Talent Acquisition vs. Recruitment: What’s the Difference?

Posted on August 30, 2022

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To build exceptional teams with low turnover, you need to take the right approach to sourcing and nurturing talent.

This involves understanding the difference between hiring as a long-term investment (talent acquisition) vs. fulfilling a short-term need (recruitment).

In both cases, when you make relationship-building part of your business plan, you create a workplace where top talent is eager to join.

In this article, we’ll examine the difference between talent acquisition vs. recruitment and show you how to strategically make each method part of your hiring process.

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

Talent acquisition is strategic and involves long-term planning about who to hire. Recruitment is a short-term, practical solution to fill open positions. As such, talent acquisition focuses more heavily on finding and attracting people with the right skill set to your company. It allows you to build a robust talent pipeline, broaden your network and have a candidate base to draw from for future vacancies.

Although talent acquisition and recruitment are similar, they have different processes and goals.

Talent acquisitionRecruitment
An HR strategy that focuses on how people can play a long-term role in the growth and success of the company.A recruitment strategy that addresses a company’s short-term hiring needs.

Where recruitment refers to screening, assessing, and hiring new employees, talent acquisition includes:

  • Creating a hiring strategy
  • Identifying top talent in your industry
  • Relationship building
  • Planning sourcing channels
  • Building your employer brand
  • Deciding where to market your brand to potential talent
  • Building talent pipelines
  • Succession planning
  • Data analysis

Oftentimes, you’ll use the two functions together (e.g. make a hiring plan, then recruit talent).

However, some short-term roles don’t require a talent acquisition roadmap, and you may waste resources approaching it that way. Here’s how to tell the difference.

Why (and when) to choose recruitment?

Recruitment is the process of filling vacant positions at your company. It’s leveraged to attract and hire positions at speed, and often follows a simple workflow:

  • Outline the role
  • Advertise it and collect applications
  • Screen applications
  • Invite people to interview
  • Decide who to hire

Recruitment is especially useful if you don’t have a people team or an in-house talent acquisition specialist.

Here are a few pros and cons of this quick-fire approach.

Pros of recruitment

You can fill roles as they open

You don’t always know when you’ll need to fill a role—especially at a startup or small business. Ideally, you’ll have plenty of notice, but that’s not always the case.

With recruitment, you can promote and hire for roles as needed. It’s an ad-hoc strategy that helps you stay above water or grow at speed.

That said, when you’re actively recruiting for open positions, it’s important to continually assess your company’s requirements.

For example, not every job that becomes vacant will need replacing. When you analyze the position in more detail, you may realize it’s become redundant or can be absorbed into another role.

Make sure to analyze your existing positions, what you’re hiring for, and why, to align priorities and avoid wasting resources.

It’s easy to outsource recruitment

If you have a small team without an HR department, it may be easier to outsource recruitment rather than handling it yourself. The extra help, from people that are trained in hiring, can save you time and effort in identifying the right candidates and sorting through applications.

You can also use employee referrals as part of your recruitment strategy to reduce your workload. While this isn’t outsourcing recruitment per se, it is a method of attracting talent that is more likely to be aligned with your culture and skill set requirements.

This should work to speed up the process as there are fewer unknowns.

Helps enhance your employer brand

Putting out an advertisement for a current opening can boost your brand awareness. Well-crafted job descriptions that tell your story can increase candidates' trust and desire to apply to your brand.

Brand awareness can cut both ways, however, so make sure your job descriptions properly set expectations so that you avoid potential misunderstandings or public grievances (e.g. salary misalignment or eligibility). Transparency builds trust and kickstarts positive word of mouth campaigns.

Promote your workplace culture, be open about salary, and map out the hiring process so everybody is on the same page.

Helps you build your talent pipeline

A recruitment process means you can actively build a database of strong candidates interested in working with you.

When you have a bench of A-players to pull from, you can make smarter, more strategic hiring decisions.

Cons of recruitment

Reactive, not proactive

One of the most significant downsides to recruitment is it’s a reactionary practice because it’s not part of a long-term strategy. You wait until somebody resigns, then start searching for potential replacements.

If you don’t have a pipeline of potential candidates, recruitment feels like starting from scratch every time you need to fill a role.

It’s challenging to find the best candidates in a short time frame

With recruitment, time isn’t on your side. If you don’t fill a vacancy as soon as possible, productivity may take a hit.

The chances that highly qualified candidates are searching for a new role while you’re speed hiring are relatively low. As such, you often miss out on the best talent when you rush the process.

Plus, without a long-term plan, you may not know the best places to advertise your role or where people with your desired skills search for jobs, meaning you may attract the wrong crowd.

Recruitment is expensive

Hiring a recruitment professional to source candidates is expensive and can cost 15-20% of your new hire’s salary.

Given the average employer in the US spends $4,000 on making a new hire, when you’re a growing startup and need to hire regularly, this adds up fast.

Takes longer to fill a position

When you don’t have relationships with potential candidates, it can significantly lengthen the hiring process.

It may only take the average employer 24 days to fill an open role, but this is often due to necessity (i.e. they want to fill the position fast before taking a productivity hit).

Finding a hire in less than a month may fill the gap in the short term (and could end up working out), but it’s more likely quick hires won’t stick around for the long term.

Why choose talent acquisition as a long-term people strategy?

Talent acquisition is an ongoing process that can benefit all aspects of your business. You’ll build more diverse teams who work effectively together and boast a wide range of skill sets.

This recipe boosts morale, productivity, and innovation—factors that reduce turnover and increase job satisfaction.

With fierce competition for talent among top companies, it’s a strategy you can’t overlook.

Pros of talent acquisition

Build a future-proof team

With an in-depth acquisition plan, there’s a higher chance new hires will want to stay at your company to develop their career.

You can significantly reduce your turnover rate by purposefully building a team rather than hiring off-the-cuff to fill vacancies.

Hire people with a long-term vision

Actively reaching out to talent can help you find people who are a great cultural fit for your business.

If they’re aligned with your values and vision, they’ll want to grow with your company as you scale (rather than approach the role like a stopover on the path to something better).

Reduce the skills gap in your business

When actively searching for talent, you can identify candidates who can fill the wide skills gap many businesses face.

Planning out the roles you want to hire for can help you seek out people with the right skills. If you identify what you need to hire for in advance, you can strategically attract and retain top talent.

Talent acquisition can make filling roles quicker

Building a pipeline of potential hires can save hours of work. You don’t need to waste time finding recruiters, writing job ads, and waiting for applications when a position arises.

You’ll already have a list of people you’ve built relationships with who you know have an interest in working with you.

Find people for niche roles

The demand for employees with niche skill sets is high. Not being able to fill a vacant role that’s critical to your business can damage team morale, especially if tasks bleed over onto their plate and bloat their workload.

When you spend time building relationships with top talent you get on their radar and, ideally, get them excited to work for you when the time is right.

Drawbacks of talent acquisition

Building a talent pool is time-consuming

Talent acquisition, done well, is a full-time job.

If you are yet to build out a human resources department, it can be difficult to find the dedicated support you need to attract top talent.

Why talent acquisition is more important than recruitment

Unless you’re hiring for a temporary position, recruitment is often a short-term fix to a long-term problem.

When you’re under pressure to find someone, you’re more likely to make bad hiring decisions that cost you time and money.

To avoid ending up in a recruitment, onboarding, turnover loop, prioritize talent acquisition.

Fill the skills gap

The proactive nature of talent acquisition means you can constantly look for candidates who align with the company culture and mission.

When making your yearly plan, forecast the positions you’ll need to fill that year and actively start to look for the right talent.

Aligning your hiring goals with company goals is a strategic way to scale sustainably.

Avoid high turnover rates

A solid talent acquisition strategy can help you navigate an unpredictable labor market and use high turnover rates to your advantage. When you understand why people are unsatisfied in their jobs, you find creative ways to attract and retain the right talent.

This way, you’re proactively building relationships with potential candidates that are a good fit, fully aligned with your offering, and excited to join the team.

Build diverse teams

When you rely on recruitment, you may not prioritize finding talent from different backgrounds. For example, if you’re rushed you may only pool talent from one channel, limiting the type of applicants you attract.

With talent acquisition, you can spend time finding people with more diverse skill sets. This is critical, as a diverse team brings different ideas and work styles to the table, boosts creativity and drives innovation.

A strong talent acquisition strategy can allow you to overcome first impression bias as you’re taking the time to build relationships with potential hires.

Scale your teams

Creating a community of talented individuals means you can fill more roles with better people.

If you’re a scaling company, a talent pipeline is essential for growing your teams at the pace you need.

Implementing a talent acquisition engine to build your employer brand

If you’re a startup yet to establish your employer brand, you may have trouble attracting highly skilled people to your open positions. Talent acquisition is an effective way to build rapport with future hires and make them aware you exist.

Reaching out to people via LinkedIn about positions in your recruitment pipeline is an easy way to build brand awareness and discover who has an interest in working with you.

A study by LinkedIn found that a strong employer brand makes it easier to recruit candidates, attracts 50% more qualified applicants, and reduces your cost-per-hire by up to 50%.

A great way to improve brand awareness is to build a positive workplace culture. By taking care of your existing employees, you organically boost morale and, in turn, their desire to work for you.

As a result, current employees are more likely to share their positive experiences at your company (either with their network or online), which may catch the eye of top talent on the prowl.

People want to work for a brand that’s in touch with its employees. Assess your onboarding processes and development programs regularly throughout the year. Ask your people why they love working for you (and what you can improve).

Continuously reiterating these processes, based on feedback, will positively impact your employee wellbeing and brand.

A talent acquisition crash course

Now you know the importance of talent acquisition, implement a plan.

Use these stages to inform your strategy:

  • Planning and forecasting. Predict the roles you’ll need to hire for in the next year while outlining the most necessary skills.
  • Lead generation. Start to look for potential candidates through social networks, referrals from existing employees, or your extended network.
  • Relationship building. If you don’t have any open roles, reach out to people with skills you may need in the following months. This will help establish a list of people interested in working for you in the future. When someone with the right skill set applies for a role but at the wrong time, keep their name on a follow-up list.
  • Attracting the right people. Make sure your employer brand resonates with the right people. To this, consistently share relevant content on your social channels and write detailed job descriptions.
  • Use an applicant tracking system. A tracking system like Polymer is an easy way to track everyone in your pipeline and keep them informed about the process. It can help you avoid errors and speed up the talent acquisition process.
  • The interview process. This is your chance to determine if a candidate will be the right fit for your business. Remember to ask behavioral-based questions to understand the approach they would take to challenges in the role.
  • Reference checking. Obtaining solid references is an essential part of talent acquisition. It will help you establish why the person left their past role and whether their skills meet your needs.
  • Onboarding. A crucial part of the talent acquisition process is onboarding new team members. Welcoming them correctly can make or break their decision to stay with you for the long run.

You can learn more about building your talent acquisition process in our complete guide to talent acquisition.

Keep track of your talent pipeline

An effective talent acquisition strategy can help you reduce staff shortages and employee turnover and help you build teams of A-players.

You’ll also save money on recruitment costs and be prepared for difficult scenarios, like a skills shortage in your industry.

Polymer can help fill your talent pipeline and keep track of applicants in a streamlined, easy-to-manage way. Get started here.

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