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What Is Talent Acquisition and How To Do It Well

James Elliott James Elliott Last Updated:

Ask any business leader the most important part of a successful business, and many will tell you it’s the people that matter most. Whilst most people know what recruitment is, ask someone “what is talent acquisition?” and you may not get a clear answer.

By the end of this article, you’ll understand what talent acquisition is, the core process,  and some top hiring software benefits to set you up. Let’s get to mastering talent acquisition in your business!

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What is Talent Acquisition & How Is It Different From Recruitment?

Let’s start with a definition: 

“Talent acquisition is defined as an ongoing HR process to acquire skilled workers in alignment with a company’s broader business goals, regardless of immediate vacancies.” – Toolbox.

Talent acquisition is a long-term strategy designed to identify, attract and acquire the very best individuals on the market. Whilst traditional recruitment focuses on filing live vacancies, talent acquisition covers the bigger picture of finding great employees. This includes: 

  • Helping to build your organisation’s external brand
  • Aligning with your organisation’s long-term people strategy
  • Creating an external network of skilled professionals and leaders
  • Establishing a pipeline of future candidates
  • Maintaining relationships with past candidates
  • Managing and executing the acquisition process

Talent acquisition specialists aren’t just recruiters. They’re skilled professionals who understand the end-to-end strategy of attracting, assessing, and acquiring the very best people for your organisation (especially at a time when an open vacancy may not exist).

Should You Be Recruiting or Acquiring?

To answer this question, you’ll need to know where you are as a business and how your next 12-24 months look. You should value long-term acquisition over short-term recruitment if any of the following apply:

  • You’re in high growth: If your organisation is growing fast, you need a proactive pipeline of candidates already in place to ensure you can acquire and onboard new team members at the pace you need.
  • You’re in a competitive sector: If you’re in a competitive people market, such as for Python Developers or Sales Development Reps, you need to execute a proactive acquisition strategy. Failure to get ahead of the game will mean your competitors get the best people and not you.
  • You have high staff turnover: If you operate in a sector with high employee turnover, you’ll need to get new staff in place quickly. Having a reputation as a great organisation to work for, alongside a pipeline of interested candidates, will allow you to fill empty seats faster!
  • You’re looking for senior leaders: Successful talent acquisition may mean creating a role for an exceptional leader who can take your business forward. If you’re on the lookout for extraordinary talent but not actively recruiting, a talent acquisition strategy can support this.

Ultimately, having a proactive strategy will benefit you no matter who you are. After all, who doesn’t want the best people working for them, right? 

The Talent Acquisition Process

Now we’ve answered the question of “what is talent acquisition” and understood its value, you’re probably itching to embed it into your organisation. Here’s a look at a typical talent acquisition process alongside a practical case study of how to execute it well!

1. Aligning with Organisational Strategy

Much like the strategic roadmap of an organisation, talent acquisition is a long-term endeavour, so make sure you start by aligning. 

Understand the business direction to anticipate which resources will be required 6, 12 or 18 months down the line. This proactive and strategic approach sets talent acquisition apart from recruitment and brings real value to your organisation. 

Case Study – Imagine your organisation is planning an extensive digital transformation programme over the next year. As a talent acquisition specialist, you can predict that your organisation will need digital and change management specialists to support this work.

2. Inbound Marketing & Brand PR

Once you understand the future people needs of your organisation, it’s time to get on the radar of skilled professionals. This can be done both directly and indirectly through inbound marketing and PR techniques. 

Whether through social media content, advertisements, sponsorships, sector events, or partnerships, the aim is to showcase your organisation as a fantastic place to work. Especially in creative and technology sectors, showcasing your organisation’s culture, innovative projects and social perks will actively attract new talent.   

Building this network of enthused potential hires gives you a great starting point when it comes to recruiting. 

Case Study – The talent acquisition team begins working with marketing functions to promote the upcoming transformation programme, highlighting the innovative digital technologies they’re creating. The team also works with senior leaders to arrange guest speaking opportunities at upcoming sector conferences. 

3. Building a Talent Pipeline

Great talent acquisition specialists don’t wait for a job vacancy to start screening the best candidates; they proactively build a pipeline of incredible future hires.

Building an independent talent pipeline can be done in several ways, but one of the most popular is a talent pool. Talent pools allow you to create a database of pre-tested, future candidates, reducing your time to hire when the need arises. 

Case Study – Talent acquisition specialists direct interested future candidates to sign up for their talent pool. They use specialist recruitment software, such as Toggl Hire, to create bespoke tests for individual jobs roles to assess candidates on their ability. 

4. Executing A Hire

Getting candidates into a new role is where talent acquisition most crosses over into traditional recruitment. Whether a new vacancy has been posted or a standout candidate comes forward, the acquisition will occur through the following steps: 

  • Identification: In the case of a vacancy, you’ll need to identify several suitable candidates. From your talent acquisition process, you’ll likely already have some names in mind from inbound enquiries.
  • Assessment: You need to confirm the candidates have the skills and expertise you need. Whilst you may request a resume, many organisations favour skills tests to assess their candidates’ practical expertise.
  • Interview: Whilst candidates may be able to do the job, you need to ensure they align with your culture and organisational norms. The best way to do this is through an interview. Great talent acquisition specialists will know how to keep discussions light-hearted to ensure the candidate’s qualities shine through.
  • Hire: Once the perfect candidate has been identified, assessed and interviewed, it’s time to make the hire and plan for the onboarding process to begin! 

Example – The first wave of digital vacancies are commissioned. The team filters through the talent pool applicants to identify the best pre-qualified candidates. They move them through into the interview stage straight away, saving time and effort on new job adverts.

5. Delivering Onboarding Support

The journey of turning a new hire into a superstar employee now begins. Even though onboarding typically sits with HR and the employee’s new manager, talent acquisition specialists should be on hand to support the process. 

After all, you don’t want to put off an enthusiastic new hire with a poor first impression. Follow-up support from talent acquisition teams should facilitate new-starter feedback and ensure their expectations match the reality. 

Case Study – The team check-in with new employees to ensure the role meets their expectations, that they’re fully supported, and to confirm they’re an excellent cultural fit.

6. Nurturing Future Talent

Unfortunately, not all candidates get offered a role the first time. Great talent acquisition specialists recognise that some candidates could still play an integral part in an organisation’s success. 

Ensure competent candidates don’t fall out of the system by continuing to nurture the relationship. After all, the key to talent acquisition is taking a long-term view on hiring, remembering that a new vacancy is never more than a few months away. 

Case Study – Unsuccessful candidates are provided feedback on why they were unsuccessful. The talent acquisition specialist keeps the candidate within the talent pool in anticipation of future vacancies.

Boost Your Talent Acquisition with Hiring Software Tools

As we’ve seen, talent acquisition is a complex but highly effective way to ensure you get the best people into your organisation. Fortunately, there’s a range of software tools on the market that can assist your hiring processes. Here are some of the benefits of implementing hiring tools: 

  • Take away the admin: Hiring tools allow your team to focus on rich interactions by automating the tedious admin tasks. Gone are the days of filtering through resumes or manually responding to speculative applications, with software tools handling those tasks on your behalf.
  • Better candidate experience: Your hiring process is the first opportunity to make a good impression on future candidates. Hiring software can enable your team to provide fast and customised communications to candidates.
  • Improve time to hire: You need the best people, and you need them now. Lengthy hiring processes are a massive waste of time, so eliminate that waste with hiring software that speeds up your time to hire.
  • Hire smarter: Hiring is changing. Resumes are out, and skills tests are in. At Toggl Hire, we help you find the very best people based on their capability, not just their experience. Test, manage, and hire the best candidates with bespoke skills tests that are tailored to your business – no more boring resumes!

    Like the sound of that? Check out how we do it below!


Talent acquisition is about way more than just recruitment, it focuses on partnering with the business to ensure the right people are in place to get the job done! 

The best talent acquisition teams don’t just focus on hiring new employees; they work to ensure your business is seen as a fantastic place to work for future employees too! The complete talent acquisition process covers many different areas, so we’d recommend implementing a great hiring software tool to take your talent acquisition to the next level!

James Elliott

James Elliott is a Strategy Manager and Writer from London, UK. When not working on the day job, James writes on a variety of business and project management topics with a focus on content that enables readers to take action and improve their ways of working. You can check out James’ work on his website or by connecting on LinkedIn.

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