Talent Acquisition vs Recruitment Strategy
Talent Acquisition vs Recruitment Strategy
- Feb 02, 2021

Terminology in the world of recruitment can be confusing and this often leads to poor decision-making.

A selection of articles that I read while researching this subject, all seemed to seamlessly flit between terminology, such as talent acquisition, recruitment strategy, talent attraction strategy, recruitment management and talent sourcing as if they all mean the same thing.

No wonder people get confused.

Those that did attempt to define them or explain the subtleties often got it wrong or add to the confusion further.

The purpose of this article is to attempt to provide some clarity on the correct terminology that we should be using around Talent Acquisition and Recruitment Strategy and the associated terms.


Recruitment Terms and Definitions

Here are a few associated recruitment terms and phrases that are often used inappropriately, ambiguously or have the potential to be confusing:

Recruitment, staffing, hiring, Employment, Talent, Talent Attraction, Talent Acquisition, Talent Solutions.

Recruitment strategy, hiring strategy, Talent Acquisition strategy, Talent Attraction Strategy, in fact anything relating to recruitment with strategy attached to the end of it has the propensity to confuse.

Talent acquisition management, Talent acquisition System, Talent attraction solution, talent acquisition process, and you can see how blending the terms or phrase with the function also changes meanings.

Strategy, System, Process & Solution are all popular extensions to recruitment terminology.


The Difference Between Recruitment and Talent Acquisition

In this article, I want to focus on defining and understanding Recruitment, Talent Acquisition, Talent Attraction and Recruitment Strategy, as these terms are probably those that are most often misused and that require clearer definition:

While the recruitment definition and process varies from company to company, there are some basics that will always remain constant. Here are two different definitions of recruitment that I came across;

Recruitment, can be defined as ‘those practices and activities carried out by the organization, with the primary purpose of identifying and attracting potential future employees’. (Barber 1998: 5) or

Recruitment is the process of actively seeking out, finding and hiring candidates for a specific position or job. The recruitment definition includes the entire hiring process, from inception to the individual recruit’s integration into the company. (Sage: definitions)

Talent acquisition, can be defined as everything that happens within the recruitment timeline, between requisition approval, right through to offer of employment.


Establishing Talent Acquisition in the Mainstream

Although common language in HR & recruiting circles today, Talent Acquisition phrase has only established itself as mainstream in the last few years.

The individual chronological stages within the process can be summarized as follows; job specification writing, requisition and approval, job advert writing, media channel selection, job posting, application capture, applicant screening, applicant selection, interviews, offers, and Onboarding.


The 10 stages of Talent Acquisition

1. Job specification writing

This is the detailed list of requirements that the hiring manager and the company has. It may include essential and desirable criteria, qualifications, and specific experience desired by the person hiring.


2. Requisition & Approval

Many larger organisations require the hiring manager to seek approval and validate their need to hire a new person into their team, before time and money is spent on the attraction process. This stage in the process can be partly automated and improve efficiencies to help avoid unnecessary delays.


3. Job advert writing

This is the revised advertising copy created to attract talent to the job. This document should highlight all the reasons why a prospective applicant would want to apply, focusing heavily on the opportunity aspects. Although it will likely contain an essential and desirable criteria section, this documents purpose is to encourage prospective employees to apply for the position as its first priority. A well written job advert can generate as much as ten times more applications than the job specification written for the same vacancy.

How To Write The Perfect Job Advert – eBookWebinar


4. Media channel selection

In the UK alone there are more than 5500 job advertising media channels. Choosing the right ones can be the difference between success and failure. Media selection based on relevant candidate traffic and value for money (cost per application and applicant quality) are just a couple of considerations.


5. Job Posting

Omnichannel advertising has become the standard approach and posting the same job onto multiple channels is time-consuming. 63% of all jobs posted within the UK utilise multi-posting technology for this.


6. Application capture

This defines the way that the applicant gets into your recruitment talent pool. Do they have to upload a cv, fill in an application form, complete a pre-screening process or can your recruitment system intelligently capture the CV and automatically upload it into your ATS for you?


7. Candidate ranking and selection

Once a candidate is registered into your talent pool, the first phase is usually ranking and selecting a shortlist of candidates that look suitable for the role. This can be done manually, which is time-consuming, prone to human error and subject to elements of bias. Or it can be automated with AI, machine learning and predictive analytics tools, taking around 80% of administration time out of the process.


8. Applicant screening

Validating the applicants through a series of screening processes and tasks is the best way to determine which applicants are best suited to the role, the team and the company. Automation can select and rank against relevance, but other processes can help to make a more holistic assessment of each shortlisted applicant to ensure a better cultural and behavioral fit. Technical & Competency-based assessments, gamification, video profiling, behavioral & psychometric assessments and other tasks can contribute to making better hiring decisions.


9. Interviews

Interview scheduling and management needs to be efficient for both recruiter and applicant. Again this can be done manually, but interview scheduling and management tools within ATS and HR systems can streamline this activity significantly, especially where there are higher volumes.


10. Offers & Onboarding

At the business end of the Talent Acquisition process, it is important to maintain a slick, efficient and professional process to avoid last-minute changes of heart and at all costs avoid job offers being declined.

Each aspect of Talent Acquisition is supported by its own tools and processes that have the ability to perform well or badly, depending upon a number of influencing factors.

Processes can help formulate a strategy and tactics can be deployed as part of that strategy or process.


So what is Talent Attraction?

Talent attraction relates specifically to the elements within the recruitment timeline that support attracting prospective candidates, through to the point of applicant capture. It is effectively a part of the process – as opposed to the whole Talent Acquisition process.

For clarity, this includes; job advert writing, job advert optimisation, media channel selection, job posting and applicant capture.

Talent attraction strategy is a topic that I have covered previously in other articles, in significantly more detail. This element of the recruitment process is by far the most complex and challenging.

Each aspect of the talent attraction process can be further broken down into many components, that can each influence the eventual outcomes.

This intersection between the technology and the applicant (we call his recruitenomics and it sits between recruitment science and recruitment psychology) is incredibly complex and is the Pandora’s box or playground for entrepreneurial and innovative individuals to explore and experiment.



Research and Big data analysis to identify trends and correlations and a deeper understanding of human behavioral science combine to establish subtle yet complex strategies that influence outcomes, that can ultimately determine both the volume and the quality of applications against a job.

There is a common belief the talent attraction strategy needs to continue beyond the receipt of the application itself, because when job advertising is done well, there will be an increase in passive applications that will require an effective nurturing strategy in order to retain interest (reduce drop off) and increase commitment levels.

Although a grey area, I would argue strongly that nurturing and screening need to work hand-in-hand in order to be effective, and clearly form a separate stage in the recruitment process to Talent Attraction.

My research found that some authors are arguing the case, that recruitment is reactive and talent acquisition is proactive, but I think this definition is misleading because recruitment strategy can most definitely be proactive. By adding the word ‘strategic’, as a prefix to ‘talent acquisition’, it changes the definition completely. ‘Strategic talent acquisition’ and ‘strategic recruitment’ can mean exactly the same thing and in truth, I just can’t find the logic or rationale for Recruitment being considered a subset of talent acquisition.

Also, Planning and strategy, relating to recruitment and talent attraction can be either subjective or objective and can be proactive or reactive? Recruitment, talent Attraction and talent acquisition are certainly subsets of human resource management and strategy though.


What is Recruitment Strategy?

Recruitment strategy can relate to any aspect or stage in the recruitment life-cycle where performance and effectiveness can be measured.  However, for recruitment itself to become ‘strategic’ it would by definition need to answer the following questions: Who do we want to recruit? Where should I recruit from? What tools and sources should I use? What messages should I communicate? And what external factors need to be considered?

The term “strategic,” is used to describe actions that, while they are not integral to day-to-day operations, have the potential to significantly improve the efficiency of tactical work by delivering improved outcomes.

When a strategy is being deployed, the processes and outcomes will of course vary because each of these questions can be answered differently.

We can also deploy recruitment strategy within each phase of the recruitment process too.

During the Talent Attraction phase for example, an individual can apply for a job with varying degrees of commitment depending on their motivations and circumstances.

In this example, a well written job advert has the potential to get a candidate more excited by the opportunity and prospect of working for that company, and working within that team and doing that job. When these positively combine they will subsequently increase the level of interest and commitment within the individual.

Strategy and recruitment tactics during this phase not only increases the probability of retaining the candidates interest, but also, reduces the risk of drop-off and maintain enthusiasm towards screening tasks, that may be deployed by the recruiter.

Processes it is said maintains order and internal efficiency, while strategy and tactics influence outcomes and performance.

Ongoing improvements to recruitment strategy can come from analyzing outcomes at each stage of the recruitment management process, and refining those execution tactics, in order to improve the probability of getting better results in the future.


Summarising Talent Acquisition vs Recruitment

Recruitment terminology has the propensity to confuse and this can lead to poor decision making.

Talent Attraction is not Talent Acquisition, and in fact, most ATS and HR systems (those with a recruitment module) that often claim they do ‘Talent Attraction’, in fact do not.

This type of misleading sales and marketing is commonplace and creates confusion that can lead to companies buying expensive products and services that don’t do the job they wanted it to.

Finally, recruitment technology and tools still need recruitment strategy to devise effective processes that optimize results.

At every stage in the recruitment cycle performance and outcomes can be optimized by the recruiter.

I hope that you found this useful and that we contributed a little towards helping address some of the confusion that exists in regards to this topic.


GIF Source: https://gph.is/g/Z8pl1zX

Mark Stephens

Mark has established a reputation for his passion and enthusiasm over twenty years working in the recruitment industry, both client and agency side. For the last ten years, he has been researching the HR & Recruitment landscape from both a technology and people perspective. A previous winner of the prestigious Chambers – Innovation in Business award, Mark is a serial entrepreneur and is the founder of Smart Recruit Online Ltd, CareersPage Ltd, The HR Resource Library and Corporate Wellness & Mental Health UK Ltd. His company, Smart Recruit Online, has been the winner of 7 national and international awards in the last 18 months for recruitment innovation. Mark has dedicated his time since 2007 researching the online HR & Recruitment sector from a user, technology, and candidate behaviour perspective, and is regularly published and quoted by leading industry publications for his research and personal opinions.

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