Talent acquisition Vs. recruiting: What HR needs to know

Learn the differences between two key talent management components

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By Nicole Schreiber-Shearer, Future of Work Specialist at Gloat
Trulli

While sometimes used interchangeably, talent acquisition and recruitment aren’t the same thing. These two terms actually describe two different approaches to bringing talent into your organization.

In the past, distinguishing between talent acquisition and recruitment wasn’t a priority for most HR teams; since there were plenty of external candidates with the skills that hiring managers were looking for, building qualified talent pools was relatively simple.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case in the new world of work. As talent shortages continue, HR leaders must hone their strategies for accessing and developing the skills their organization needs to get ahead in their next chapter. And that starts by exploring the differences between talent acquisition and recruitment and learning how to use these nuances to your business’s advantage.

What is talent acquisition?

Talent acquisition is a strategic process that enables HR leaders to identify an organization’s future skill gaps and staffing needs. It involves analyzing components of the hiring process and recommending changes to better align these initiatives with the organization’s objectives.

Most talent acquisition strategies are rooted in developing a talent pipeline, or a group of qualified candidates who are ready to fill vacancies or emerging needs. Talent acquisition also often involves developing and training current employees so they can build the skills needed to take on high-priority roles.

What is recruitment?

Recruitment describes the process of finding, screening, and hiring job candidates. The process usually begins with a request to create or fill a position, which the hiring manager then writes a detailed job description for. This description is the basis for job listings, which get posted internally and externally on job boards to encourage qualified candidates to submit their resumes.

All applications are screened, either manually or automatically, in an applicant tracking system (ATS) before the hiring managers choose a finalist and negotiate salary and benefits. The recruitment process ends when a job offer is accepted by the chosen candidate, at which point onboarding begins.

3 key differences between talent acquisition and recruitment

Recruitment and talent acquisition are both part of many talent management strategies, but the similarities stop there. There are several key differentiators that set these terms apart.

#1. Long-term versus short-term
Talent acquisition is a long-term process that’s fueled by strong employer branding and an emphasis on internal mobility. It’s often supported by technologies like a learning management system (LMS) and a workforce agility platform, which harnesses a talent marketplace to match employees to relevant career development opportunities. An impactful talent acquisition strategy ensures that an organization has the skills needed to conquer tomorrow’s challenges.

In contrast, recruitment focuses on the vacancies that a company has today. To fill job openings, recruiters often use recruitment software, ATS, as well as job advertisements and word-of-mouth references.

#2. Ongoing versus episodic
Talent acquisition is a continuous process. To build and enhance talent pools, HR teams must strive to create a network of internal and external candidates who possess skills that will be crucial for future business needs. As priorities change and new challenges emerge, talent acquisition strategies must shift in response.

On the other hand, recruitment has an end-point. Once a specific role or vacancy is filled, the recruitment process for that position is complete.

#3. Proactive versus reactive
A final differentiator between talent acquisition and recruitment is that the former is proactive, while the latter is reactive. Talent acquisition teams develop talent pools to ensure leaders have the skills needed to expand into new lines of business, reduce costly turnover, and prepare to meet future challenges. In contrast, recruitment only happens once a skill gap or business need emerges. The goal is to efficiently fill job openings.

Is talent acquisition more important than recruitment?

There’s a time and place for both talent acquisition and recruitment. Since talent acquisition is a strategic investment, it scales better than recruitment. But sometimes the right move, or the only move, is to bring people on ASAP to fill specific, high-priority vacancies—and that’s when recruiting becomes essential.

Due to its long-term nature, talent acquisition is arguably more crucial for overcoming the challenges associated with today’s ever-changing market. It will be especially important for industries that are seeing a lot of innovation, such as manufacturing. A push towards green technology will lead to greater needs for reskilling and hiring from non-traditional backgrounds like environmental science and cybersecurity. Competition for this talent will be fierce, so a strong talent acquisition strategy will be integral for anticipating future skill needs and getting ahead of them.

An over-emphasis on recruitment can also be dangerous. When HR teams focus solely on immediate staffing needs, leaders might overlook emerging skill gaps. By the time they realize these new capabilities are strategic priorities, hiring for them will become a lengthy—and costly—process. Eventually, these shortages can cause job openings to pile up, in turn contributing to business-wide pain points such as employee burnout, lower productivity, and lost revenue.

How to acquire top talent in 2023

In the past, talent acquisition efforts focused on bringing external candidates into the organization and building talent pools around them. Leaders didn’t have a full picture of the skills within their workforce, so attracting new talent often seemed like the surest way to target the capabilities that hiring managers were looking for.

Today, talent acquisition strategies are turning upside down. As skill gaps widen, HR teams recognize that some of the most valuable candidates are already working within their organization.

Internal candidates have several advantages over external applicants: onboarding is more efficient, cross-functional collaboration is seamless, and hiring costs like recruitment marketing and sourcing are reduced. Given these benefits, internal mobility is positioned to be a core pillar of impactful talent acquisition strategies in 2024 and beyond.

HR teams are increasingly harnessing workforce agility platforms to capitalize on internal mobility and ensure their organization can tap into all of the skills within their workforce. By pairing a talent marketplace with workforce intelligence, these platforms create a continuous loop of insight to action that takes talent acquisition to new heights.

To learn more about crafting a future-fit talent acquisition strategy, find out how workforce agility platforms are helping pioneering businesses become skills-based organizations.

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