MoocsWhile recruiters continue to gain skills in search techniques, candidates are elusive and wary of getting unsolicited emails, In-mails, and efforts to get them engaged with your firm on Facebook or LinkedIn. 

Recruiters should be much smarter about how they find and engage with candidates. A really good candidate has no need for trivial engagement and knows that he or she can easily find another position.  The best recruiters use a targeted strategy to identify which candidates are most likely to not only have the skills their organization needs, but which ones are staying current in their field, are learning new skills, and which ones are motivated to work hard.

Younger candidates are attracted to firms that offer access to learning opportunities and older candidates are anxious to gain current, relevant skills. 

There may be no better way to do this than to look in-depth at what MOOCs have to offer. MOOCs (Massive, Open, Online Courses) have been growing in popularity for some time.  These are college level courses that are mostly free and enrollment is quick and easy. They are offered by top schools such as MIT, Stanford and Harvard as well as by a number of firms that provide their own courses, developed by experts. Enrollments in MOOCs have soared over the past few years and as of last October the largest provider, Coursera, had enrolled five million, and edX, a partnership between Harvard, Berkeley and MIT, had more than 1.3 million. 

Sourcing with MOOCs

One MOOC provider, Udacity, also offers a program where recruiters can access student resumes.  According to Bersin, Over 350 firms, including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Twitter have paid Udacity and Coursera to match them with high performing students. 

Most of the courses have online forums where students engage in conversation. An enterprising recruiter can use these as a way meet candidates and assess their skills. Some of these participants will be recent grads with little experience but who are fast, motivated learners.  If you can get your hiring managers to take part, they might be attracted to one or more of them. 

Screening with MOOCs

While completion rates are low, those who do finish a course are often the most motivated and have demonstrated their ability to stick with a task to completion.

A number of recruiters are starting to consider candidates who have completed a MOOC. Anyone who has completed a course, or a series of courses, most likely has the same knowledge as someone who attended the brick and mortar version. Some of these courses are better taught online than in a classroom because they encourage interactive discussions, require homework, and get students engaged in collaborative projects.  A participant’s ability to collaborate and their contribution to the discussions can provide insights into their eventual work habits.

Engaging Candidates with MOOCs

But, you might want to think about going one step further and consider partnering with your training or development function to develop your own course. This would not only meet the desires of Gen Y to gain new skills, but would also provide an authentic way to engage with potential candidates.

Sites like Udemy, Moodle, Udacity  and others allow organizations to create their own private courses. These can attract potential candidates and provide a platform for engagement that is authentic and useful to the candidate and your firm.  If you can involve hiring managers, as well as fellow employees, you will have one more high quality source of candidates.

Or, you can choose to sponsor a course offered by a university and use it as a way to find new candidates as well as to learn about the capabilities of potential candidates. AT&T and other organizations are already sponsoring courses for their own employees using MOOCs. There is no reason this could not be expanded to include potential employees. 

A staffing firm for the creative industry, Aquent,  has already started offering free classes using MOOCs to attract candidates and develop their skills before placing them. This has increased their supply, ensures the quality, and is a selling point to hiring managers. 

Improve Retention with MOOCs

Gen Y, in particular, expects that the firm they work for will provide them with development, learning opportunities, and mentors. A recent article in Chief Learning Officer magazine points out, “More than 77 percent of pending 2013 graduates expect their first employer to provide formal training, but only 48 percent of 2011 and 2012 graduates report having received it in their first job…1 

One of the reasons often given for leaving a job is lack of opportunity and lack of development. Formal training is expensive and small start-ups do not have the cash or time to invest in training or a staff to provide it. MOOCs can provide a cost effective (usually free) way to encourage engagement and retain good employees. 

Huge Variety

If you do not have the capacity to build your own courses, there are a growing number available. A website called mooc-list  lists of all the courses now offered on MOOCs

The MOOCs revolution is here and 2014 will be a year when those who pioneer how to use them for recruitment will be able to reap benefits for many years to come. Take some time and learn more abut them, enroll in a course, and get a hiring manager involved as well. 

1. Chief Learning Officer Magazine, How to Give Gen Y the Learning They Want, Jessica DuBois-Maahs, 7/17/13

Kevin Wheeler
Kevin Wheeler Founder and Chairman the Future of Talent Institute. Kevin started FOTI in 2004 out of his passionate belief that organizations need a more powerful and thoughtful architecture for talent than they have. After a 25 year career in corporate America serving as the Senior Vice President for Staffing and Workforce Development at the Charles Schwab Corporation, the Vice President of Human Resources for Alphatec Electronics, Inc. in Thailand, and in a variety of human resources roles at National Semiconductor Corporation, Kevin has firsthand knowledge of the need for better strategies and approaches to finding, developing and retaining people.

Today, Kevin is a globally known speaker, author, teacher and consultant in human capital acquisition and development, as well as in corporate education. He is the author of numerous articles on human resource development, career development, recruiting, and on establishing corporate universities. He is a frequent speaker at conferences. He writes a weekly Internet column on recruiting and staffing, which can be found at, and he and Eileen have written a book on corporate universities, The Corporate University Workbook: Launching the 21st Century Learning Organization. He serves as adjunct faculty at San Jose State University, the University of San Francisco and on the business faculty at San Francisco State University.

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