The distinction between recruiting and acquiring talent


Recruitment and acquisition of talent are often used interchangeably in the business world. However, it goes without saying that these two concepts are not synonymous and have some major differences. As the tight job market continues, organizations are strategizing their hiring practices and adjusting policies to attract and retain top talent. As part of this planning, it is essential that their teams are properly constituted and understand these distinctions. Companies that plan accordingly and have the right strategies and positions in place will have an advantage over those that don’t – and that goes without saying. With that in mind, our team has put together the following to help clarify these subtle differences in the hope that it will propel your hiring efforts forward.

Before delving into the distinctions between the two, let’s first take a look at the definition of each individually.

What is recruiting?

Recruitment can be defined as the process used to actively search for candidates, assess their skills, and hire those candidates to fill specific roles in the organization. This includes the entire process, from initial research and awareness, to interviewing and engaging with talent, to onboarding individuals. Recruiters play an often continuous and active role in identifying qualified talent, through various methods and techniques, such as job postings. They also work on developing and maintaining an employer brand and can help with overall recruiting training and team responsibilities.

What is talent acquisition?

Talent acquisition is often defined as the process of developing a pipeline of talented individuals to meet specific skill sets. This includes industries facing talent shortages or skills in high demand but with limited labor supply. Similar to recruiting, talent acquisition also refers to the process of identifying, evaluating and hiring candidates to fill various roles. However, this is often a longer term strategy to manage current and future hiring needs. Talent acquisition teams can be part of the human resources department or even be attached to their own, in close collaboration with HR.

What are the main differences between recruiting and acquiring talent?

As you can see, there are many ways that the two overlap. But now that we’ve clearly defined both recruiting and gaining talent, let’s break down these subtle but important distinctions between them.

  • First, while both fill the necessary roles, recruiters primarily fill vacancies while talent acquisition professionals use an ongoing strategy to identify future talent for the organization. These talent pools are critical to the long-term success of the business, while vacancies meet the immediate needs of the organization.
  • Second, talent acquisition can involve any position or role, but is usually much more specific than general recruiting. For example, entry-level positions are constantly being filled by recruiters. But when it comes to highly competitive talent in demand with specialized skills, talent acquisition professionals help navigate those industries and needs. This can include niche markets, such as specific technologies, software development, IT, or other leadership roles.
  • Talent acquisition, sometimes, can involve a more active part in the training and development of internal employees to fill specific roles. Since many specialist positions are difficult to fill externally, this proactive approach can be an integral part of an overall strategy. On the other hand, recruiters are not likely to take on this type of responsibility.
  • In order to fill future vacancies, talent acquisition teams spend a large portion of their time building relationships and networking. Due to the nature of the competitive talent landscape, these relationships are essential. For example, meeting and maintaining a relationship with a professional who is employed elsewhere can pay off months or even years later. Recruiters, on the other hand, are much more focused on short-term vacancies that need to be filled today.
  • Often, talent acquisition requires effective marketing and employer branding strategies to educate and inspire future talent to join the team. Especially true for niche industries, having a holistic approach to communicating your differentiators and your culture can have a lasting impact. While marketing plays a role in recruiting, it is often seen as a shorter-term strategy to fill these vacancies.

As the work environment and workforce continue to change and adapt, organizations need to assess their talent recruitment and acquisition efforts and strategies. For those who recruit primarily to fill vacancies, there may be a need to shift more towards a talent acquisition strategy to foster future growth. In many organizations, both will be essential for continued success. Either way, understanding these subtle distinctions and your future talent needs will help your team recruit the best talent that will support or propel your recruiting efforts.