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What is talent acquisition?

March 16, 2023
13 min read
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Talent acquisition (TA) is when companies hunt for great people to join their teams. It is a comprehensive process that begins with defining the specific skills and qualifications required for a role. It extends through sourcing potential job-seekers, screening and assessing their suitability for the position, and ultimately onboarding successful employees.

Talent acquisition is more than just the usual way of hiring people. It’s about going out there and finding the best folks for the job. This means looking for candidates who have the right skills and fit in with your company’s culture. It’s important to understand what the company wants to achieve and what they stand for, as well as what’s going on in the industry. By doing all this, companies can stay ahead of the game, keep their employees happy and maintain long-term success.


Why is talent acquisition important?

Companies need to step up their game in today’s job market. As technology changes and industries get more complex, there’s a bigger demand for skilled workers. But there’s not always enough of these folks to go around. Plus, when companies start expanding to new areas, the fight for talent gets even harder. This can make it tough for companies to find the right people, especially in industries where there’s already a talent shortage. Talent acquisition strategies are essential to attract, identify, and retain top talent.

The modern workforce is also characterized by a range of demographic and cultural shifts. For instance, younger workers often have different needs and wants than the folks who’ve been around awhile — they might care more about work-life balance or finding meaning in their job. Companies have to be smart about how they attract and keep these new workers, while also making sure they don’t neglect the folks who are already there. Managers have to come up with plans to find and keep all kinds of different people, making sure everyone feels welcome and valued. This could mean reaching out to groups who don’t normally get a fair shake, providing training to teach people about diversity and inclusion, or setting up groups and networks to help support people from different backgrounds.

If a company’s process for acquiring talent isn’t up to par, it can result in some negative outcomes for the organization. The most significant consequence is the risk of hiring unqualified or underqualified employees who may not have the skills, experience or cultural fit needed to succeed in their roles. This can result in decreased productivity, increased employee turnover, and reduced morale and engagement among existing employees who must pick up the slack. It can also mean spending more money and resources to fill the position and train new hires. A poor candidate experience can also damage the organization’s reputation and make it harder to attract top-notch talent in the future.


Talent acquisition vs. recruitment

Talent acquisition and recruitment are two different things, even though people tend to use them interchangeably. Recruiting is reactive and happens when there is an immediate need to fill a job opening. This process involves looking at resumes, conducting interviews, and then offering the job to the most qualified candidate. On the other hand, acquiring talent is proactive and involves creating a pipeline for current and future needs. This process is a long-term investment in the organization’s future success, making sure it has the right people with the necessary skills and experience to achieve its goals.

In short, recruitment is all about filling immediate needs, while talent acquisition focuses on a more long-term strategy.


Recruiting team has a meeting

The 5-step talent acquisition process

Getting the right people on board is a critical component of building a high-quality workforce.  If companies use a good process for acquiring talent, they can make sure they have the right skills and experience to reach their long-term goals and keep up with the fast-paced business world.

Step 1. Planning and strategy development

During this initial stage, hiring managers determine the vacant role and the necessary qualifications for a candidate to thrive in the position. The goal is to ensure that the hiring process is streamlined, effective and results in the hiring of the most suitable candidate for the job.

Step 2. Sourcing and recruitment

When looking for new hires, the talent acquisition team should use the latest recruiting software and techniques to find people who are interested in the job. This way, they can gather a wide variety of candidates with different backgrounds and pick the best ones for the job.

Step 3. Screening

Next, the hiring managers should take a look at the talent pool and assess which candidates have the best qualifications and would fit the role perfectly. By doing so, they can filter out the top contenders, making the recruitment process more efficient and increasing the chances of landing the best candidate for the position.

Step 4. Interviewing

During interviews with candidates, managers should select and evaluate the top-choice prospects from the pool. Asking strategic interview questions can reveal more about the candidate’s skills, experience and suitability for the role. This helps hiring managers make an informed decision and choose the best candidate for the job.

Step 5: Selection and offer

Finally, the employer should pick the person they think is the best fit for the job and create an offer letter that covers the job’s pay and responsibilities. This way, the chosen candidate will know exactly what they’re getting into before they accept the offer. It’s important to have a clear and accurate job description to make sure everything is upfront.

Learn more about the 5-step talent acquisition process.

Best practices for acquiring talent

By following these best practices, organizations can improve their processes for acquiring talent, and better position themselves to attract and hire the best employees.

Create a strong employer brand

Having a strong employer brand is crucial for companies to showcase their values, mission, and culture. By creating a positive image, companies can differentiate themselves from competitors and position themselves as a desirable place to work. This can lead to increased engagement and retention of current employees, as well as improved customer perception of the company. When a company has a positive reputation as an employer, it can lead to increased revenue and sales.

Another benefit of a strong employer brand is that it can attract high-quality candidates who are more likely to apply for job openings. This can result in a more productive and engaged workforce, ultimately contributing to business success. Moreover, a strong employer brand can also reduce hiring costs and turnover rates, as employees who are happy with their work environment are less likely to leave and need to be replaced.

Prioritize a diverse and inclusive workforce

Making diversity and inclusion a priority in the workplace is essential for successfully acquiring talent. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also attracts qualified professionals from diverse backgrounds with unique experiences and perspectives. This leads to improved problem-solving and creativity as individuals with different viewpoints offer innovative solutions. A diverse workforce can also increase market reach and customer satisfaction by better understanding the needs of different customer groups.

Many customers, employees and other stakeholders highly value diversity and inclusion. Failing to prioritize inclusive practices can result in negative perceptions, lost business opportunities and even legal action. In contrast, companies that prioritize these practices can build a positive reputation and attract more customers and top talent. Ultimately, prioritizing diversity and inclusion can improve company culture and the bottom line.

Streamline the process

In today’s highly competitive job market, it’s not enough to simply attract the top employees — it’s important to do so in a timely and cost-effective manner. The longer the hiring and onboarding processes take, the greater the risk that candidates in your applicant pool will lose interest or be snapped up by other companies.

By simplifying the process, organizations can speed up the identification and hiring of qualified candidates. This increases their chances of getting the best employees to help them succeed. Moreover, streamlining the talent strategy can lead to a better candidate experience. In today’s job market, talented candidates are in high demand and have many options available to them. Therefore, an efficient process can make a good impression on candidates and help build a positive employer brand. This, in turn, can attract even more top talent in the future.

Develop strong relationships with candidates

In today’s competitive job market, it’s not enough to simply post a job opening and wait for the applications to roll in. To compete, talent acquisition specialists need to be proactive in building relationships with top candidates, engaging them in conversations about the organization and creating a positive impression. By developing a reputation as an organization that values its employees and works to build strong relationships, companies can create a positive employer brand that attracts more top employees in the future. This approach ensures the organization has the talent it needs to succeed, both presently and in the long term.


Recruiting team shares a joke while sitting around a laptop

5 vital talent acquisition metrics to analyze

Tracking key metrics is a vital component to identifying the effectiveness of your strategies and adjusting them accordingly. Additionally, it helps identify areas of improvement and demonstrate the value of your efforts to company leadership. Some metrics professionals should analyze include time to hire, cost per hire, applicant-to-hire ratio, offer acceptance rate, and employee retention rate.

1. Time to hire

The time-to-hire metric refers to the number of days between when a candidate applies and when they accept a job offer. It’s important to reduce this time as much as possible, as a lengthy process can lead to a poor candidate experience, losing top candidates to other companies, and higher recruiting expenses.

2. Cost per hire

Cost per hire is the total expense incurred in recruiting and hiring a new employee, which includes job postings, recruiter fees, travel costs, and onboarding expenses. It’s important to optimize this metric to minimize overall recruitment expenses while attracting the best candidates.

3. Applicant-to-hire ratio

The applicant-to-hire ratio measures the number of job applicants compared to the number of job offers extended. Optimizing this metric is important because a low ratio may suggest that the recruitment process needs improvement, or the job description is not accurately reflecting the position requirements, leading to unqualified candidates. Conversely, a high ratio may indicate an inefficient recruitment process, which may result in a longer time to hire and higher recruitment costs.

4. Offer acceptance rate

The offer-acceptance-rate metric measures the percentage of selected candidates that accept the job offer from the company. It’s crucial to optimize this metric because a low acceptance rate may indicate noncompetitive compensation or flawed recruitment processes, which could impact the company’s ability to attract and retain top talent.

5. Employee retention rate

Employee retention rate refers to the percentage of employees that leave the company within a specific time frame, usually a year. It’s an important metric to optimize as it impacts the company’s productivity, profitability, and stability. A high turnover rate may suggest issues with the company’s workplace culture or leadership, while a low rate indicates that the company can attract and retain top talent.


Talent acquisition trends and challenges

Talent acquisition professionals need to follow certain best practices to stay competitive and equitable in the current business landscape. Ignoring these practices in their business plan can result in failure to identify or attract the best candidates, which can harm the organization’s productivity and bottom line.

Remote interviewing and hiring

Nowadays, many companies are using remote hiring and interviewing to attract the best candidates from all over the world, thanks to advanced technology. Remote interviews save time and money, since they eliminate the need for travel and enable initial screening interviews to be conducted outside of business hours. Remote hiring also increases flexibility and access to a larger pool of applicants, as companies are not limited to recruiting within a certain geographic area.

However, remote hiring and interviewing can also present significant challenges. It can be harder to assess candidates remotely and determine if they fit with the company culture. Providing a positive candidate experience in a virtual environment can also be difficult, and the lack of face-to-face interaction can create communication barriers. Some roles that require in-person interactions or specific physical facilities can also be challenging to recruit remotely. Companies need to ensure that their remote hiring and interviewing processes are inclusive, efficient, and effective to take full advantage of this trend while minimizing its challenges.

Emphasis on the gig economy

The gig economy is changing the way companies operate by enabling them to easily access specialized skills without the expenses of full-time employees. Gig workers can help companies fill skill gaps and handle fluctuations in demand in an agile and cost-effective way. For workers, the gig economy offers independence and flexibility to choose projects and clients that align with their skills and interests.

Despite its advantages, the gig economy also poses challenges. Hiring gig workers differs from hiring full-time employees, with more emphasis on skills evaluation and project-based assessments. Gig workers may also require different management and communication methods, as they typically work remotely and have no long-term commitment to the organization. To succeed in this new landscape, professionals need to adapt by developing effective strategies for hiring gig employees and creating policies to manage and integrate them into the organization.

Employee referral programs

Employee referral programs are gaining popularity as a cost-effective way to find and hire new talent. By relying on current employees to bring in qualified candidates, organizations can avoid spending large sums of money on job postings, recruiting events, or third-party recruiters. This can result in a faster time-to-hire and lower recruiting costs overall. Furthermore, employee referral programs can improve retention rates as prospective employees are often a better fit culturally and socially with the organization.

While employee referral programs have the potential to source a more diverse pool of candidates, there are also potential challenges associated with these programs. One issue is the possibility of bias or nepotism in the hiring process, as employees may be more likely to refer people from similar backgrounds or with similar experiences. To address these challenges, organizations should take steps to ensure that employee referral programs are fair and equitable and that they do not replace other important strategies for acquiring talent.

Treating candidates as customers

Organizations can improve their reputation as an employer of choice by treating candidates like valued customers. This means providing a personalized experience that meets the needs and preferences of each candidate, as well as creating an efficient and user-friendly onboarding process. To achieve this, companies are using tools like chatbots and automation to provide real-time support and mobile-friendly application processes. They’re also using data and analytics to better understand the preferences and behaviors of potential employees, and using this information to personalize job recommendations and communication. This approach helps create a more engaging and effective candidate experience.

By treating job seekers as customers, not only attract great employees but also make their hiring process better. This results in happy and motivated workers, a good reputation, and a strong brand. If companies want to hire and keep the best employees, they need to focus on giving a good candidate experience.

Data-driven recruitment

Organizations are leveraging data and analytics to make informed decisions about recruitment strategies, improve the candidate experience, and monitor the effectiveness of recruitment efforts. By looking at data on things such as how long it takes to hire someone, how much it costs to hire them, and how happy the job seekers are with the process, companies can see if their recruitment efforts are working well. This helps them focus on finding and keeping great employees.

Using data to help with recruitment is great because companies can figure out where they can improve. For example, if they see that it’s taking too long to do one part of the hiring process, they can figure out why and make it faster. If they keep track of how much it costs to hire someone, they can make sure they’re not wasting money. Data also helps companies make the hiring process better for job seekers. They can see if there are things that people don’t like and change them. This might mean making the application easier or talking to job seekers more often.


Candidate searches for jobs on a laptop

Frequently asked questions about talent acquisition

What are the key success factors for talent acquisition?

To achieve success in talent acquisition, organizations must prioritize key factors. These key factors include fostering a growth mindset, agility, continuous learning, piloting new strategies, and confidence in taking calculated risks. They should also leverage new technologies and best practices to adapt to changing job markets and attract top talent. Cultivating a culture of learning and innovation is important to stay ahead of emerging trends and support overall business goals. By focusing on these key success factors, organizations can build a strong and effective talent acquisition strategy that supports their overall business goals and objectives.

Is talent acquisition different from HR?

TA and HR are different, but related. TA is responsible for finding and attracting top candidates, while HR manages employees throughout their employment tenure with an organization. Acquisition focuses on the early stages of hiring, while HR handles post-onboarding phases such as employee benefits, training, and compliance.

Is talent acquisition a growing industry?

The talent acquisition industry is growing and expected to continue its upward trend. A report by Mordor Intelligence estimates that the market was valued at USD 2.85 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.75% during the forecast period of 2021-2026. This growth can be attributed to the increasing demand for automation of talent acquisition processes, as well as the need for efficient and cost-effective recruitment processes. The report also highlights the trend towards the adoption of cloud-based talent acquisition software, which offers scalability, flexibility, and ease of access. As this industry continues to evolve and mature, it is poised to become an increasingly critical function within organizations, playing a key role in driving business success.

What should be included in a talent acquisition budget?

A talent acquisition budget should cover job postings, recruitment events, background checks, drug screenings, applicant tracking systems, recruiting software, external recruiters or staffing agencies, relocation expenses, and signing bonuses. It should be reviewed and adjusted regularly to maximize cost savings while attracting and retaining top talent.

How can we improve talent acquisition?

To improve talent acquisition, professionals should stay updated on the latest technology trends and developments, including the use of AI recruiting and hiring software. It’s essential to continuously research, refine recruitment strategies, adopt new technologies, and keep up with best practices to attract the best talent. Continuous innovation and development enable the growth and improvement of the talent acquisition industry.


Attract and acquire top talent with iCIMS

Talent acquisition is a critical function for organizations to attract and retain top talent. With the constantly evolving modern workforce and the increasing competition for top candidates, it is essential to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices. Leveraging software solutions, such as iCIMS, can provide a competitive edge in the recruitment process. If you’re interested in learning more about iCIMS’ solutions for acquiring talent, 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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