Blog Candidate Quality Talent Acquisition vs Recruitment Strategy
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Terminology in the world of recruitment can be confusing and this often leads to poor decision-making. Here we cover the difference between talent acquisition vs recruitment strategy.


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 Difference Between Talent Acquisition and Recruitment

Gif of talent acquisition vs recruitment

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:


1. 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)

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


What is Talent Acquisition?

Although common language in HR & recruiting circles today, Talent Acquisition phrase has only established itself as mainstream in the last few years. The chronological stages within the process can be summarized as: job specification writing, requisition and approval, job advert writing, media channel selection, job posting, application capture, applicant screening, applicant selection, interviews, offers, and onboarding.


Let’s go into these stages in more detail here.


The 10 stages of Talent Acquisition

The 10 stages of talent acquisition gif

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.

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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.

63% of all jobs posted within the UK utilise multi-posting technology


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, reducing 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 behavioural 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.


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.


There is a common belief the talent attraction strategy needs to continue beyond the receipt of the application itself. This is because when job advertising is done well, there will be an increase in passive applications that need effective nurturing to retain their 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 to be effective, and clearly form a separate stage in the recruitment process to Talent Attraction.


My research found that some authors argue recruitment is reactive and talent acquisition is proactive, but I think this is misleading because recruitment strategy can definitely be proactive. Adding the word ‘strategic’ as a prefix to ‘talent acquisition’ 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.


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 deploy recruitment strategy within each phase of the recruitment process. 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 maintained 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 analysing 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.


  • 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.


Smart Recruit Online can help you with your talent acquisition strategy all the way from talent attraction to onboarding. Our platform comes equipped with all the tools and technologies you need to quickly find and hire the best talent online for less.


Interested? Book a demo with us and we’ll show you how it works.

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Mark Stephens

February 2, 2021

Mark has worked in and researched the HR & Recruitment landscape for over 20 years. His key focuses are how recruitment technology, evidence-based processes, and human behavioural science can be used to optimise recruitment performance. He is a serial entrepreneur, previous winner of the prestigious Chambers of Commerce 'Innovation in Business' award, and founder of Smart Recruit Online Ltd, and Corporate Wellness & Mental Health UK Ltd (Corpwell).

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