What’s the Difference Between Talent Acquisition and Recruiting?

Does your organization use the terms “recruiting” and “talent acquisition” interchangeably? Some do. But these terms actually refer to different components of the process of bringing new people into an organization. Let’s take a close look at each.


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Here are some of the components and characterizations of recruiting:

  • Recruiting is the process of finding someone to fill a position once the position is open or created. Recruitment begins once there is a vacancy to fill.
  • The goals of recruiting are clear: Fill the position with someone who has the right skills and experience to do the job today. The skills needed and the job in question are defined and clear.
  • Recruiting is more reactive or tactical than strategic. It is one component of the larger talent acquisition process.
  • Recruiting includes everything in the process from sourcing candidates to reviewing applicants to selection of who to hire and eventually onboarding that person.

Talent acquisition, on the other hand, has its own characterizations and components:

  • It is more strategic and long term in nature than recruiting. Talent acquisition is more likely to utilize strategic workforce segmentation to assess current and future needs. It takes into account the organization’s growth needs in the future, not just today, and it looks at future skills requirements.
  • Talent acquisition includes thinking about things like:
    • How to manage candidate relationships and conduct networking.
    • Cultivating the employment brand.
    • Creating and growing the talent pipeline.
    • Assessing future organizational needs and comparing them with current skills and determining what gaps will exist in the future.
    • Figuring out how to find the best talent while keeping nondiscriminatory practices that result in diverse hiring over time.
  • Talent acquisition takes into account the organization’s long-term goals, like succession planning.
  • It is done continuously over time, even when no roles are ready to fill.
  • Talent acquisition considers future needs like special skills and eventual replacement of executive roles. Some organizations will actually utilize the more strategic talent acquisition processes only for the most important roles (or more difficult-to-find roles). This may include roles like the C-suite, specialized technology roles, and any role in which there are skills shortages. These types of roles often require more forethought and a different process to fill. This list also includes roles that may not be specialized but for which there is a shortage of applicants, requiring a more strategic mind-set to find the best ones.
  • Talent acquisition is also useful in industries and organizations experiencing fast growth. The talent acquisition process can help organizations get difficult roles filled faster because it is proactive.
  • The talent acquisition process is also more likely to look at someone’s capacity to do a job beyond just the experience he or she has today.

Larger organizations typically will need to use both avenues: talent acquisition for the strategic and harder-to-fill roles and standard recruiting for other vacancies that arise. That said, some organizations feel that being proactive and utilizing talent acquisition for as many roles as possible is a better bet because it may allow them to find and hire the best talent for all roles, which can help in the long run.

Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.