Recruitment. Talent acquisition. You’ve probably heard your HR staff tossing these terms around. Or perhaps you’ve heard them from other managers, from senior personnel at other organizations, or even from respected leaders in your industry when they discuss what makes their organizations unique and successful.

If you’ve ever wondered what the difference between recruiting and acquiring talent is, you’re not alone. At first, “talent acquisition” may just seem like a fancy term for “recruitment,” and many people are quite convinced that it’s just new corporate jargon for the same old concept.


The answer to this question is a resounding no! Talent acquisition and recruitment, as any good HR professional can tell you, are not the same thing. They definitely have their similarities; for one, they’re both centred on the processes surrounding an organization’s hiring. But just because two things have some similarities doesn’t mean they’re the same. The processes of recruiting and acquiring talent are different. This is not simply a case of creatingnew jargon to give an old process a fresh paint job.


The difference between recruiting and acquiring talent is actually a fairly fundamental one, and it has to do where each places its focus. For most HR professionals, “recruitment” means hiring people for the here and now; an organization engaged in recruiting activities is interested in getting bodies to fill positions in the company as soon as possible. The process is thus focused on filling positions quickly.

If that sounds a little too pragmatic, consider talent acquisition. This process is focused not only on the here and now but on the future. Rather than just filling positions, acquiring talent requires that hiring managers take an in-depth look at the human capacity of individual job applicants. That means they must ask questions like:

  • What are the skills this candidate has now, and what skills could they develop in the future?
  • What are the career goals and aspirations of this person?
  • Where does this person fit in our organization? Where will they fit in 5 years?
  • How well does this person fit with our corporate culture?

If you want to acquire talent, you are not merely looking at someone who will suffice for the moment; you’re hoping to invest in someone who will be with your organization for the long haul!


Talent acquisition probably sounds like a much more appealing process to many people. After all, organizations always want to hire the best and brightest. The more rigorous process of acquiring talent also helps cut costs associated with turnover among new hires; more in-depth screening weeds out candidates who are likely to “just not work out” before your firm invests resources in hiring and training.

With that in mind, why would anyone keep recruiting? While the process does have some inherent flaws, it is often just as important for organizations. Talent acquisition is a time- and resource-intensive process; sometimes, you just can’t spend that kind of time or money to find the perfect person for a job. That’s especially true if you need to meet a sudden upswing in market demand or if you need to replace some frontline employees immediately, to minimize negative impacts on other staff members. In that case, temporary hiring and recruitment are more useful tools. While it’s important that recruitment is embedded within talent acquisition, both processes include steps such as posting the job, reviewing applications, selecting candidates and interviewing them, and hiring. Recruitment protocol can set up a frame of reference to be used when acquiring talent.

Bruce Powell

Bruce Powell