talent acquisition

The Most Important Thing to Understand about Talent Acquisition

According to today’s top talent-management professionals, the most important thing to understand about talent acquisition is that it’s not the same thing as recruitment. On the surface, this might seem to be a fairly trivial point—just a question of semantics—but in fact, differentiating these two areas is a critical step in helping companies build a coherent and proactive talent strategy that will lead to a brighter future. Read on to learn more about the difference between recruitment and talent acquisition, and why this distinction matters.

What is recruitment?

Simply put, recruitment is the process of searching for a specific candidate to fill a certain position—often a role that has just been vacated or newly created. In other words, recruitment is a reactive function that seeks to do nothing more than find candidates for existing available jobs. It encompasses activities like sourcing, screening, interviewing, selecting, hiring and, occasionally, some elements of onboarding.

What is talent acquisition?


Although talent acquisition is not the same thing as recruitment, this doesn’t mean that these two concepts are not related. On the contrary, recruitment is a key element of talent acquisition, which is likely the reason why many people often use the two terms interchangeably. However, talent acquisition goes beyond recruitment, taking a long-term view that is much broader in scope. Rather than simply reacting to present circumstances, talent acquisition is all about identifying future business needs and working to build talent pools for those future needs. Whereas recruitment is a linear process, talent acquisition takes a cyclical approach, fostering relationships in order to develop and nurture a long-term talent pipeline.

Some of the key aspects of talent acquisition that make it different from recruitment include the following:

Planning and strategy—Recruitment is tactical, but talent acquisition is strategic; and establishing an appropriate strategy takes a great deal of planning. An important part of talent acquisition involves taking an in-depth look at the nature of the business: considering workforce plans and future workplace needs and examining those needs in relationship to local and global labor markets and other critical workforce trends. In other words, talent acquisition is all about viewing a business’ talent needs in a wider context.

Workforce segmentation—To develop an effective talent-acquisition strategy, it’s vital that HR professionals understand the different work groups of a company, the unique positions within those segments, and how they all perform together. In addition, comprehensive knowledge of the skills, experiences, and competencies needed for success in each position is essential. Note how this broad view approach differs from the way in which recruitment tends to look at an individual position to be filled in isolation from other positions or from the company as a whole.

Employer branding—These days, an employer’s brand is just as important to prospective candidates as it is to potential customers, and an important part of talent acquisition is ensuring that a company’s brand is clear and attractive to targeted talent. Effective branding can advance a company’s market position, attract quality candidates, and paint a clear (and appealing) picture of what it’s like to work for that particular organization. Companies need to precisely articulate and define their image, as well as promote their organizational culture, key differentiators, quality products and services, and overall reputation. This is quite different from recruitment, in which the expectation is usually that interested candidates will seek out the company rather than the other way around.


Talent scoping and management—In today’s workforce, top talent can come from almost anywhere. To ensure that they have access to the best of the best applicants, talent professionals research and recognize the many diverse places where they can source quality candidates. Then, they start to build relationships with those individuals even when no positions are immediately available. Cultivating these kinds of connections helps ensure that there exists a sustainable talent pool that a company can draw from for many years. Recruitment, on the other hand, is more likely to see companies reaching out to candidates only when they have a vacant position.

Metrics and analytics—As with any other type of strategy, talent acquisition depends on the use of key metrics to conduct proper strategic tracking and analysis. Collecting and analyzing relevant information is the first and most important step in making better hiring decisions and ultimately improving the quality of the people a company hires.

Why is it important to understand the differences between recruitment and talent acquisition?

In examining the differences between recruitment and talent acquisition described above, it’s important to understand that the message here is not that talent acquisition is good while simple recruitment is bad; rather, the message is that it can be dangerous to mistake the one for the other. Far too many companies—often for good reasons, like lack of resources or lack of support from executive management—think they are engaging in talent acquisition when they are only recruiting, and then they can’t understand why their company has difficulty maintaining a stable and sustainable pool of high-performing employees. Learning how to tell the difference between recruitment and talent acquisition, however, can help these companies take the first step on the road to launching a proper strategic talent-acquisition approach that will serve their company well for years to come.