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Talent acquisition process: 5 steps for successful hiring

May 9, 2023
10 min read

What is the talent acquisition process?

Talent acquisition is the process companies use to find and keep workers. It is comprehensive, encompassing the employee lifecycle from recruiting to retention.

Here, we’ll explore recruiting, which typically involves five stages: job planning, candidate sourcing, screening, interviewing, and hiring. When employers nail each of these steps on repeat, they build a workforce that is skilled, engaged and committed.

How important is a well-defined talent acquisition process?

Talent acquisition is the foundation of any business. A strong foundation stands firm under pressure; a weak foundation crumbles when challenges arise. That means employers need a well-defined strategy.

Talent acquisition tactics turn reactive recruiting into proactive hiring. The difference between the two shows up in the quality of candidates. When recruiters scramble to get somebody — anybody! — on board, they risk bringing on workers who are unengaged and uninterested from the get-go. When TA pros source candidates from carefully crafted talent pipelines, they hire team members who not only possess the right skills, but who also thrive in their new workplace.

So what’s the secret to a successful strategy? Curiosity. Employers who continuously question their operations, test new ideas and take calculated risks will create talent acquisition processes worth having. These programs will bolster businesses and their goals by providing people who perform.

What are some of the challenges in the talent acquisition process?

Typical talent acquisition challenges highlight the importance of getting talent acquisition right. For instance, talent acquisition pros may face a shortage of qualified candidates for a certain role due to high demand, skills gaps, or location. Other frustrations include:

  • Dealing with intense competition from other organizations.
  • Creating a recruiting process that’s fair, unbiased and legally compliant.
  • Building a recruitment process that’s efficient — it can take months to fill a role, which costs the employer time and money.

These challenges illustrate employers’ need for a well-designed recruiting strategy. It ensures they have access to pools of talent so they can make efficient, unbiased hiring decisions. A good talent acquisition program eliminates the challenges that thwart most recruiters so organizations can focus on the most important task at hand — finding the best hires.

5 Talent acquisition process steps

Recruiting team has a meeting

Below, we explore the five steps of talent acquisition, from planning your job post to picking a candidate with promise. By incorporating these five steps into your talent acquisition process, you will find, screen and hire exceptional people in record time.

Step 1: Planning and strategy development

A good plan makes for good hires. In this initial stage, talent acquisition pros work with hiring managers and other stakeholders to address the big-picture elements. The team’s first task? Identify staffing needs. Devote the most attention to the high-priority roles, but don’t let less pressing needs go unattended for long.

Once the team has set its focus on a certain job, it can delve into the specifics. A talent acquisition team should begin its search for a senior data analyst, for example, by defining the job requirements and developing the job description. These details will heavily inform the job post for the open role. In a quick glance, job seekers should learn that the organization wants a data analyst with seven years of experience in data management methodologies on top of a slew of soft skills.

This groundwork helps attract candidates who are well suited for the job. It also lays the foundation for successful onboarding by giving the future hire accurate expectations of the tasks the job entails.

Budget and timeline are next up on the hiring team’s to-do list. Item lines on a talent acquisition budget may include: job postings, recruitment events, background checks, drug screenings, applicant tracking systems, recruiting software, external recruiters or staffing agencies, relocation expenses and signing bonuses. Timing can strongly impact the budget. If the team wants its data analyst onboarding in a month, it may need to devote a big chunk of spend to advertising and other strategies that will speed the process along.

Step 2: Sourcing and recruitment

When employers need to find new employees, there’s no shortage of methods for their search. But that also means there’s no silver bullet solution. Talent acquisition teams need a set of strategies to connect with the best applicants available. Employers can consider:

  • Setting up a referral program.
  • Advertising open roles in a wide range of places, from job boards and social media to podcasts and billboards.
  • Using tools like iCIMS’ integrated job advertising to select ad spots that reach the most relevant and engaged candidates.
  • Creating internship and returnship programs.

Employers will find promising candidates when they use a broad range of recruiting strategies. Ultimately, however, these manifold methods point job seekers to one place: the employer. That means employers must carefully craft their job postings, career sites and employer brands to pique candidates’ interest and convert them into engaged employees.

Step 3: Screening

Since remote work became widespread, fewer job seekers are bound by location. The volume of applicants at remote-capable companies is up because a job seeker living in Boston can apply to a company based in Houston.

With the uptick in applicant volume, talent acquisition pros must take time to screen applicants. This step pinpoints candidates with promise early on in the recruiting process. An effective screening promise not only makes for efficient recruiting, but also minimizes the risk of poor hiring decisions.

There are a couple of ways that talent acquisition pros can approach the screening process. Resume screening is the most common method, but it’s far from the only strategy. Employers can, for instance, invite their applicants to sit for pre-employment tests and assessments. Talent assessments help employers assess candidates in three areas: knowledge and skills, work style and behavior. Applicants who meet employers’ expectations in all of these areas are more likely to thrive in their new position.

Another way to eliminate bad candidates? Reference calls. When making reference calls, confirm the information: employment dates, job titles, job duties. Checking these details can expose resume lies and exaggerations. Reference calls can also help employers gauge applicants’ behavioral traits, from how candidates got along with their colleagues to their ability to think creatively.

When creating a screening strategy, it’s important to remember that all tactics must comply with anti-discrimination laws. No assessment or reference call should inquire into a candidate’s personal characteristics like race, religion or sexual orientation. These strategies should assess applicants for what they bring to the job: their skills, experience and behaviors.

When used correctly, candidate screening can bolster an employer’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Recruiters and hiring managers examine soft skills during the hiring process, shifting the focus from who the candidate is to what the candidate is capable of. This change in perspective reduces bias in the hiring process — the first step in promoting a diverse workforce.

Step 4: Interviewing

Once talent acquisition pros have found the most promising candidates, it’s time to start interviewing. Defining the interview process involves several decisions, from the format of the interview to the number of interviews. But the most important decision, arguably, is the questions that will be asked — after all, the candidates’ answers will ultimately determine who gets the job.

Talent acquisition pros may be tempted to reach for traditional interview questions: Why do you want to work for our company? What is your greatest strength? These kinds of questions work fine as an introduction. But interviewees must consider asking behavioral questions. Behavioral questions reveal not what candidates have done but what they would do. This distinction helps organizations get to know the candidate more deeply, which increases their chances of choosing the right hire.

Behavioral questions include prompts like:

  • Give me an example of a time when you had to manage up. How did you do it?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to work with a difficult teammate or client. How did you manage that relationship?
  • What are you looking for in a supervisor?
  • Tell me about how you work collaboratively while remote?
  • What’s something that made you better in your current role?

As with the screening process, candidate interviews should focus on a candidate’s skills and experience. Interviewers should not ask applicants about their race, sex, sexual orientation or other protected characteristics.

Step 5: Selection and offer

It may seem like the employer holds all the power at this point in the process. And while it’s up to the employer to offer the job, it’s up to the candidate to accept it. That’s why it’s imperative that the employer continue to provide a top-notch candidate experience all the way through hiring and onboarding.

The first step of this process is creating a job offer. A good job offer letter will congratulate the recipient and include enough information so the applicant can fully consider whether she wants to take the job. It will also inform her of the compensation and benefits included with the position, so she can begin the negotiation process if she so chooses. Organizations want to be responsive throughout this process. Talent acquisition pros should be ready with answers to applicants’ questions and counteroffers. Signal to the candidate that you’re willing to go to bat for her — that will say a lot about whether your organization values its people.

Once a candidate has accepted an offer, it’s time to bring her onboard. When employers fumble onboarding, they risk creating employees who are engaged from the get-go. There are a couple of key stages to consider when creating an onboarding program:

  • Meet-and-greets: Spend the first couple days getting the employee up to speed on who’s who and what’s what.
  • Goal setting: Dedicate the first thirty days to the employee’s setup — she should select her health plan, set up her direct deposit, and touch base with HR. It’s during this time when an employee should develop a firm grasp on what her job entails and what her learning curve will demand.
  • Ongoing support: It may seem counterintuitive to include a 90-day check-in with onboarding, but it’s important to think of onboarding as a prolonged process to ensure employees’ success. Use this timestamp to answer any questions employees may have thought of in her first few months on the job and address any issues or concerns.

How to improve your talent acquisition process

Recruiters have an informal meeting in a common area of the office.

Want to lose your best candidates? Use buggy tech throughout the application process. Send five emails to set up a single interview. Wait weeks before giving them an update.

The longer and clunkier your hiring and onboarding processes are, the greater the risk that candidates will lose interest or be snapped up by your competition. Avoid that fate with these three steps.

Enhance Your Employer Brand

Your employer brand has the power to attract your dream candidates. It also has the power to make job seekers wary of joining your ranks. How do you make sure your employer brand gets the right kind of attention?

A successful employer brand draws on three elements: your company’s reputation, its employee value proposition and its candidate and employee experience. These elements should inform and define every touchpoint a candidate has with your organization. Your career site, job posts and social media accounts should reflect them and reinforce them.

One easy way to establish your employer brand? Video. Recruiting videos are a simple, cost-effective way to share what it’s like to work at your organization with top talent.

Leverage technology and data

It takes time to enhance your employer brand. The fastest way to improve your talent acquisition process? Implement technology that will not only speed up recruiting but also enhance your decision making. Start by choosing an applicant tracking system. Look for a software that will allow your organization to:

  • Empower recruiters to attract job seekers, review applications and communicate with candidates
  • Create profiles and build relationships with top talent
  • Apply data and analytics to create a successful hiring strategy

Next, consider tracking recruiting metrics — the data will show you where your process succeeds and where it fails. Track areas like time to hire, cost per hire, applicant-to-hire ratio, offer acceptance rate and employee retention. The results will be illuminating.

Prioritize a positive candidate experience

The candidate experience should offer applicants a sneak-preview of the employee experience. Talent acquisition pros should make sure they communicate with candidates in a quick and transparent way — no ghosting allowed. All interactions should leave applicants with a positive impression, which will form their perception of the organization and increase the likelihood that top, picky candidates will accept a job offer.

A few ways to do this? Provide clear, accurate job descriptions. Book interviews using scheduling tools. And offer honest feedback and updates throughout the entire process. Think of this process as an opportunity to show off your employer brand. Brainstorm unique ways to wow candidates that will set you apart from the competition. Send candidates who go through the entire recruitment process a small gift card for coffee to thank them for the time spent — even if they don’t get a job offer.

Develop a streamlined talent acquisition process with iCIMS

Leveraging software solutions, such as iCIMS, can provide a competitive edge in making sure your talent acquisition strategies attract the best candidates. If you’re interested in learning more about iCIMS’ solutions for talent acquisition, book a demo to see it in action.

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About the author

Alex Oliver

Alex is well-versed in content and digital marketing. He blends a passion for sharp, persuasive copy with creating intuitive user experiences on the web. A natural storyteller, Alex highlights customer successes and amplifies their best practices.

Alex earned his bachelor’s degree at Fairleigh Dickinson University before pursuing his master’s at Montclair State University. When not at work, Alex enjoys hiking, studying history and homebrewing beer.

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