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Difference Between: Recruitment, Talent Acquisition, & Sourcing

A breakdown of the functions and priorities that differentiate TA, Recruitment, and sourcing

Alina Neverova
Talent Acquisition Expert with 6+ years of experience
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In the world of human resources, there are three key terms that are often used interchangeably: talent acquisition, recruitment, and sourcing. However, while these terms are related, they each have distinct differences that are important for organizations to understand.

In this article, we will examine the differences between talent acquisition and recruitment, as well as how these functions differ from candidate sourcing. We will also explore how these functions can co-exist and work together to support an organization's hiring goals. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of these key HR concepts and how they can impact your organization's ability to attract and retain top talent.

In This Article


Table of comparison for talent acquisition, recruitment, and candidate sourcing

The Essential Difference Between Talent Acquisition and Recruitment

Understanding the differences between a talent acquisition strategy and a recruitment strategy is essential for any HR professional who is responsible for attracting, hiring, and retaining top talent.

While both functions are focused on bringing in new hires, talent acquisition is a more strategic and long-term process that involves building relationships with candidates and developing a strong employer brand. On the other hand, recruitment is a more tactical process that involves screening and selecting candidates based on specific job requirements and immediate hiring needs.

By nature, the KPIs that indicate successful recruitment efforts are more short-term than KPIs we would use to measure successful talent acquisition efforts.

What is Talent Acquisition?

Talent acquisition is the process of identifying, attracting, and hiring top talent to meet an organization's staffing needs. Unlike traditional recruitment, which is often reactive and focused on filling immediate vacancies, talent acquisition is a proactive and strategic function of human resources.

Talent acquisition involves building relationships with potential candidates, building avenues where candidates can enter a general talent pool (by expressing interest in working for the company), and developing a strong employer brand.

The 5 Top Functions of Talent Acquisition

The biggest areas of responsibility for Talent Acquisition could be summarized as follows:

1. Employer brand

Talent Acquisition specialists are responsible for crafting the company's message to potential employees, which can be a key factor in attracting top talent. According to a survey by Glassdoor, a strong employer brand is the most important factor for jobseekers when considering a new job, even more so than salary and benefits.

Job seekers research companies before expressing interest in working for them. They are especially interested in what past employees, past candidates, and the current workforce shares about their experience. Therefore, a company’s employer brand is directly dependent on the employee experience and the candidate experience offered.

2. Internal mobility

Talent Acquisition specialists ensure that existing employees have access to opportunities for career development and advancement. This can boost employee engagement, reduce turnover, and help companies retain their top talent.

When organizations invest in internal mobility programs, retention benefits. Employees who foresee career growth at their current employer stay almost two times longer on average, according to MatcHR's annual report.

3. Recruitment Marketing

This area involves developing targeted campaigns to reach potential candidates.

Recruitment marketing efforts can include social recruiting, job fairs, and other events. The effort that goes into promoting your company as an employer is as much of an investment as marketing the product or service you offer— and must therefore show comparable returns.

4. Hiring Strategy and Planning

Talent Acquisition specialists are responsible for developing a hiring strategy and plan that aligns with the company's overall goals and objectives. They work with department heads and hiring managers to forecast talent needs and plan for future growth. An important part of this is succession planning to ensure operations carry on when key employees are promoted, retire, or decide to leave.

Leveraging people data and analytics to do these kinds of workforce projections is an essential factor in what differentiates strategic, data-driven HRM from traditional HR which mainly acted as a support function to staffing needs.

5. Headhunting and Sourcing

Talent Acquisition specialists are tasked with identifying and approaching potential candidates who may not be actively looking for a job. This involves using a variety of techniques, including networking, cold calling, and using social media, to build relationships with the right talent who are aligned with business needs. We discuss sourcing in more detail below.

A recruiter interviewing a potential candidate for a vacant position.

What is Recruitment?

Recruitment is the process of identifying and hiring new employees to fill specific job openings within an organization. It typically involves advertising job openings, reviewing resumes and applications, and conducting interviews to identify the best talent within an applicant pool.

4 Key Differentiators that Set Recruitment Apart from Talent Acquisition

While talent acquisition and recruitment are related, there are some key differences between the two:

1. Primary Focus

Talent acquisition is a long-term strategic approach that focuses on building relationships with potential candidates and developing a strong employer brand.

Recruitment is a more tactical approach that focuses on filling specific job openings with qualified candidates.

2. Proactivity vs. Reactivity

Talent acquisition is a proactive approach that involves sourcing potential candidates before specific job openings arise.

Recruitment is more reactive. Typically, recruitment starts to gather a talent pool of potential candidates after a job opening has been created.

3. Employer Branding and Marketing

Talent acquisition is often centered around building and promoting an organization's employer brand to attract an inward flow of top talent.

Recruitment is primarily focused on filling specific job openings by reaching out to established or new talent pools.

4. Relationship Building

Talent acquisition involves building relationships with a range of potential candidates over time.

A recruitment process typically involves evaluating candidates based on their qualifications for a specific job opening.

A talent acquisition specialist overseeing the candidate experience.

Examples:

Here are some practical examples of responsibilities that illustrate the differences between talent acquisition and recruitment:

  • A talent acquisition team might attend industry conferences and meetups to network and build employer brand awareness with potential candidates.
  • A recruitment team might focus on advertising specific job openings and reviewing resumes.
  • A talent acquisition team might create content and share it on social media to promote the organization's employer brand and company culture with the purpose of attracting potential candidates.
  • A recruitment team might use job boards to advertise specific job openings. They would also use specialized recruiting software to manage a candidate pipeline.
  • A talent acquisition team might use data and analytics to track and measure the effectiveness of their employee experience over time. These include attrition, retention, and the company’s employee net promoter score (eNPS).
  • A recruitment team might measure success by how quickly and efficiently vacancies are filled. Typical metrics for recruitment are pass rate, time to fill, and cost per hire.
A candidate sourcing specialist identifying top talent with sourcing tools.

How Talent Acquisition and Recruitment Differ from Candidate Sourcing

What is Candidate Sourcing?

Candidate sourcing is a specialized function within the Talent Acquisition process that involves proactively identifying and engaging with potential job candidates. This includes external candidates (at other companies), and internal candidates who are available for inward mobility (promotions, transfers, etc.)

Sourcing specialists use technical skills and creative strategies to identify and attract top talent, who may not be actively looking for employment opportunities, to a company.

Many professionals and companies mistakenly see sourcing as a starting point for a career in recruiting. However, sourcing requires a specialized skill set and experience, and the role is a fulfilling and rewarding career in its own right.

4 Skills and Tasks Unique to Candidate Sourcing

1. Technical Skills

Sourcing specialists work with large amounts of data and use a variety of candidate sourcing tools and techniques, such as Chrome extensions, data scraping software, and AI recruiting tools, to identify and engage with potential candidates. Some sourcing specialists even learn to write code that allows them to create unique, personalized tools to automate candidate search processes.

2. Creative Skills

People responsible for sourcing are responsible for creating compelling job descriptions and inviting messages that attract the attention of potential candidates. Creativity is used to experiment with the themes of emails, as well as the creative assets that accompany them.

3. Attention to Detail

Sourcing must be highly attentive and detail-oriented, conducting extensive research to find the best candidates for a specific position or company.

4. Analytical skills

Sourcing specialists track response rates and conversion rates for candidates who progress further in the hiring pipeline. They use this data to refine their sourcing strategies and improve their overall hiring performance.

One key difference between candidate sourcing specialists and talent acquisition specialists is that sourcing focuses primarily on the early stages of the hiring pipeline— identifying and engaging with potential candidates.

Both recruiters and talent acquisition specialists, on the other hand, are responsible for managing the entire hiring process, from screening and interviewing candidates to negotiating job offers and managing a new hire’s onboarding.

An integrated team of talent acquisition, candidate sourcing, and recruitment specialists.

How These Functions Co-Exist

While effective talent acquisition, recruitment, and sourcing are distinct functions within an organization's HR department, they often work together in a complementary way to achieve the organization's staffing goals.

Talent acquisition, recruitment, and sourcing can be seen as a continuum, with talent acquisition at one end, focused on long-term strategic planning and relationship building, and recruitment at the other end, focused on filling immediate vacancies.

Candidate sourcing falls somewhere in between, with a focus on identifying and attracting the best potential candidates.

Examples:

Here are some examples of how organizations can integrate talent acquisition, recruitment, and sourcing:

Cross-functional collaboration: By encouraging communication and collaboration between talent acquisition, recruitment, and sourcing teams, organizations can ensure that all three functions are working towards the same goals and objectives.

Data-driven decision-making: By using data and analytics to track and measure the effectiveness of their hiring strategies, organizations can make more informed decisions about how to allocate their resources and improve their hiring outcomes.

Proactive candidate engagement: By using a proactive approach to engaging with potential candidates, organizations can develop a robust talent pipeline and improve their chances of making successful hires over the long term.

Communication and Collaboration Between the Functions

Effective communication and collaboration between talent acquisition, recruitment, and sourcing teams is critical for achieving the organization's staffing goals.

For alignment in the operations of the three functions, there must also be alignment in their goals. These can be broken into immediate needs, long-term objectives for an ongoing strategy, and a shared ideal of what the organization’s workforce should ideally look like.

By working together to develop a comprehensive and cohesive approach to attracting and hiring top talent, organizations can improve their chances of making successful hires and achieving long-term success in today's highly competitive job market.

Conclusion

In this article, we've explored the differences between talent acquisition, recruitment, and sourcing. We've done a talent acquisition vs. recruitment comparison and seen that:

  • Talent acquisition is a proactive and strategic approach to attracting and hiring top talent, while
  • Recruitment is a more tactical and reactive approach focused on filling specific job openings.
  • And that candidate sourcing falls somewhere in between, with a focus on identifying and engaging with potential candidates who may not have applied for an open position.

We've also seen how these functions can work together in a complementary way to achieve the organization's staffing goals.

Recruiting and hiring top talent is one of the most important tasks for any organization. In the end, all three functions strive for the highest possible quality of hire. By building a comprehensive and cohesive approach to hiring that integrates these functions, organizations can improve their chances of making successful hires and achieving their overall business and talent management objectives.

Alina Neverova
Talent Acquisition Expert with 6+ years of experience
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Alina Neverova is the Head of Talent Acquisition at OBRIO, a Ukrainian IT company based in Kyiv. With over 6 years of experience in recruiting, Alina has worked with top international companies from Fortune 500 list, starting her career in a recruiting agency before moving to IT 4 years ago.

In her current role, Alina has successfully built recruiting processes from scratch, hired over 120 specialists in 2 years, and built a strong recruiting team that has helped OBRIO's parent company R&D project become a full-fledged independent business.

Alina's areas of expertise include building hiring strategy, training and hiring recruiting teams, hiring planning, automation of sourcing processes, and recruiting analytics. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Administrative management from the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine

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