We toss the word community around a lot in recruiting, but most of us do not have a very clear definition of what makes it different from a database or a talent pool.

A talent pool typically is a group of people who have been screened at least a little. They are people roughly qualified for a position or to work in an organization, but we really don’t have any relationship with them.

A talent pool  is the equivalent of an annotated and sorted filing cabinet, but it only contains static and most likely out-of-date information about the potential candidate.  They are hard to search and the data we have about a candidate rarely give us much insight into what a person is really like. And most talent pools do not allow the candidate to engage with the recruiter or others in the pool.

A community is entirely different.  First of all it is two-way: both you and the candidate exchange information and both of you give and get. But a community also has several other distinguishing features:

Collaboration and Sharing
People in a community share information and often work together to solve problems or come up with new ideas. They are organic and alive with conversation and sharing of opinions and thoughts. True recruiting communities would include your employees as well as potential candidates talking about the organization, what it does, how it does it, and who does it.  This give-and-take process is the best way to personalize the company and provide candidate with information about what is is like to work there. It saves you the need to tailor responses or have lots of facts at your fingertips – the employees and perhaps even other candidates will provide what you need.

Feeling included
Being part of something is also a key ingredient in a community.  By being with others of similar interests and through sharing ideas, people come to feel part of the team.  Good communities make recruiting much easier because candidates already feel like they know people and relate to them.  When candidates actually get hired and start work, they have people to talk with that they already have met on line and have shared with.

Similar values
No one is forced to join or stay in a community.  Unlike a database, I can remove myself from the community and move on.  Therefore, people who stay in a community and engage in conversation are most likely to have the same values as the people in the organization.  This means that cultural compatibility is much higher and it become easy to spot those who aren’t really comfortable in the culture your organization has.

People are looking for authenticity from organizations and it is within communities that so much can be explained and made available. Employees may bring up issues and discuss how they were resolved while candidates may also contribute their ideas. Member of communities are much more likely to share their feelings and express their true opinions about issues.  Potential employees feel that the organization is open and honest in its communication.

And finally, those in an active community are truly engaged and interested.  Here is a statement from Richard Long, Deliotte New Zealand’s Manager of Talent Acquisition, about their recently developed Facebook community aimed at university students and graduates:

“Our strategy is to create dialogue and conversation with students and engage with them – all the while further developing the page with their feedback in mind – quite an organic process. All through our page we have given students the opportunity to tell us what they want to see and hear. The content of our page is provided by our own Deloitte Graduates and Summer Interns, and the fans themselves. My team really only administrates and develops the site to allow more conversation to happen between the fans and Deloitte Grads and Interns they are interested in hearing from. The result is we have built a community of students engaged with the Deloitte NZ brand, who are talking to us and have a sense of our culture and how we can support their career aspirations.”

This nicely sums up my major points and gives solid evidence that taking your social network to the next dimension – that of turning it into a true community of engaged and energetic people you can tap into whenever you have an opening – is the right way to go.