What Are the Steps of the Talent Acquisition Process?

What Are the Steps of the Talent Acquisition Process?

People are the core of any company, creating a significant impact on organizational culture, team collaboration, customer satisfaction, and long-term business growth, among other results. To attract and engage qualified, skilled workers for your team, an effective talent acquisition process is a necessity—especially in today’s competitive and fast-paced labor market.

If you’re looking to develop and implement a talent acquisition process for the first time or improve the one your organization has in place, understanding common steps in the process and strategies to improve will help you drive the most impact.

Table of contents:

What is talent acquisition?

Talent acquisition is an ongoing, strategic approach to sourcing, attracting, and engaging skilled workers. Successful talent acquisition focuses on ensuring an organization has the right team members and skills in place to achieve strategic business objectives.

The human resources team or business owner often oversees talent acquisition at small companies when budget and resources aren’t yet available for a talent acquisition team. However, as an organization scales, the business can benefit from engaging a dedicated talent acquisition manager and team of specialists.

Related: What Is Talent Acquisition? Definition and Overview

Key differences between talent acquisition and recruitment

Talent acquisition and recruitment are often used interchangeably. While they share some similarities, such as bringing new workers into an organization, understanding how the terms differ is helpful.

Talent acquisition is a proactive process that involves identifying and engaging talent with the required skills to meet both current and long-term business goals. Recruitment is more reactive and prioritizes immediate hiring needs, such as attracting and screening individuals for a specific position and hiring the most qualified individual as quickly as possible.

The talent acquisition process in 5 steps

While talent acquisition strategies vary from one organization to another depending on business goals, size, industry, and other factors, successful processes often include many common steps.

Five steps in the talent acquisition process include:

  1. Write effective job descriptions
  2. Find qualified workers where they’re searching
  3. Review and screen talent
  4. Conduct effective interviews
  5. Extend offers and onboard

Step 1. Write effective job descriptions

An engaging job description can help your organization make a strong first impression with qualified workers. Job descriptions often feature many of the same elements, including the job title, employment type, brief summary, overview of responsibilities, and list of required skills and qualifications.

Beyond the high-level details, motivated workers seek job descriptions that feature details on the company culture and benefits to excite them about the role. Make sure to include an “About Us” section in your job descriptions that highlights your company mission, culture, benefits, growth milestones, recent workplace awards, and other related details.

If you’re looking to engage independent talent, project descriptions and job posts differ from job descriptions for in-house workers. A compelling project description for a project on Upwork often includes a timeline, breakdown of project milestones, overview of deliverables, examples of similar projects, and one or several specific questions for talent to answer when submitting proposals.

Step 2: Find qualified workers where they’re searching

Once you finalize your job descriptions, the next step is sharing it across various channels to reach qualified individuals where they’re searching for their next opportunity. Some of the most commonly used channels include a company career page, social media networks, traditional job boards, industry-specific job boards, and talent marketplaces.

Beyond traditional channels, successful talent acquisition professionals identify innovative strategies to find and attract talent. For example, encouraging team referrals, reaching out to past candidates and workers, and gamifying screening steps.  

Forward-thinking companies also expand their talent pools by relying less exclusively on full-time, in-house workers and embracing independent talent. Engaging skilled independent professionals from a work marketplace like Upwork can help your team fill urgent skills gaps cost-effectively, while having the flexibility to scale up and down as business needs shift. According to our 2022 Future Workforce Report, 84% of managers who have engaged independent professionals are confident in their company’s ability to respond to disruption, compared to only 69% of managers who have not.

Related: Why Companies Are Using Freelancing Platforms To Find Remote Workers

Step 3: Review and screen talent

A prospective team member may appear qualified on their resume or professional profile; however, implementing additional steps to assess skills can help ensure your team moves forward with individuals who are the best fit for your team. Effectively screening talent before the interview process can also save your team time, as only the most qualified workers will reach the interview stage.

Depending on the role, to get a better understanding of a worker’s skills, you may request a portfolio or samples of previous work. Other options include asking individuals to complete presentations, assessments, or paid sample assignments.

Talent assessments are particularly helpful when specific hard or technical skills are required for success in a role. For example, assessments can measure an individual’s skill level in specific coding languages, analytics tools, or particular writing style.

Rather than manually screening prospective team members and administering skills testing, automated talent assessment tools are available to simplify the process. Many tools are available to streamline candidate testing, identify the most qualified individuals, and ensure objective decision-making during the talent acquisition process.

In addition to screening for hard, technical skills, assessment tools can also measure soft skills needed to collaborate and solve problems effectively with team members. Many companies also use these tools after individuals join the team to support talent development, team building, and succession planning goals.

Step 4: Conduct effective interviews

Following a standardized interview process can help your team support a positive experience for prospective team members, seamlessly centralize feedback, and ensure all individuals are evaluated on an objective, unbiased scale.

Consider developing an interview scorecard that lists skills and characteristics from the job description, along with a scale to rate each prospective team member on a scale from zero to five stars or from fair to excellent. At the bottom of the scorecard, each interviewer can also select whether or not they recommend moving the individual forward in the process.

Steps in a standard interview process can include:

  • Initial screening call with a talent acquisition specialist or manager
  • Interview with the hiring manager for the role to learn more about the individual’s specific skills
  • Peer interviews to understand how the prospective worker would communicate with team members
  • Conversations with senior leaders on the team, depending on the role

Keep in mind, an in-depth interview process is typically only required for full-time, in-house workers. If you’re engaging independent talent on Upwork, you can access and receive proposals from qualified professionals who already have complete profiles, including details on their experience, project samples, and reviews from past clients, among other information.

Related: 16 Remote Interview Tips for Hiring Managers

Step 5: Extend offers and onboard

When your team decides on the most qualified individual for your role or project, you should move forward with extending an offer as soon as possible. In today’s competitive market, top talent may juggle multiple offers at once.

Streamline the offer process by following standardized steps, such as scheduling an offer call, allowing time for the prospective team member to ask questions, and following up with a written offer that includes a set deadline for the individual to sign or accept.

After an offer is accepted, whether you’re bringing on full-time, in-house workers or independent talent, an effective onboarding process can help individuals start driving positive business outcomes and feel like part of the team soon after joining.

Common onboarding steps:

  • Gaining access to systems from IT
  • Receiving required equipment for the role
  • Filling out digital administrative paperwork
  • Attending live, scheduled onboarding sessions
  • Setting aside time for self-guided learning
  • Meeting with team members and leaders

Related: Remote Onboarding Process Beginner's Guide and Checklist

6 talent acquisition strategies to consider

As the world of work continues to evolve and the job market remains competitive, talent acquisition efforts always have room for improvement. Consider the following strategies to maximize the effectiveness of your talent acquisition process.

1. Align talent and business goals

Workers are the heart of any organization and have a significant impact on overall business success. However, according to a survey of more than 300 executives from The Predictive Index, only 31% of respondents believe business and talent objectives are completely aligned.

Whether you’re creating a defined talent acquisition process for the first time or improving the one you have in place, develop a list of questions that should be addressed to ensure your talent efforts align with overall long-term business goals.

Questions may include:

  • What are the overall business objectives?
  • What are the 30-, 60-, and 90-day goals of the talent acquisition strategy and how well do they align with broader business goals?
  • Which roles or skills are required to achieve business objectives?
  • Are certain roles a fit for remote talent or independent professionals?
  • What’s currently working with the talent acquisition strategy and what can be improved?
  • Which areas of improvement should be prioritized?
  • Can technology help improve talent acquisition efforts? If so, how much budget is available to invest in talent acquisition solutions and tools?

2. Enhance and promote worker benefits

Top-performing workers are looking for more than simply roles that align with their skills and experience. Offering comprehensive and competitive worker benefits is a key to standing out from other organizations in a competitive talent market.

Examples of worker benefits include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Base salary
  • Bonuses
  • Paid time off
  • Parental and family leave
  • Healthcare coverage
  • Remote work options
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Training stipends
  • Retirement benefits
  • Volunteer and community service opportunities

Remote and flexible work options are particularly important in today’s digital-first work landscape. In fact, a survey from Clarify Capital of 1,005 remote workers found that 68% of respondents would rather look for a new job than return to the office. Additionally, 34% say it would take flexible working hours to return to the office. Many workers who first had a taste of remote work during the pandemic now recognize the benefits—including increased productivity and work-life balance—and want to continue.  

Also focus on building a strong employer brand to promote your worker benefits. Share key benefits in job descriptions and other talent acquisition assets, including your company careers page, social media posts, email newsletters to your talent database, and worker review websites.  

3. Develop partnerships with schools and professional organizations

Encouraging your talent acquisition team to grow their networks and forge professional partnerships can help expand your organization’s available talent pool. As an added benefit, building strong relationships can help your team solicit referrals for your open roles from individuals you already know and trust.

Some steps your acquisition team members can take to expand their networks include:

  • Joining virtual networking groups and industry associations relevant to open roles at your organization
  • Exhibiting at college job fairs
  • Sharing open positions with university career centers
  • Encouraging team members across the company to share opportunities with their alumni networks
  • Identifying mentoring opportunities to build relationships with motivated talent
  • Participating in local or virtual hiring fairs
  • Expanding your LinkedIn network
  • Posting and engaging on relevant social media channels

4. Implement technology to increase efficiency

In the past, many talent acquisition tasks and processes were completed manually, which required a significant amount of time and resources. The good news for talent acquisition and HR teams is that talent acquisition technology is now available to streamline or automate various steps along the way. In fact, a recent survey of 300 senior-level talent acquisition and HR professionals sponsored by Modern Hire found that 73% of respondents increased their investment in talent acquisition technology in 2022.

Examples of technology solutions that can simplify talent acquisition include:

  • Talent sourcing tools  
  • AI-enabled job applications and recruiting assistants
  • Talent assessment tools
  • Interview scheduling software
  • Applicant tracking systems

When evaluating different talent acquisition technology providers, take criteria such as features, customer reviews, implementation timeline, and cost into consideration. This will help ensure you choose the right solutions to best meet your organization’s specific talent acquisition needs.

5. Embrace data to improve talent acquisition

A Forrester and Talview study featuring insights from 150 talent acquisition decision makers at enterprise organizations found that at least 80% of respondents are focused on improving the quality and speed of their hires. The findings also show that when evaluating talent acquisition and hiring solutions, the top capability decision makers are looking for in the solutions is data insights across the talent acquisition lifecycle.

In addition to making talent acquisition more efficient, many technology solutions also include actionable data and insights to help talent acquisition teams understand what’s working and identify areas for improvement over time.

Talent acquisition metrics to track and improve upon include but aren’t limited to:

  • Total number of applicants
  • Percentage of qualified candidates
  • Total time to hire
  • Cost per hire
  • Cost per talent sourcing channel
  • Time spent in each hiring step
  • Offer acceptance rate

6. Collect and address feedback

A recent CareerPlug report featuring data from 500 job seekers shows that 49% of respondents have declined a job offer because of a poor experience during the hiring process. As your team looks for ways to improve your talent acquisition strategy, take prospective team members’ feedback into consideration—or you might risk losing qualified talent due to a frustrating experience.

Each time a new worker joins your team, ask for specific, firsthand feedback on the hiring and onboarding process so your organization can continue to improve as you look to fill future roles. Surveying individuals who withdraw from your hiring process or don’t receive an offer can also help your team identify trends and understand ways to improve talent acquisition steps moving forward.

Consider developing a simple survey and asking individuals to rate each question on a scale of one to five (with one being negative and five being positive) or using a similar rating system. Your team can also leave space for more open-ended comments to better understand individuals’ ratings.

Survey questions may include:

  • How did you find out about the open role?
  • What was your overall impression of the company when you applied?
  • How would you describe the job application experience?
  • How would you rate overall communication throughout the hiring process?
  • How consistent was the job description with what was discussed during the interview process?
  • Was the hiring team on time and prepared for your interviews?
  • How would you rate the process overall?
  • Based on your experience, would you recommend the company to other job seekers?
  • What other feedback do you have on the overall recruiting and hiring process?

Find qualified talent for your team on Upwork

Effective talent acquisition can help your organization attract and engage talent with the skills you need to support long-term business objectives. Rather than managing talent acquisition on your own, consider engaging talent from Upwork to help you make the process as impactful as possible.

Skilled independent talent acquisition professionals are available through Project Catalog™, offering one-on-one consultations and fixed-price projects. Simply book a consultation or select a project that aligns with your business needs and begin working with a talent acquisition expert right away.

Start improving your talent acquisition process and strategy now—browse available talent acquisition and recruitment consulting services on Project Catalog and get in touch today.

Achieve your talent acquisition objectives with access to diverse independent talent on the Upwork Talent Marketplace™. Independent professionals with more than 10,000 skills across a wide range of specialties are available to help your team fill skills gaps quickly while reducing operational costs. Get started—search for talent today.


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Author Spotlight

What Are the Steps of the Talent Acquisition Process?
Beth Kempton
Content Writer

Beth Kempton is a B2B writer with a passion for storytelling and more than a decade of content marketing experience. She specializes in writing engaging long-form content, including blog posts, thought leadership pieces, SEO articles, case studies, ebooks and guides, for HR technology and B2B SaaS companies. In her free time, you can find Beth reading or running.

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