The Difference Between Talent Acquisition and Recruitment

The concepts are related, but knowing the distinctions between talent acquisition and recruitment can pay big dividends for your HR function, according to a new report from Randstad. One calls for a long-term view, and the other is more immediate. Together they spell success.

January 8, 2020 – Talent acquisition and recruitment are two related concepts that are tremendously significant for any organization targeting sustainable growth and success. At first glance, it might seem that these terms have the same meaning, but in fact there are significant differences, according to a new report by Randstad.

“To ensure your HR function is operating as effectively as possible, and your business is prepared to overcome its biggest challenges and seize opportunities, it’s vital to understand the distinctions between talent acquisition and recruitment,” the report said. “On the most fundamental level, the differences between talent acquisition and recruitment are connected to time. Talent acquisition is about taking a long-term view of how you can equip your organization with the skills and experience it will need to continue performing and delivering results into the future. Recruitment is a more immediate, reactive process, essentially focused on finding candidates to fill roles that are currently available.”

Effective talent acquisition is heavily reliant on strategy and planning. Before embarking on a talent acquisition project, Randstad said that it is important to prepare by doing some research on the current position your business is in, and where it is likely to be at a given point in the future. This will help you understand your talent requirements and inform your preparations for finding and acquiring the people you need.

“Recruitment can prove just as vital to maintaining the health and productivity of your organization, but rather than a strategic, long-term approach, it depends on efficiency and decisiveness to ensure you are making the right hiring decisions for your immediate needs,” the report said. “Another useful way of conceptualizing recruitment and talent acquisition is to think of the former as linear, with a clear end point, and the latter as a cyclical, ongoing approach to anticipating your future needs and building up a pipeline of talent.”

When to Recruit, When to Acquire Talent

Simply put, you need to recruit when you have a vacant role that needs to be filled as soon as possible, said Randstad. Recruitment is about making sure your business has the human resources it needs to function on a day-to-day basis.

“When you set out to recruit a new employee, it’s likely you will have a clear idea of the sort of person you’re looking for and the key skills they should have,” the report said. “One of the most common scenarios companies face is having to find a replacement for someone who has left. In this situation, you will know exactly what tasks and responsibilities the new recruit will have to take on, and the experience and attributes they will need to do the job properly.”

On the other hand, talent acquisition is a more in-depth process that comes into play when you are looking at the bigger picture of how your business wants to grow and evolve in the years to come. “There is a good chance you will need to come up with a talent acquisition strategy if you operate in a niche marketplace and require very specific skills and expertise in your workforce to succeed,” the report said. “One of the clearest examples of this is the tech sector, where firms that can’t innovate and evolve with the times will be left behind.”

Kathleen Quinn Votaw, founder and CEO of HR consulting firm TalenTrust, told Jobvite that talent acquisition strategies are most important in industries with the greatest skills shortages. “Overall, we’re seeing the competition for top talent continue to heat up, and skills shortages are part of the fuel,” she said. “A technology firm seeking developers, for example, may need an overall talent strategy around strong culture, unique benefits, and enhancing and leveraging its employment brand.”

“Securing long-term leadership of your organization could also depend on effective talent acquisition,” the Randstad report said. “An experienced leader who is about to retire or move on to another company will be difficult to replace with short-term recruitment, but if you are prepared with a strong talent acquisition strategy, your next leader could be ready and waiting. Similarly, if you are planning to expand into a different market or will soon embark on a major new project, you might need to give some serious thought to the vital skills and experience that will help you succeed.”

Related: The Expanding CEO Role in Talent Acquisition

Another important consideration for businesses today is employer branding, which is closely linked to talent acquisition. Having a strong, attractive brand can make you more attractive to talented candidates, who in turn can boost the profile and appeal of your organization if they choose to join you.


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Jill Larsen, senior vice president for talent acquisition at Cisco, recently spoke to Randstad about the company’s strategic efforts in this space. She said it was important for brands to differentiate themselves to attract talent. “We’re doing a lot of different things with our brand to make Cisco more accessible to talent,” she said. “We’re talking to many different audiences with relevant messaging. We have to because we’re competing with start-ups, with incubators, as well as some large companies, for critical talent and skills.”

Randstad said that with “such clear differences between these two concepts, there should be little doubt about when you need to recruit and when you should be focused on talent acquisition. Finding the most effective and reliable strategies in both areas will help your business overcome its challenges and prepare for the future.”

Search Firm’s Perspective

A separate report by executive search firm Asianet Consultants also looked into the differences between talent acquisition and recruiting. “Recruitment and talent acquisition are often believed to mean the same thing, but their true meanings are quite different,” the firm said.

“Recruitment is an employer’s reactive response to an open position that originates from a resignation or transfer talent acquisition is a proactive approach to addressing future hiring needs especially for positions one to three years ahead highlighted by your succession planning process – if you have one,” Asianet said. “While recruitment is a part of talent acquisition, it should not be the only method of filling key positions.”

Related: Here’s How Data is Really Impacting Talent Acquisition

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor  – Hunt Scanlon Media

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