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How to Build and Nurture an On-Demand Creative Talent Pool

How to Build and ...

With over 17 years experience working with companies of all shapes and sizes here at Aquent | Vitamin T, I’ve talk to hundreds (no, make that MANY hundreds) of creative hiring managers and talent and there is one thing everyone seems to agree on: it is NEVER EASY to keep track of creative freelancers.

For a highly qualified, in-demand freelancer, availability can change daily—even hourly—as they are approached for new projects and network to find new opportunities.

For clients, those availability changes—and the ever-changing requirements of their clients—make it remarkably challenging to quickly find the best person for their creative work.

Creative hiring managers who are able to hit budgets and deadlines with less stress rely on a strong network of talent to help them. And the best managers have developed effective systems to maintain those resources and interactions. Call it a talent pool, a candidate network, whatever you like (we’re fond of “talent pool”), the point is that you probably need to build one if you want to keep your sanity and get your work done on time.

Why you should build your own Talent Pool

  • To keep up with the competition. It’s a highly competitive marketplace for talent with in-demand skills. Easy access to pre-vetted people helps you act faster and acquire the best resources for your project, before someone else does.
  • To get the right talent. You can minimize the risk of hiring someone without the right skills or fit by building your network in advance and actually meeting the talent today who you think you’ll need in the future.
  • To have options. When you have a pool of vetted talent, if one isn’t available when you need them, you’ve got others to choose from for those just-in-time projects. If you’ve got a great network of highly skilled talent, chances are many of them will be busy.

How do you build a Talent Pool?

  1. Plan ahead. Decide what job types and skills you’re likely to need for projects you’re expecting or products/services you’re currently selling. Choose your top 2-5 job types and get ready to build your pools.
  2. Recruit talent. Call freelancers you’ve worked with before, ask your staff who impresses them, reach out to your trusted talent agency, even place job ads for each key role. Before you talk to talent, make sure you have:
    • A clear description of the type of work (or as clear as you can get!)
    • A list of the most likely deliverables you need help with
    • An explanation of the mission or purpose of your company
    • Evidence of what makes your company and team compelling to work with. Cool details about technologies you use or clients you service can help your future talent prioritize your work over all the other calls they get
  3. Review resumes and portfolios. Though it might sound like a waste of time when you don’t have work for them yet, it’s all about how you’d rather find great talent: scrambling the night before to look through hundreds of resumes and samples online or by proactively carving out 30 minutes a day and building a pool as you go.
  4. Make a list of your WOWS and WHOAS. What do you really need from talent on your team? Motivation? Teamwork? Specific technology / skills? And what would make you NOT want someone on your team? Arrogance? No sense of urgency? Make your list in advance so when you talk to candidates, you can easily create your dream team.
  5. Book brief interviews. Even a 15-minute phone call with a short list of “must-have” questions can get you ahead when it comes to building a pool. If culture fit is extremely important, bringing someone in for a 15-minute in-person chat will absolutely save you time (and heartache) later.
  6. Make a plan to keep in touch. Just as you don’t want to be an afterthought for your customers and clients, the more you connect with your talent pool, the more likely they are to change schedules, provide referrals, and make time to help you when you need it. A simple bi-weekly email to check on their availability, say hello, or share some information of value can go a long way to building relationships that last.
  7. Get organized! Think about how you’re going to be able to quickly find who you need when you need them. You’ll need a place to keep all your notes, resumes, contact info, and samples, so you can connect when you’re ready to go. If you don’t have your own system in place, don’t worry, we do! Check out our online tool (Talent Pool) to see how our clients keep track of their own pools that are screened by us and blessed by them.

Phew!

Though it may seem exhausting to build and cultivate your own pool of creative talent in advance, take it from us: it’s worth every minute.

By breaking these steps down to just a little work per day, you’ll have a dedicated, engaged talent pool in no time!

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