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February 15, 2024

Talent acquisition versus recruitment: Their key differences

Learn how to build a well-crafted talent acquisition strategy for effective hiring.


  • Talent acquisition versus recruitment
  • Building a talent acquisition strategy
  • Enhance your talent acquisition strategy with Marsh McLennan Agency

Most people think talent acquisition and recruitment are the same, but that’s not the case. While these terms overlap and deal with human resource functions, they’re not synonymous. Both tasks aim to achieve a company’s short- and long-term goals, but the most successful companies will know there’s a crucial contrast between the two. Companies should know how to utilize these two tasks to gain as much ROI within their human resources (HR) department as possible.

Want to discover their key differences and learn how to build an effective talent acquisition strategy? Continue reading.

Talent acquisition versus recruitment

The main difference between talent acquisition and recruitment is that recruiting is a reactive approach, and talent acquisition is proactive, focusing on finding qualified candidates for niche positions that may open in the future.

Recruitment is the act of filling empty jobs across an organization. Talent acquisition focuses on the big picture in the ongoing effort to find specialists, leaders, and executives for a company. When HR departments recruit, they strive to respond to the company’s current hiring demands as they are made apparent.

Every company has other goals and hiring targets, so recruitment will look different for each organization. Generally, recruitment is more transactional and focuses on filling immediate staffing needs and gaps in productivity. It is a critical component of talent acquisition when you experience high staff turnover or company growth.

Recruiting is very action-focused. Rather than primarily aiming to cultivate a wide range of relationships with people, it promotes specific job openings and narrows the pool down to those who would fit the role well. While necessary for every business in any industry, this fast-paced approach to onboarding doesn’t always give HR professionals the time or space to learn from each hiring experience. Nor does it allow them to get feedback from the candidates—including chosen individuals and those released from the hiring cycle.

Talent acquisition focuses on finding top talent and determining how those hires will push the team to improve and meet long-term goals. It encompasses a broader, more strategic approach to hiring. Companies identify, attract, and nurture people who may be advantageous for the company’s long-term initiatives.

Even if a company isn’t actively recruiting, aiming to nurture relationships with potential candidates builds a talent pipeline for future needs. Nurturing involves building and maintaining a network of a broad, skilled group of workers who HR departments believe fit the company culture and actively play a part in reaching specific company-wide targets. Building and supporting relationships can help a company plan and determine a productive path forward regarding future hires.

Continuous improvement is another key attribute of talent acquisition. This task involves analyzing and enhancing the process from the initial internal strategy discussion to the final outreach to the applicant. Consistent improvement enables teams to learn from past experiences and adjust strategies for the most success.

Building a talent acquisition strategy

According to a LinkedIn report, about 87% of recruiting professionals say talent acquisition has become a more strategic function in their business. But without an action plan, this process likely won’t effectively help a company achieve its goals.

Create a compliant blueprint for your hiring decisions with a talent acquisition strategy. Companies can identify, evaluate, and hire the right people for open positions to help meet their short- and long-term initiatives' targets.

Here are the steps you can take to create a successful talent acquisition strategy for your company:

Define your brand

Stand out from the crowd by knowing what your company stands for by defining your mission, values, and goals. Strong employer branding is important to candidates. Invest in creating an employer brand that appeals to the people you want to attract. Branding can focus on what candidate characteristics are most important to your company, what charities or nonprofits you choose to support, and what business elements are most important to your team.

If you’re not sure how to identify your brand, here are some helpful questions to answer:

  • What is most important to you as a company?
  • What sets this company apart from the competition?
  • What unique qualities are you looking for in potential employees?
  • What is the company culture?
  • What is your company’s mission?
  • What goals are you attempting to achieve through your hiring?
Collaborate with your current team and stakeholders

Your existing employees and stakeholders have extensive knowledge of employee experiences and needs. Sit down with them to determine what gaps may need filling and where extra help would be necessary to do their job efficiently. Speak to hiring managers, department heads, and other C-suite executives to determine the skills required for success in different roles.

Getting employee feedback can help your talent acquisition strategy become accurate and beneficial. It allows you to base your decisions on factual information rather than assumptions. The recruitment process and ongoing strategy creation must be a team effort to drive your business forward. The company’s hiring decisions won’t reflect the team’s needs without everyone's thoughts and criticisms.

Ensure the candidate experience is efficient

If an application process is too long, you’ll experience candidate drop-off. In fact, 78% of job seekers would drop out or consider dropping out of lengthy or complex recruitment processes, according to People Management. If your business is experiencing candidate ghosting, it’s essential your HR team pivots and finds ways to shorten the process. Possible pivots could include digitally transforming processes to automate parts of the hiring journey or cutting out unnecessary paperwork requirements.

Provide an inclusive and positive candidate experience. Make your application easy to find and the online or physically filled out process user-friendly. Once a candidate applies, communicate with them regularly regarding the status of their application and what they can expect from your talent acquisition team’s interview process.

Even if the business does not hire the person, gather feedback from them about the recruitment process to learn what areas could be improved for a more positive applicant experience. Strive for an experience that allows each person who engages with your company to come away with something good to say about the HR staff, the ease of applying, and the talent acquisition process.

Outline your business and hiring goals

Every new hire should improve the company and help you reach your goals in one way or another. Defining targets makes it easier to measure success. As you build your talent acquisition strategy, focus on how each decision drives the business forward.

The best types of business goals are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Defining what your business needs with these parameters can ensure each new hire assists with the overall targets your company is attempting to achieve. Document these initiatives and get your entire team’s input, as every staff member will help meet these goals.

Business and hiring objectives shouldn’t be a set-it-and-forget-it discussion. Create a process that tracks these targets and creates monthly or quarterly talks to enable the team to hold each other accountable and stay on track. The key performance indicators that are valuable to monitor include:

  • Candidate satisfaction
  • Cost per hire
  • Number of qualified candidate applications
  • Offer acceptance rate
  • Sourcing channel efficiency
  • Submit to interview ratio
  • Time to fill
Target the people that fit your business

When marketing your company and advertising open positions, you want to spend money getting the right audience’s attention. Develop positive relationships with industry leaders, local groups, and universities to determine where to post your ads. Proactively cultivating relationships with people in these locations can help HR teams know who is available for work before other businesses. Organizations can also get to know candidates beyond their resumes and work experience.

Ultimately, when you spend more time building strategic relationships and networking with potential employees, you can have a narrower talent pool to select from.

Enhance your talent acquisition strategy with Marsh McLennan Agency

It pays to have a designated hiring strategy when recruiting and building relationships with potential talent. Creating a holistic, in-depth plan can be challenging without assistance from knowledgeable industry consultants.

Enhance your HR best practices and leverage your talent acquisition process with Marsh McLennan Agency. We offer national HR consulting services, including:

  • Compensation services and total rewards
  • Concierge HR outsourcing
  • HR compliance and operational reviews
  • “HR On Call” subscription service
  • HR projects, special services, and attorney-led compliance
  • HR transformation
  • Interim professional placement
  • Talent acquisition
  • Recruiting services

Draw positive attention to your company and retain loyal employees with our tailored benefits and retirement savings packages. Navigate compliance, staffing, and other key elements with our HR consulting team.

Reach out to a specialist today.