Talent acquisition vs. recruitment; why you need both

Last updated:
July 23, 2021
April 8, 2022
min read
Sim Samra
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What is there a difference between talent acquisition vs. recruitment? Many people use the terms interchangeably, and although aligned, there is a substantial difference. In organizations that hire regularly, recruitment is part of talent acquisition. A recruiter will take over communication with candidates in a talent pool to fill specific roles.

That said, recruitment can exist in a company without talent acquisition, depending on the size and industry. Talent acquisition always involves recruitment as a final step to fill roles, and in smaller niche industries, the functions can be combined by HR into talent acquisition recruiters.

Let's understand each function and purpose better to clear up any confusion.

What is talent acquisition?

Talent acquisition is a medium to long-term strategy to identify and attract the type of people your company wants to employ in the future. It involves marketing your employer brand via your company’s careers site, social media, and within industry bodies and higher education institutions.

It’s a proactive process to ensure that future hiring needs are filled with the best talent.

A talent acquisition specialist works very closely with the marketing department to align the company brand with the employer brand. (Both customers and candidates must get the same impression and user experience.) Networking is also an essential element of talent acquisition, as is building engaged talent pools of potential candidates.

Finally, talent acquisition specialists work closely with HR executives and executive management to track company objectives and planning. Since they aim to identify future talent requirements, they need to know and understand business goals. They also must be flexible as they follow the progress of internal developments.

Here’s a typical scenario: say finance executives are planning the implementation of a new system that integrates with production, warehousing, and sales – talent acquisition specialists must be in the picture. They can start scouting months upfront for candidates who have the technical skills to set up and support the new system. There might also be a need for trainers to guide employees through the transition. They can build the ideal personas together with management in the project planning phase. Identifying suitable talent upfront mitigates a crisis due to a lack of skills on system roll-out.

What is recruitment?

Conversely, recruitment is a short-term strategy that follows a set process to fill a vacancy with the best candidate in the shortest time possible. It's a reactive process to meet an immediate need. Today, recruitment is mostly done when a vacancy unexpectedly opens because of an unanticipated resignation. A new hire needs to get appointed during the notice period, or if the person left right away, as soon as possible.

Reactive recruitment can be your downfall for two reasons in companies that regularly hire highly skilled staff.

  1. A role with hard-to-find skills can take months to fill, placing a burden on existing staff and lead to reduced productivity and financial loss.
  2. A high rate of employee churn is an indication that there are problems with your onboarding process, internal structures, and no exit interviews.

Smaller concerns that don't hire often and are in an industry where there aren't skills shortages can succeed using different recruitment methods only. For example, local privately-owned retail outlets and health and beauty service providers tend to hire on referrals and advertising on job boards to local candidates. All they need to launch, streamline, and maintain their hiring is a cost-effective talent acquisition platform that's user-friendly and can accommodate business growth over time.

The junction between the two

In an HR environment, it’s not a matter of talent acquisition specialist vs. recruiter. Both have their role and strategy but work in tandem when necessary. If a hard to fill vacancy suddenly comes up, a recruiter’s first stop for help will be the talent acquisition specialist. Together they’ll review potential candidates in the talent pool, and the recruiter will make contact, referring to previous communications with the talent acquisition specialist.

Because talent acquisition specialists are often involved in employee engagement, they can also identify existing employees who can potentially get upskilled. The recruiter can then follow this up with the line management involved.

As the recruiter moves on to posting vacancies to the company careers site and job boards, they pass good applicants who aren’t suitable for the current role in the talent pool. The talent acquisition specialist takes over and builds a solid connection for future vacancies.

Ultimately, both recruiters and talent acquisition specialists work to secure the best talent for the company in the shortest time. They also aim to find hires who will stay, grow, and flourish with the organization.

Talent acquisition strategy

Talent acquisition specialists identify and connect with individuals who they believe match the company culture, appear to have the right attitude and motivations, and the right skills. They attract candidates using a strategy that's similar to marketing. Typical talent acquisition strategies include:

  • Employer brand marketing: promoting and enhancing the brand as an employer of choice using all relevant media platforms, mainly social media.
  • Careers site: maintaining the site and ensuring it resonates with the company values, goals, and atmosphere so that candidates have an idea of what it's like to work there.
  • Networking: connecting with industry role-players, participating in events, building social media networks, and engaging with candidates regularly in a meaningful way.
  • Talent pool and pipeline: building one or more talent pools and developing a pipeline of candidates for roles that come up regularly or are hard to fill.
  • Employee referral program: managing and maintaining the program, marketing it internally, and devising referral bonus ideas that employees will love.
  • On and off-boarding: talent acquisition specialists must understand what motivates employees and why they leave if they're going to secure future talent. (You want to avoid making the same mistakes.)

Recruitment strategy

Recruiters are involved in the more technical side of hiring. Although they also build relationships with candidates and focus on offering an excellent candidate experience, they do decline candidates. When they identify a prospect via the talent pool, they must know if they are the real-deal they claim to be. A typical recruitment strategy includes:

  • Confirming job details: sitting down with hiring managers to ensure job descriptions are accurate, consider internal promotions, remuneration, and establish a hiring timeline.
  • Sourcing candidates: mining the talent pool, advertising on the careers site, posting to job boards, and social media.
  • Screening: scanning applications, creating a shortlist, and conducting brief screening interviews.
  • Interviews: sharing the best applicants with hiring managers and scheduling interviews for selected candidates with the hiring team.
  • Facilitating interviews: confirming interview questions, getting interview feedback from the panel, declining unsuccessful candidates, and scheduling further interviews if necessary.
  • Validating candidates: arranging and conducting assessments, confirmations, references, and verifications as required.
  • Offer: making an offer to the successful candidate, negotiation, and giving prompt feedback to the hiring manager.
  • Onboarding: recruiters are often part of the onboarding process because the candidate knows and trusts them.

Are you thinking of adding talent acquisition to your hiring process?

If you weigh up the pros and cons of talent acquisition vs. recruitment, it’s vital to understand that although they’re closely aligned, they’re quite different. Talent acquisition is an extended, organization-wide effort, while recruitment focuses on meeting an immediate need only.

However, to be successful, you need full buy-in from all management, including executives, to implement a talent acquisition strategy. There are additional costs associated with effecting a talent acquisition strategy, and there could be resistance.

You will have to counter opposition with accurate data that proves that a robust talent acquisition program reduces the time and cost of hire. That makes the initial investment well worthwhile.  

You also need to consider if your organization is mature enough for a talent acquisition program. Is your employer brand well defined with concrete values, objectives, and established systems? Do you have disharmony among top executives, high staff turnover, or bad press to deal with?  

The idea of a talent acquisition program is to promote your company as an employer of choice so that you can attract top talent. If there are current internal uncertainties and issues, resolve them before you bring talent acquisition onboard. Misleading advertising and bad customer and candidate experiences quickly get called out on social media, and that will damage your brand instead of doing it good.


Recruitment is a reactive process that springs into action when a new vacancy gets identified. Talent acquisition is future-focused on finding top talent, whether there are vacancies or not. Talent acquisition vs. recruitment is separate parts of the whole hiring and HR process.

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