What Is Talent Acquisition? Definition and Overview

What Is Talent Acquisition? Definition and Overview

An organization’s people play a significant role in overall business success. Having the right team in place can help you achieve both short- and long-term goals. To build a strong team of qualified workers, an effective talent acquisition strategy is critical.

Talent acquisition is the strategic, ongoing process of sourcing, attracting, assessing, and engaging skilled workers. Whether you’re looking to develop a talent acquisition strategy or improve the one you already have in place, understanding how talent acquisition works, the key steps in the process, and best practices for improvement can help set your team up for success.

How does talent acquisition work?

The terms recruitment and talent acquisition are often used interchangeably, as both focus on bringing new workers into an organization. While the two share some similarities, understanding key differences between them is important.

Recruitment is a reactive process and focuses on immediate hiring needs, such as identifying and screening candidates for a specific position and hiring the most qualified individual. On the other hand, talent acquisition is a more proactive, strategic approach with an emphasis on identifying and engaging talent with the required skills to meet both current and long-term business goals.

While the talent acquisition process and strategy varies from one business to another, effective strategies often include many of the same steps.

1. Identify and expand networking opportunities

A key piece of successful talent acquisition is networking and building relationships. Maintaining a strong network of professional contacts can help your team solicit recommendations from individuals you already know and trust.

Here are a few networking opportunities to consider as a talent acquisition professional:

  • Attend HR and talent acquisition conferences
  • Join industry associations such as the Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals (ATAP) or Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM)
  • Participate in local or virtual hiring fairs
  • Expand your LinkedIn network
  • Post and engage on relevant social media channels
  • Reach out to past colleagues and candidates

While outside networking opportunities often drive successful recommendations, a top referral source can be individuals who already work for your company. When you have an open role, reach out to existing team members to ask if they know anyone who might be a fit for the position and encourage them to share roles with their networks. This also opens the door for internal candidates to consider new roles within the company that align with their skills and passions.

2. Recruit and promote

In addition to networking, another way to reach qualified talent is by promoting open roles across a variety of sourcing channels. These channels can include your company careers page, job boards, social media, and local classified ads.

To attract qualified candidates in a competitive market, top talent acquisition professionals also think outside the box when it comes to recruiting. One step you can take is expanding your search beyond exclusively full-time, in-house candidates to include independent talent.

Engaging skilled independent professionals through a work marketplace like Upwork can help your team increase your talent pool and quickly fill skills gaps, while reducing costs and scaling up and down as business needs shift over time.

Related: How Global Enterprises Are Reducing Risk Through Innovative Talent Strategies

3. Interview and evaluate candidates

Once you attract talent through various channels, the next step is interviewing and evaluating qualified candidates. For most roles, the interview process involves a few steps, such as an initial screen with the talent acquisition team, followed by a discussion with the hiring manager for the role, and peer interviews with potential team members. For leadership and other high-level roles, additional interview steps might be required along the way.

Keep in mind, if you’re hiring independent talent for a short-term project, you likely won’t need as extensive an interview process; it might require only one or two brief conversations. Through Upwork, you can use built-in collaboration tools to seamlessly conduct interviews via an Upwork video or voice call, internet phone call, or Zoom meeting.

Related: How to Hire Freelancers on Upwork: The Ultimate Guide

When specific skills or certifications are needed for workers to succeed in a given role, consider asking candidates to develop a brief presentation or complete an assessment during the interview process. This can help you gain a firsthand glimpse into their skill set, beyond simply seeing a list of skills on a resume or professional profile, or hearing about key skills during an interview.

4. Reach out to references

A final step in evaluating any candidate is the reference check stage. Professional references can verify a candidate’s job history and work ethic.

One of the top questions to ask a professional reference is whether they would rehire the candidate and why or why not. If for any reason they wouldn’t hire the candidate again, this might signal a red flag and make you reconsider extending an offer. A positive reference discussion can provide your team with added confidence in a candidate’s abilities before reaching the final offer stage.

When you ask candidates to share a list of professional references, request contacts who have worked directly with the candidate, preferably in a managerial role. If you’re engaging independent talent, consider asking for past clients as references so you can learn more about their specific skills and ability to manage independent projects.

Related: How to Effectively Screen Candidates for Your Team

5. Filter candidates and extend an offer to the best fit

Once you interview top candidates and complete any other steps, such as presentations, assessments, and reference checks, you’ll want to align with your team on a hiring decision. Consider implementing an interview scorecard to minimize bias and score all interviews on a standardized scale. Based on the initial job description and requirements you outlined upfront, extend an offer to the individual who is most qualified to succeed in the role and drive positive outcomes for your team.

As soon as you make a decision, you should move forward with the offer quickly because top candidates often balance multiple job offers at once and get hired quickly.

Related: 15 Best Practices for Hiring Top Performers

Tips to improve the talent acquisition process

According to research from hiring platform iCIMS, hiring and retention are the top challenges HR leaders face in 2023, leading many businesses to rethink their approach to talent acquisition. The talent acquisition process always has room for improvement, especially in today’s competitive hiring market.

Evolve as business needs shift

Maintaining an impactful talent acquisition process involves identifying any skills you will need across departments in the short and long term and understanding existing skill gaps.

As business needs change from one year to the next, evolving your strategy to take any emerging skills requirements into account is important. For example, if your company has plans to launch a new business unit or reach a new target market over the next year, make a list of the skills needed to reach the goals of upcoming initiatives.

As you evolve your talent acquisition strategy and process, take into consideration which skills and roles are best suited for full-time, in-house workers and which might be better for project-based work leveraging independent professionals.

Embracing independent talent can drive business agility by enabling your team to quickly and cost-effectively fill skills gaps. Our 2022 Future Workforce Report found that 79% of hiring managers that leverage independent talent believe doing so enables their business to be more innovative. Additionally, 84% say they are confident in their company’s ability to respond to disruption, compared to 69% of those who do not use independent talent.

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

Research the latest trends in the field

The talent acquisition and broader HR space is always changing. Some aspects of talent acquisition that worked a few years ago may no longer be effective, while other trends and resources will emerge that can help you improve your process.

Take remote and hybrid work, for example. While full-time, in-office roles were the norm for decades, in recent years, remote work, flexible scheduling, and adoption of independent talent have become more commonplace.

Keeping a pulse on the latest trends, emerging technology, and worker preferences can help you keep your talent acquisition strategy relevant, both now and in the future.

Related: Top HR Trends: The Latest Priorities and Concerns

Improve your online presence

Your organization’s online presence and employer brand can make or break your ability to attract and acquire qualified talent. Online sources such as your company careers page, job board listings, social media pages, and employee review sites give prospective team members a glimpse into what it might be like to work with your organization.

Improving and expanding your online presence can help your organization excite skilled professionals about joining your team. Some ways to do this include:

  • Sharing your mission and core values across online channels
  • Writing detailed job descriptions
  • Posting engaging content on social media
  • Including team member testimonials on your careers page
  • Promoting workplace awards and recognition
  • Responding to feedback on review sites

Free up some time for your talent acquisition team by enlisting outside expertise to improve your online presence. Skilled independent branding professionals are available on Upwork to help you develop a top-notch employer brand.

Related: How to Build a Successful Employer Branding Strategy

Implement succession planning

A strong talent acquisition process goes beyond bringing in skilled team members to support long-term business objectives. It also includes succession planning, which is a proactive approach to managing team member transitions.

Succession planning involves supporting workers as they transition in their careers, whether internally or outside the company. This can include providing training and resources for team members to take on new opportunities internally, as well as effective, standardized offboarding when workers leave the company. To stay on track with business goals, succession planning should also focus on having a plan in place to quickly backfill roles as needed.

Use talent acquisition software

Managing the many aspects and considerations involved in talent acquisition can be time-consuming and manual steps always pose a risk for human error. To make the process more efficient, consider using talent acquisition software.

Talent acquisition software is used by recruiting, human resources, and talent acquisition teams to automate and streamline many of the steps involved in the hiring process. Steps such as collecting applications, sending pre-screening surveys, scheduling interviews, and initiating background and reference checks can be automated using the right software.

Talent acquisition software examples include:

In addition to streamlining hiring steps, many talent acquisition software solutions also feature key metrics and insights to help talent acquisition teams understand what’s working and identify ways to improve the talent acquisition process over time. Metrics might include total number of applicants, percentage of qualified candidates, total time to hire, time spent in each hiring step, offer acceptance rate, and more.

Get help from a talent acquisition professional

A proactive and strategic approach to talent acquisition is vital to business success. Acquiring a team of skilled workers who align with your overall mission and strategy can help you drive positive business outcomes for the long run. Rather than managing talent acquisition on your own, consider Upwork to help you make the process as impactful as possible.

Skilled independent professionals are available through Project Catalog™, offering one-on-one consultations and fixed-price projects. Simply book a consultation or select a project that fits your specific needs and begin working with an 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.

Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this article. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.


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Author Spotlight

What Is Talent Acquisition? Definition and Overview
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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