Definition

talent pool

Contributor(s): Patrick Thibodeau

A talent pool is a database of potential job candidates that have the potential to meet an organization's immediate and long-term needs. In order to build a talent pool, HR managers must understand corporate goals as they relate to expected hires over the next several years. They must know whether training and mentoring efforts are strong enough to fill open positions internally and be able to identify actual, as well as potential, skills gap


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A talent pool database should contain information about each prospect, including the person's skills, roles they could fill and whether they are a cultural fit. Sources for talent acquisition can be wide and varied. For instance, a talent pool might have a list of 25 colleges that an organization recruits from, along with specific names collected at networking events or user group meetings.

Internal organizational talent pools include employees who have the potential to learn new skills or advance with training and mentoring. Resumes and other information on previous applicants who deserve a second look may also be part of the talent pool. Steps should be taken to ensure that potential candidates who have had some initial contact with the employer have had a positive experience. Otherwise, they may not respond when contacted.

Other popular talent pool sources include alumni organizations, prior employees, LinkedIn contacts or specialized talent-as-a-service platforms, such as Topcoder. In some organizations, a talent pool may also include contingent workers and staffing agencies as well as trusted recruiters. 

Managing the talent pool

HR departments use a range of systems to manage talent pools. In a small organization, the pool might be represented by a spreadsheet. In larger organizations, recruiting modules in talent management systems often play a central role in building organizational talent pools, as do training and staff development systems. Succession planning software may also play a role in talent pool planning. Tools that eliminate bias, including gender bias, are often an important feature of such tools. 

Some experts use the term "talent pool" in a much more narrow sense to denote a pool of current employees who can be trained to take on more responsibility as part of a talent development and succession planning strategy. A pool can include specific individuals or sources of talent and should not be confused with a talent pipeline. People in a talent pipeline have made some progress in the hiring process. 

This was last updated in May 2018

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