time to move on. It's your contingency plan and an essential method of reducing the cost and time to hire and ensuring your businesses productivity is not affected too much by resource and skill shortages.

Finding fish for your pool

So where are the best places to start looking for the people who will shape the future of your organisation?

Previous applicants – Remember those people who got to the final round of interviews but were just pipped to the post by a more suitable candidate? Don't just thanks them for their time and throw away their details, add anyone with future poenetial to your list of prospects.

CV databases – These online candidate libraries allow you to subscribe to alerts based on the various roles within your company. Don't think about what you currently have available, think about what may become available in the future.

Industry media – Read magazines and websites to find out who's creating a stir within your sector. If there are projects you are interested in you should be able to pick up on the people involved from the press, and then take your research a bit further by scanning search engines and professional networks for more information about the individuals.

Work experience schemes – Many companies don't have the capabilities to run an extensive graduate scheme with the required investment in training and development. However, work experience schemes give you the chance to give young students their first taste of the business world and you can identify the shining stars who may help your company in the future.

Networking – Using industry conferences, professional associations or just chance meetings, you should always be on the look out for people who could help your business grow. Don't go in all guns blazing with a pitch about how great your company is to work for. Find out about them, what they are up to and what they are interested in.

Online networking – LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace and the hundreds of other online social networking websites make it easy to keep in touch with what people are up to. The vast majority of these sites aren't generally used for business purposes so don't be offended if your connection requests are snubbed.

Letting them know

The complexities of the Data Protection Act are too vast and varied to go into here, but if you're retaining the contact details of someone you're thinking of getting in touch with in the future, you will have to get their permission to do so. The best way is probably to send an email informing them that they are on your recruitment radar, giving them an option to be removed if they wish.

Explain that although you don't currently have the right vacancies available, they have been highlighted as someone the company is interested in and that you would like the opportunity to keep in touch with job opportunities when the time comes. You'll find very few people who aren't delighted and flattered to be added to your list.

Although it may be a tempting time saving strategy, don't be tempted to send out a generic message to all the people on your list. You want them to feel wanted, and the way to do that is to make the contact personal. Try and mention a couple of the reasons why they feature so highly in your thoughts.

Once your talent pool has been built you should look to keep in touch with it rather than letting it stagnate. Aim to review your talent pool at least once every three months and let your pool know that they are still on your radar.

Building up regular conversations will allow you to find out new skills they have developed and you may decide they fit into a different part of your company's structure than you originally envisaged.

Don't fall into the trap of calling people every couple of weeks to see if they're available for interview. There's a big difference in being wanted and being pressurised.
Keep a pool, not a lake.

There's a reason it's called a talent pool – you should only look to include the top talent; the people who will really make a difference to your business.

How big you have your talent pool depends on the time you have spare to manage it. However, always remember that the more time you spend maintaining it, the less effort will be required when it actually comes to replacing one of your current employees or adding to your team.

There are no rules saying that an individual should be removed from your list if you haven't hired them within 12 months. You could potentially have someone swimming around your talent pool for 20 years or more until they have developed the skills and experience required to work in the role you had in mind.

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