What Is Talent Acquisition? (And How To Do It in 7 Steps)

Updated 12 September 2023

Talent acquisition is a particular process for hiring skilled employees. When employers select candidates thoughtfully, the new hires are more likely to excel within the business and improve the company's brand. If you are skilled in planning, organisation and teamwork, a job as a talent acquisition specialist may be perfect for you. In this article, we define talent acquisition and list the steps and some tips for how to conduct this process.

Related: How to Get the Job You Want

What is talent acquisition?

Talent acquisition is the process of finding and keeping highly qualified employees. A company's talent acquisition team often consists of a group of human resources and talent acquisition specialists that focus on hiring employees and increasing employee retention, or the rate at which employees stay at a company over time. Employee retention is important because companies spend money, time and effort hiring and training team members. The longer a team member stays at a business, the higher return that business can receive from the investment.

In many cases, organisations use the process of talent acquisition to find candidates for specialised roles that are more difficult to fill, like executive and technical jobs. This specific part of talent acquisition consists of building long-term relationships with a network of prospective candidates. Some fields that commonly use talent acquisition include technology and health care.

Related: Show Hiring Managers That You're Ready to Work

Talent acquisition strategies

Talent acquisition strategies can vary greatly based on the company's size and needs. Here are three different size-based acquisition strategies:

  • Large companies: Big companies with over 1,000 employees usually have a large pool of candidates to choose from, even for the most niche roles. To ensure they can continue to hire and keep the best employees, they focus more on improving their brand and onboarding process.

  • Mid-level companies: Businesses that have between 500 and 1,000 employees try to expand their selection of candidates by building brand awareness and actively taking part in recruitment methods like job fairs and networking events.

  • Small companies: Startups and small companies typically need to be heavily involved in the recruitment process and building their brand. Many startups do not have the resources to devote to talent acquisition immediately, so they devote most of their time filling immediate vacancies rather than building a candidate network.

How to acquire the best talent

The talent acquisition process usually follows these seven important steps:

1. Write a job description

The first step to acquiring proper talent is determining what your company needs. Collaborate with colleagues and supervisors to identify gaps in a business's structure and create job titles and descriptions that could fill those gaps. For example, if your company is having difficulties with financial record keeping, you may want to hire an accountant.

It is important that your job description outlines the duties and requirements of the role. Think about whether you are looking for candidates with a certain amount of experience, educational level or skill set. You can also briefly explain the company and provide a link to the company website in the job description so candidates can learn about it.

2. Develop the company's brand

Before seeking potential candidates, make sure your company's brand is strong. One way to ensure this is to optimise your company website, as this is one of the first places candidates may check to explore the job opening. Make sure the website is easy to navigate, and includes an about section with the organisation's history, mission and values. You might also want to create a professional card with the company website and your contact information. You can give this to qualified candidates to help them remember you and the job opportunity.

3. Source leads

Next, source leads, or form relationships with promising job candidates. Post the job description on online job boards, niche recruitment websites, local community pages and your company's careers page. Most organisations also seek active opportunities to connect with candidates by attending:

  • Job fairs

  • Networking events

  • Industry conferences

  • Community events

Read more: Guide: How To Succeed at a Hiring Event or Open Interview

4. Recruit talented candidates

Once talent acquisition specialists have a large group of candidates to choose from, they can narrow down their search. If your company does not need to fill an immediate role, you can stay in contact with strong candidates until the business is ready to move forward in the hiring process. If you need to hire someone immediately, you can select a small group of the most qualified candidates to interview. The selection process may involve reviewing the resumes, cover letters and profiles of the candidates.

5. Interview prospects

Depending on the role, the size of the company and the number of qualified candidates, the acquisition team could interview anywhere from five to over 50 people. When there is a large group of applicants, you can start by screening candidates with a 15-minute phone call. During this call, ask basic questions about availability, salary expectations, education and experience.

After phone screens, the team selects a group of about five to 10 candidates who they can interview more in-depth. During this round, hiring managers, supervisors or department leads also interview the candidates to ensure they are a good fit for their specific team and needs. An optional part of the interview process is contacting references. Though it is not necessary, talking with references can help the interview team gain a more well-rounded perspective of the candidates. You might ask the references questions about the candidates' work ethic, specific duties and best skills.

Related: How To Answer 9 Common Interview Questions for Freshers

6. Choose the best candidate

Based on interviews, qualifications and references, the talent acquisition team chooses the most qualified candidate for the role. When the business is ready to hire, human resources sends an offer letter and makes negotiations. The team can have two or three backup candidates ready to contact in case the first applicant does not accept the offer.

7. Onboard the new employee

Technically, the HR department and employee supervisor are responsible for onboarding, but it is an important part of retaining talent. A comprehensive onboarding process can help new hires feel more comfortable and welcome in the first 90 days, making them more likely to stay long term. New employees who feel like they are part of their teams are also more likely to feel a sense of collaboration and support, which can help talent acquisition teams recruit more applicants. Be sure to check in personally with new hires to ask about how they are feeling and inquire as to whether they need any assistance.

Related: A Guide To Talent Acquisition Strategies (With Tips)

Talent acquisition vs. recruitment

Talent acquisition and recruitment are very similar, but there are a few key differences. Recruiting involves filling open roles immediately, while talent acquisition is an ongoing search to find and retain a pool of skilled candidates. Talent acquisition teams complete some recruiting tasks when they need to fill a role, like interviewing candidates, but they spend a good portion of their time sourcing potential employees for more specialised roles and building the company brand.

Read more: What Is a Recruiter? A Complete Guide

Talent acquisition vs. HR

While talent acquisition is a process for finding talented candidates, human resources (HR) is a department in a company responsible for supporting employees. HR may recruit and hire employees, but they primarily handle the paperwork and onboarding processes relating to new hires rather than the acquisition itself. They also administer payroll, answer employee questions, handle employee issues, keep personnel files, enforce company policies and host social or team-building events.

Read more: Human Resource Planning: Meaning, Importance and Key Steps

Talent acquisition tips

Getting the best talent for any role takes careful planning and execution. Here are some steps you can take to find the most talented candidates:

  • Focus on the job openings. Before you start the acquisition process, determine which jobs are open in your company. Use this information to prepare a plan and schedule for searching for candidates.

  • Maintain contact with prospects. Since it could be weeks or months until you actually need to fill a position, it's best to maintain contact with any prospects you meet. Keep a spreadsheet of possible candidates to remember their names and contact information so you can check in with them later, if necessary.

  • Practise your communication skills. Communication skills are critical for a talent acquisition specialist, as those in this role speak to and form relationships with potential candidates. Consider practising questions you can ask candidates to get to know them, either in a formal interview or in a more casual setting.

  • Collaborate with others: A good talent acquisition process involves collaboration between talent acquisition specialists, employers, hiring managers, human resources professionals and other departments. Form positive relationships with your colleagues so you can ask them questions if you are unsure about a candidate's qualifications.

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