Whether you’re inside an HR circle or outside the human resources department altogether, you may have encountered confusion not just about what talent acquisition is but about how it’s different from recruitment. Maybe it’s a point you’re not even 100% clear on yourself!

Some people are quite adamant that, at the heart of things, there really is no difference between recruiting activities and the process of acquiring talent. Others, of course, beg to differ: There really are differences between the two!


Most people can answer this question with relative ease. Recruitment is the process of hiring people to fill positions in a firm. It consists of activities such as posting a job vacancy, screening applications, interviewing candidates, and, hopefully, hiring someone at the end of the process.

Recruiting is often considered “simple” by those inside HR circles; that is to say that it’s a process that’s concerned about the here and now. The focus is on getting candidates into open positions as efficiently as possible.


All right, so if recruiting is the process of hiring, what do people mean when they talk about acquiring talent? Some people think that the process is precisely the same as recruiting; after all, when you’re acquiring talent, you’re talking about hiring people. “Talent acquisition” is just a fancy term for “recruitment,” right?

Not so! Most HR professionals will tell you that while the process of acquiring talent necessarily fulfills a lot of the same functions of recruiting—posting open positions, reviewing applications, interviewing candidates, and ultimately hiring people—that’s the nuts and bolts of acquiring talent. There’s more to it than that.


Talent acquisition does cover some of the same ground as recruitment; they both go through the steps of hiring someone to work for your company. But acquiring talent shifts the focus from the present moment to the future. While recruitment tends to focus on getting people into positions and filling vacancies as quickly as possible, acquiring talent is looking at the bigger picture.

When you’re using a strategy to acquire talent, you’re asking tough questions: Where does this person fit into our company? Will that employee “fit” the corporate culture? What skills does he or she have now that could be of use in future positions, and what skills could be developed? In five years, where will that person be in our company?

Recruiting activities often ignore these important questions—which is why recruiting tends to result in higher turnover. The people you hire through recruiting may be great employees with well-honed sets of skills, but they may not be a good fit for your corporate culture and they may not be invested in your company. In short, they might jump ship if things don’t work out—or if something better comes along.


Most HR professionals have preference for acquiring talent over simply recruiting, because talent acquisition tends to result in long-term hires and more professional development. It can also simplify the search to fill positions higher up in the chain; rather than look outside the company, HR can focus the search on internal candidates who already have incredible insight into your business.

Of course, both acquiring talent and recruiting activities have a place in any company. Acquiring talent is a time-intensive process, and you may not want to engage in it to fill a sales position during a busy selling season. Additionally, you may not be able to “plan” your workforce with as much care during busy times, and so need to shift focus to the present moment. In this sense, you need recruiting services just as much as you need talent acquisition.

Bruce Powell

Bruce Powell