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Employee alumni networks: a goldmine for recruiters

Posted by
Mike Dace
November 16, 2021

While racing to find qualified talent in a shrinking candidate pool, are you paying attention to the lowest hanging fruit: employee alumni?

In 1929, Frigyes Karinthy wrote a short story called Chain-Links in which a group of people try to prove the ‘shrinking world’ concept by connecting anyone in the world to themselves in a maximum of six steps. This was the origin of the Six Degrees of Separation, the idea that everyone in the world is just six connections or fewer away from each other. Since then, the idea has inspired a great deal of research, applications, and pop culture references.

Ever wondered how this works in hiring? Surprisingly well, we can tell you.

The economy is reviving and businesses are hiring again aggressively. But everyone is fishing from the same pool of great talent. To find the candidates you really want, you need to get their attention faster than everyone else. Tapping into your alumni network can help you do just that.

Why alumni networks are a powerful recruiting source

Many people continue in the same industry or function for a good part of their career, and with each job switch, expand their corporate network. They have at their fingertips, so to speak, a significant pool of qualified talent that they can put you in touch with in an instant.

Secondly, alumni employees know the organization’s culture and working style really well. So they tend to do a sub-conscious pre-qualification of the candidates they refer, making your hiring team’s job a tad easier. On the other side, the candidate being referred enters the hiring process enthusiastically as they view the alumnus as a trustworthy source.

For prospective candidates, just knowing that there is an active alumni network helps them see your organization in a more positive light, turning them into brand advocates for your firm once they move on.

Then, of course, is the ROI for your hiring team. Referrals are far less ‘risky’ than a completely new applicant and they come at a much lower cost compared to what is currently spent on job boards and social networks.

Lastly, there is the potential for rehiring talented employees. Once upon a time, alumni who returned to their organizations were called ‘boomerang employees’ but today, more and more businesses are ready to welcome them. Not only do alumni have the advantage of prior knowledge, but they have also upskilled and gained more experience in their industry/function during their time away.

As Reid Hoffman, one of the founders of LinkedIn, says, “Lifetime employment might be over, but a lifetime relationship remains the ideal…Establishing a corporate alumni network, which requires relatively little investment, is the logical step in maintaining a relationship of mutual trust, mutual investment, and mutual benefit.”

Have you built an alumni network? If not, start now.

The alumni engagement best practices of companies that have established strong alumni networks have one thing in common: communication. They keep their network active and their alumni engaged through a variety of initiatives including sub-groups, activities & events, job boards, and newsletters.

Yes, keeping up all of these takes resources and time — something your HR team may not have. Additionally, public social networks like LinkedIn or Facebook, are not really built for deep, meaningful alumni engagement.

This is where technology, more specifically, automation, simplifies things.

Enroll your alumni into your networks.

There is a moment when an employee becomes an alumnus. It could be when they send out their final goodbye email. Or exit a workgroup. Or turn in their equipment. That moment is poignant and what happens next can leave a deep impact in their mind about the organization.

Now imagine sending them a personalized text later in the day thanking them for their work and letting them know they will be missed. It makes the employee feel seen, even after they have stepped out of the door. We’d say that is the start of your alumni relationship building.

The beauty of texting is that unlike calls, it is scalable, instant, and personal. On average, people read text messages within 3 minutes and respond in 90 seconds. In our experience with Sense Texting, the response rate is a whopping 45%.

Stay in touch regularly

The simplest, most effective way to alumni engagement is to stay in touch without intruding. The timing matters; so does the thought. 

In our example earlier, you can follow up the thank you text with another a couple of days later, inviting them to join your alumni group. Even if they don’t join right away, your texting channel is still open; you can still reach them. For instance, you could send another text a month later to check in on them: are they doing well? Have they embarked on something new? 

To keep the conversation seamless, it is important that your two-way texting is within one thread using one number. You can easily do this with Sense Texting.

Balance broadcasts and 1:1 conversations

Not every alumni conversation can be personal. In fact, some of it should be directed to foster a sense of community among your alumni, so that they feel part of something bigger. 

You can do this two ways. One is a broadcast email or text to your entire alumni network about a monthly alumni newsletter or a referral program. The other is focused communication you send to alumni segments based on their location, function, or job role. This would be ideal if you are hosting a networking or hiring event or posting a rehiring opportunity.

The one thing worse than no communication is bad automation. Even if your messages are going out to a larger group, every interaction should feel personal. If you are using Sense Journeys to handle this, we leverage your ATS data fields to customize your message. We handle much of the transactional engagement to open the conversation, freeing up your team to focus on their other work. But the moment an alumnus engages, their response will go to the sender’s inbox.

Be available 24x7

Time and again, we have observed that people tend to engage in job-related activities outside of their regular working hours or on their days off. Unfortunately, this is also usually the time that your team is off.

Suppose an alumnus wants to refer someone but has a question about the job posted: would you miss out on the opportunity just because they reached out at 9 PM on Friday night?

Just as for recruitment, chatbots can come to the rescue in alumni engagement too. They are available 24x7 and can either answer your alumni’s queries or highlight it to your team for a follow-up. Nothing will get missed out because your HR team is swamped.

Again, we cannot stress enough the importance of how human and personal the conversation needs to feel. The Sense Chatbot leverages Natural language Processing and powerful AI to ensure natural, clear, consistent communication at every single interaction.

Relationships need work—but they work.

You have invested a great deal of time, resources, and money in hiring and developing your employees. Don’t let them slip away just because they have chosen to move on. Strengthen your alumni network or start building one if you haven’t already: the pay-off is tremendous.

At Sense, we like to say that we are in the relationship business. Because all of our solutions are built to simplify and facilitate your relationship with prospective candidates, employees, customers, and yes—employee alumni.

Want to know more? Leave us a message here and we’ll be in touch.

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