As a business owner, you’ve probably heard plenty abouttalent acquisition. But you may have been lulled into thinking that you’re already engaged in the process of acquiring talent for your firm. After all, acquiring talent and recruiting are the same thing, and you’re already recruiting for positions in your firm.

This is a relatively common assumption that people make when it comes to talking about recruiting and acquiring talent, but the truth is that they are not the same thing. So, what’s the difference between talent acquisition and recruitment anyway?


Recruitment is something that almost every firm is engaged in. It encompasses the processes of sourcing, screening, interviewing, assessing, and selecting candidates for positions within your firm. In most HR circles, however, it is not considered synonymous with “talent acquisition”—it’s usually a subset of acquiring talent.


Acquiring talent, on the other hand, is a longer-term process than recruiting. Whereas recruitment tends to focus on the here and now, talent acquisition thinks more about the future. In that sense, it sees the larger picture when you’re searching for people to fill key positions within your firm. While acquisition can be used to fill just about any position, it focuses on ensuring employees will be using their skills and that those same skills will serve them in other, similar positions they may fill in the future.


Most people in HR would tell you that acquiring talent is “better” than recruiting, although that’s not quite true. While acquiring talent takes a view to the long term, which is almost always better than a short-term focus, recruitment goes hand in hand with talent acquisition. While recruitment is not necessarily talent acquisition, some portion of acquiring talent requires the same recruiting processes: seeking, screening, interviewing, assessing, and, finally, hiring candidates. While acquiring talent may have its advantages for firms, it cannot be fully separated from the work of recruiting.


The fact that recruiting cannot be fully separated from acquiring talent leads to another question: Why bother acquiring talent if you can just recruit? After all, acquiring talent focuses on the long-term, and that almost necessarily results in a longer candidate search and more rigorous screening and interviewing procedures. That means higher costs and a larger time commitment for your firm. In that case, recruiting seems like the better option—it’s faster and cheaper.

But recruiting has its drawbacks: You’re more likely to hire someone who doesn’t have the skills for the job or to hire a candidate who just isn’t a good fit for the corporate culture. Similarly, you may end up spending more time and money replacing those candidates who just don’t work out. And you may find yourself involved in a revolving door situation where employees leave on a frequent basis to seek opportunity elsewhere, because their skills simply aren’t being utilized in their jobs or because they see no opportunity for advancement with your firm.

Talent acquisition, on the other hand, looks to the future and in doing so helps employers avoid the “revolving door” phenomenon. While you might spend more time upfront seeking the right candidate, at the end of the day you know you have hired a valuable employee whose skills will serve them in their new job. You also know they’re a good fit for the corporate culture, and you’ve hired with an eye to having that same candidate fill other opportunities as they arise. That means you actually spend less time looking for candidates and training new employees over the long term.

Bruce Powell

Bruce Powell