What Is Talent Acquisition?

March 21, 2018

Defining Talent Acquisition

Recruiters, sourcers, HR professionals, hiring managers. Combined, these powerhouse functions make up Talent acquisition (TA) — the organizational task of, quite simply, finding the right person for the job. In a corporate setting, it’s often placed under the human resources (HR) umbrella, and involves sourcing, attracting, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding employees.

Recruiters in Talent Acquisition

Since the bulk of a successful TA team relies on recruiters, let’s break down what it takes to be a rock star one. First, it helps to be a people person. You’re comfortable cultivating and maintaining relationships, especially across jobs, industries, and personality types. People who tend to do well in this role are also good at thinking big-picture about the needs of their company, and how to fulfill them. And since you want to always be signing top talent, a background in sales can be tremendously helpful, as you’re ultimately in the business of selling jobs to promising candidates—and promising candidates to top stakeholders.  

But maybe most importantly, talent acquisition professionals need to think like hunters: always on the prowl for top talent and relentless in their pursuit.

Talent Acquisition vs. Recruiting: What’s the Difference?

It’s easy to confuse these two. In many ways, they share the same goals: placing people into open positions.

But, there are differences. Job recruiting addresses a company’s short-term headcount needs. Talent acquisition, on the other hand, is an overall business and HR strategy that factors in an organization’s long-term goals, and acknowledges that people (or talent) can play a huge role in a company’s future successes. Unlike simply filling seats, talent acquisition is an ongoing process that tends to identify and vet appropriate candidates for executive-level positions, leadership roles, and jobs that require specialized training.

The Talent Acquisition Process

The process of hiring talent often involves many steps over several months. But generally, it can be organized into 6 steps:

1. Sourcing and Lead Generation

Starting with a irresistible job description, you’d start identifying social networks, industry events and conferences, online forums, and communities where specialists in your industry gather. There, you can network and schmooze, build relationships, and make your talent needs widely known. In doing so, you’ll generate a large pool of promising candidates, and an even stronger pipeline of potential hires.

2. Recruiting and Attracting

Building a strong company brand, promoting your unique company culture, and designing a competitive compensation package are key components of attracting and retaining stars in your industry. Candidate relationship management is as well, which means: creating a positive candidate experience, courting leads, and keeping in touch with those who aren’t a perfect fit now, but could be in the future.  

3. Interviewing and Assessing

Identify the 3-5 most essential tasks that the position requires and the key performance indicators that will help define success. Then, you can build your interview questions based around behaviors, such as, "What have you done that is like this...?"  Aim for questions that suss out a candidates ability to solve problems, be resourceful, and think on their feet. You can also assess candidates using other tools: a skills test (like a sample writing or programming task), a personality or cognitive evaluation, or a demonstrated pitch or close.

4. Checking References

Many hiring managers skip this step, but checking a candidate’s references can solidify your gut feeling about a candidate’s fit. Validate your choice by checking references to see if there are any final concerns or impressions you may have missed. If the reference agrees the candidate has the character and qualifications you’re looking for, you’re set to start making offers.

5. Making Final Selections

Have a system for selecting from your strongest candidates. Use people tracking and evaluative software or an internal grading system — both for your own talent team, but also any other stakeholders involved in the decision making. Assuming your C-suite and other employees are as busy as you are, make this final selection process as clear and hassle-free as possible.

6. Hiring and Onboarding

Although hiring and onboarding doesn’t necessarily fall under the responsibilities of the talent acquisition team, it’s certainly the last and final step of hiring top talent. Note that a strong onboarding process can make or break a new employee relationship, so prepare for and streamline this process as much as possible before your new employee starts.

Tips for Effective Talent Acquisition

Here are some general best practices to help you and your recruitment team score top talent:

Tip 1: Forecast

Identify which roles at your company are hardest to hire for — and prioritize them. Niche skills, highly-specific experience, tech or engineering jobs, and senior leadership all fall into positions that can take 3-6 months or longer to fill. Hiring just the right person for the job, or building an entire team on short notice, are much easier with some forward thinking.  

Tip 2: Build a Pipeline

Keep track of the candidates you find, whether in a simple spreadsheet at a smaller company, or organized via specialized software or platform (such as LinkedIn Recruiter) if your organization has larger talent needs. Make sure to also carve out and schedule time — daily or weekly — for talent acquisition activities: networking, outreach, inputting and updating candidate details, and most importantly, building relationships that could be useful when you have a future role to fill.

Tip 3: Get Everyone On Board

Don’t silo the efforts of your HR and talent acquisition team and keep an open mind about where quality candidates can come from. Get the department or even entire company involved. Consider introducing employee referral programs, monetary rewards for key hires, etc. If employees at your company know what roles you’re hiring for, what kinds of people you’re looking to fill those roles, and your vision about where the company is headed, you’ll likely find great candidates faster.   

Tip 4: Spend the Time

Interviewing is a hugely important part of the talent acquisition process. You want to see how a candidate will act in a “formal” setting, and how they’ll think and perform under fire. But often, some of your best intuitions about people, performance, and cultural fit comes from outside the conference room. Casual phone conversations, lunch meetings, even an informal negotiation over a cocktail are ways to get to know your prospective hire that won’t be evident from a one standard interview. And if the team needs more face-to-face time with a potential candidate, don’t hesitate to bring them back in to meet with multiple stakeholders. High performers will probably like the extra chance to size everyone up as well.

Examples of Talent Acquisition Strategies

Talent acquisition strategies vary widely. But here are a few common tactics for finding and hiring great employees:

1. Boost your Brand

A strong brand can be your greatest strength in recruiting quality candidates, so make sure your organization’s website, social profiles, and company culture speak not only to your target customer, but also to potential career-seeking candidates. Your branding efforts, often led by marketing, communications, or HR departments, are hugely important in grabbing the attention of top talent and making them want to apply.

2. Get Niche

It may seem counterintuitive, but the more specific you can get about the past experience and projects you’re looking for from candidates, the more success you’ll have finding exactly what you need. Niche roles in specialty industries can narrow the pool of candidates way down—particularly in the fields of technology, cybersecurity, medicine, law, and financial management. And, a smaller talent pool can often make outreach and networking efforts more manageable.

3. Do Some Succession Planning

This business and HR strategy grooms and promotes employees internally, instead of going outside your company to fill open positions. lt starts with identifying peak performers within the company, and taking the time to train and prepare them to take on more responsibility and leadership. An organization can work towards this months or even years ahead by offering regular and detailed feedback, internal mentorship programs, high-quality employee training, stretch assignments, and offering interim / trial runs for qualified candidates. Circulate a list of your open roles on a regular basis via an internal wiki or email so employees can be aware.

Talent Acquisition Using Linkedin

LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions can help boost your company’s TA game. Here are three tools to do it:

LinkedIn Recruiter

Recruiter is LinkedIn’s all-encompassing platform for talent professionals and is the ultimate resource for finding, connecting with, and managing the best talent during your team’s hiring process.

Step 1. Find and get in touch with the right people. With LinkedIn Recruiter, you can zero in on the skills that are essential to your open role and quickly find matching profiles for people who are the most likely to be interested in your role based on their behavior. Then, contact your top candidate with personalized InMail, or use the batch-InMail feature with a templated message.

Step 2. Build a solid pipeline. Armed with data from our search insights tool, project folders and tags, you’ll soon become an expert in the market you’re searching in.

Step 3. Integrate your Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Software allows you to integrate your own ATS, adding candidate records, collaboration tools, even more applicant data with Recruiter.

Pipeline Builder 

Pipeline Builder is a LinkedIn tool that works seamlessly with Recruiter and gives you the ability to create and edit custom landing pages, as well as track views, and even communicate with interested leads.  

Step 1. Reach out. Use sponsored content and/or recruitment ads to target members based on job function, region, skills, seniority, or other criteria.

Step 2. Attract talent. Get candidates excited with personalized landing pages sharing more information about the role, team, company or recruiter, and can feature rich and exciting media such as photos, videos, or slideshows.

Step 3. Engage your candidates. Interested leads, such as those who had indicated interest via the landing page members who have indicated interest, all our recruiting team or hiring managers can follow up directly with

Career Pages

Career Pages lets you create custom pages that shows off your culture, brand, and current opportunities — and ultimately drives quality applications.

Step 1. Go ahead, show-off. No one can tell your company story better than you and your colleagues. Highlight your unique culture with videos, photos, and tailored messaging to grab the right candidate.

Step 2. Get the word out. Use targeted recruitment ads to drive eyeballs to your customized, branded Career Pages.

Step 3. Measure your results. Take advantage of robust analytics to track, improve, and share the impact of your brand on your recruitment goals.

So now that you know the basics of how talent acquisition works, it’s time to put some of these tactics into practice. For more helpful tips and tricks, download our free guide, Beyond the Job Post: Our Guide to Innovative Recruiting.

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