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Talent Acquisition vs. Recruitment: How to Hire Smarter

August 13, 2020


Finding exceptional job candidates is easier said than done.

Whether you’re a recruiter or a hiring manager, it can take weeks after posting a job online before a resume or cover letter catches your eye for all the right reasons.

There’s no denying that it can be a lengthy process, but before you decide to post an open position to the job boards, you first have to decide whether to go the route of recruiting or talent acquisition.

For a full understanding, let’s breakdown the differences and when each method is the best option.

Talent acquisition vs. recruitment: what’s the difference?

When looking to fill an open position at your company, it’s common to be unsure of the differences between talent acquisition and recruitment and which one is the right option for your business.

To put it simply and concisely, talent acquisition is all about embarking on an ongoing strategy to find and hire specialists, leaders, and future executives for your company. It tends to focus on long-term human resource planning and finding appropriate candidates who have specific skill sets and qualities you’re looking for. It can also be used toward anticipating future hiring needs and building relationships with potential candidates.

On the other hand, recruitment is about filling a vacancy or open position within a company quickly. The process is typically more linear and reactive, meaning that if a position is either vacated or created, a person must be found to fill it. Usually recruitment is all about finding candidates for existing jobs.

An easier way to remember how they differ is to view recruitment as a short-term fix and talent acquisition as an ongoing process with long-term planning.

Talent acquisition vs recruitment

It’s important to keep in mind that sometimes the two can overlap, especially when you consider that recruitment is a subset of talent acquisition.

Within talent acquisition are subsets that include:

  • Candidate relationship management
  • Workforce segmentation
  • Recruiting
  • Planning and strategy
  • Employment branding
  • Metrics and analytics

The recruitment subset of talent acquisition can include necessary screenings, sourcing, pre-employment testing, background checks, interviews, and more. Essentially, you can have recruitment without talent acquisition, but you can’t have talent acquisition without recruitment.

Depending on whether you're a recruiter or an HR hiring professional, there will also be a difference in how you view the candidates.

For recruiters and recruitment specialists, you’ll pay special attention to the industry experience and educational background of a potential candidate. For hiring managers focused on talent acquisition, you’ll look beyond the resume and cover letter of an applicant and take a deeper dive into the actual talent the person possesses.

Should your company recruit or acquire talent?

Now that you have a basic understanding of the differences between recruitment and talent acquisition, you can now decide which method to use when starting the hiring process. There will always be a need for both within your HR department, it will just depend on the exact need of your company.

One isn’t necessarily better than the other, as recruitment and talent acquisition should be separate processes with different goals. The key is knowing when to use each to find the best talent or the candidate with the right qualifications for the job.

10 days

is the average time a top candidate will stay available before getting hired.

Source: Talent Now

When to use recruiting

As mentioned, the recruitment process is about filling an immediate vacancy. When you choose to recruit, it’s likely you’ll already have a clear understanding of what and who you’re looking for, as well as an established list of tasks the new employee will be performing once hired.

Let’s say your company’s top-performing salesperson has just informed you that they’re planning on moving onto a different company and will be putting in their two weeks’ notice. This comes as an unexpected vacancy on the sales team, and you didn’t plan on having to fill this vacancy because you didn’t foresee this particular employee resigning.

When this is the case, traditional recruiting is a great way to fill a sudden and unexpected vacancy. Whether you plan to outsource to a third-party recruiting agency to fill the role or you have a recruiter on-staff that will post the open position on various job boards, it’ll be their responsibility to find potential candidates for the role.

When to use talent acquisition

Talent acquisition is a more specific approach to finding potential candidates to join your company. Whether they’re more niche roles or job titles that haven’t previously existed, there are certain instances where it’s the better fit.

As an example, at your team meeting to kick off the second quarter, your CMO announces that it’s time your company invests in a social media manager to run your brand’s LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with one cohesive voice. Social media has been sort of a “free for all” at your company up until now, but it’s finally time for someone new to join the team and get all networks unified.

In this sort of situation, you’ll want to use talent acquisition because of the extended timeline and the need to create a specific role that doesn’t already exist within your company. As an HR professional, ask yourself which positions at your company will be most difficult to fill when a vacancy presents itself.

You should consider a talent acquisition strategy when:

  • You need niche talent: this usually occurs when working in specific technology industries like artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, virtual reality, and cloud infrastructure.
  • You’re looking to grow: if it’s time for your company to expand, talent acquisition can help you look for new skills and higher levels of expertise.
  • You’re new to the scene: finding the best talent and qualified candidates to submit a job application can be difficult if no one knows who your company is just yet. Investing in employer branding and creating a positive company culture are crucial steps as you plan out a talent acquisition strategy.
  • You’re not sure what you need: choosing talent acquisition is the right fit when it’s a new role and you’re not sure the specific task or day-to-day work the job title will require.

How to move beyond recruiting to acquire top talent

First and foremost, you should never have the idea that recruiters aren’t needed and your company should only focus on acquiring top talent that the job market has to offer. When experiencing a high-volume turnover environment, you’ll need expert recruiters who can fill specific roles quickly, as well as a talent acquisition team.

It’ll always be in your company’s best interest to utilize both, while also understanding when it’s time to pivot for specific roles and acquire only the best. Companies that decide it’s time to invest in top-tier roles and think about the long-term future should start to network and build relationships with those who are at the top of their field.

When you’re ready to get started, utilize recruitment automation software to keep track of the top talent you find. This may be easy to do in a spreadsheet when your company is still relatively small but will become more challenging as you scale.

You’ll also want to align all of the branding surrounding your company. As you connect with top talent, they’re going to look up your business on various social networks, as well as your website. These platforms should not only speak to your customers but potential employees, too.

The cream of the crop

As your company scales, chances are there will be times when recruiting will get the job done, and others where talent acquisition is the smarter choice. The right person for the role is out there, and both methods can help you find them. It all depends on which direction you’d rather go!

Now that you’ve found the right person for the job, it’s time to nail the employee onboarding process.

Automate the recruiting process

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Automate the recruiting process

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