It's who you know

For many years my passion and experience has been talent acquisition and talent management and this has led to many conversations with clients regarding their own talent acquisition processes. Frequently I have consulted with clients as to why their focus when dealing with recruitment companies during a tender process for recruitment services has been on the question of “how many candidates do they have in their database?” or “how large are their talent pools"? I did not feel that these questions gave any insight as to the true question which should be asked and that is “how many relationships do you have and what do you do to ensure the ongoing development of these relationships”?

This same challenge occurs for internal recruitment teams and any organisation that is seeking talent. Associate Professor Ian Williamson from the Melbourne Business School when presenting to the Australian Talent Conference on candidate sourcing strategies stated in 2009 stated that “We spend time trying to convince [candidates] who have no relationship with us (to join us) – why not spend that time with people who do have that relationship?”

This leads us to the most important question and that is who are the quality candidates that we have or should have developed relationships with? These quality relationships should be former employees, candidates that have previously responded to opportunities that for one reason or another were not employed but deemed of high quality, and also referrals. This should be the quality talent pool for any organisation. These are the relationships which as a bare minimum should achieve 30% of our hires every year.

How do we find the time to build these relationships? One suggestion is to ensure that an equal amount of time is spent on candidate relationship development as well as candidate sourcing. It is easy to fall in to the habit of advertising a role as soon as we have a need to see what talent responds. We then spend hours evaluating applications, interviewing candidates, assessing suitability including reference checking and trying to ensure that we can develop a relationship with a person so that if the offer is made they are likely to accept it. Instead if we aim to know a smaller number of people well and really understand their motivations, it is more likely that we will attract them to our organisation and we will also attract referrals from them of highly suitable candidates. Relationship development and quality information management makes good business sense.

At ENGAGED we work with companies to develop corporate alumni communities. We are passionate believers that the relationships that an organisation builds with former employees and former identified potential talent can result in decreased recruitment costs, increased referrals and increased business development channels. The data that often sits idly in an organisation’s HR system relating to former employees is in most instances wasted. Yes they may be reached out to via Linkedin but this does not develop an exclusive and mutually beneficial relationship. If you can reach out to them via Linkedin, then guess what so can your competitors.

The value of ongoing relationships is reliant on the development of closed social communities. In these communities you as the organisation own the content, the terms of business, the security settings and the branding. When a member of the community engages with you, their first experience is your brand rather than the brand of Linkedin, Facebook or Google. Engaged works with some of the most renowned organisations globally who focus on developing technology that enables private social community development. Relationships within these communities becomes highly valuable to your organisation and it also ensures that you are creating many goodwill ambassadors for your organisation. The relationships in your closed communities are vested in your ongoing success.

Previously , Engaged released its findings from a major piece of research which focused on the value that Australian organisations placed on remaining engaged with former employees. From interviews with 234 organisations, the research clearly demonstrated that the 16.5 % of companies surveyed that had alumni programs in place, achieved rehire rates as a minimum of 10 % each year. Some of the programs were more sophisticated that others, however those that were exceeding 20 % of returning employee rehires per annum were focusing energy towards ongoing engagement with former employees. To gain a copy of our comprehensive research please email

Next time you are seeking new talent for a role perhaps take a moment to reflect on who is available within your community of contacts? Who has worked previously for the organisation that might be interested in returning? Who has previously applied to the company that might be worthwhile contacting? All of this is reliant on information management and ongoing relationship development. Perhaps the best talent acquisition strategy is after all about who you already know.

#alumni #engagedtalent #workforceplanning #returningemployee #informationmanagement

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