What is talent acquisition?


Talent acquisition is the umbrella term for the strategies, tactics and processes involved in identifying, recruiting and retaining the ideal workforce.

Talent acquisition is a strategic approach to identifying, assessing and acquiring new employees. While talent acquisition is often used interchangeably with recruitment, the terms represent two very different techniques. While recruitment focuses on filling immediate vacancies, talent acquisition is more forward-thinking and considers a candidate’s long-term potential within the organisation.  

With talent acquisition, the aim is to identify individuals who have the potential to grow and may go on to assume leadership roles or drive innovation in the future. By adopting a talent acquisition approach, organisations prioritise hiring candidates who align with their long-term vision and can make a lasting impact on the company's success.  

History of talent acquisition  

Before the 19th century, work was primarily skills-based, artisanal in nature and passed down from generation to generation or learned through apprenticeships. There was therefore little need for structured recruitment processes as we know them today. It was not until the industrial revolution, which created the need for large labour pools, that rudimentary recruitment methods began to emerge.  

In the late 20th century, recruitment expanded beyond simply filling job vacancies. Organisations started to recognise the importance of talent acquisition, which involved identifying high-potential individuals, developing their skills and retaining them for long-term success.  

Shortly after, advancements in technology and the internet helped revolutionise talent acquisition practices. Online job boards, professional networking platforms and applicant tracking systems (ATS) made it easier to advertise job openings, search for candidates and manage the recruitment process efficiently. Automation tools and algorithms also enabled the screening and filtering of candidate applications. 

Today, talent acquisition has evolved to include building a strong employer brand, engaging passive candidates, nurturing talent pipelines and aligning recruitment efforts with long-term business objectives. 

Recent trends in talent acquisition  

Technology-driven talent acquisition 

In recent years, companies have been leveraging technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, to enhance their talent acquisition efforts. This includes using AI-powered tools and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) for CV screening, AI chatbots for initial candidate interactions and data analytics for better decision making. Social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, have also become a powerful tool in talent acquisition as they allow recruiters to connect with potential candidates and build relationships with passive talent. 

Global Talent Acquisition 

With the rise of hybrid and remote work following the Covid-19 pandemic, talent pools have expanded significantly and are no longer bound by location. As such, many companies have started prioritising global talent acquisition to diversify their teams and adapt to changing market conditions. Virtual recruiting, including online interviews and onboarding, has helped make this possible and is now the norm within many organisations. 

Soft skills 

Many companies are now prioritising soft skills, alongside academic qualifications and work experience, within the recruitment process. This is due to an increasing recognition among employers that practical, job-ready skills are often just as important as formal qualifications. According to a recent study by Indeed, 87% of employers favour a positive attitude over qualifications, and value soft skill characteristics, such as a candidate’s passion, work ethic and willingness to learn.  

Employer brand 

Organisations have started focusing more on building and promoting their employer brand to attract and retain top talent in recent years. This involves highlighting company culture, employee experiences and offering a compelling value proposition. 

Advantages of talent acquisition  

  • Talent acquisition helps companies attract and acquire top talent 
  • Talent acquisition is a more proactive approach and allows companies to anticipate future talent needs, identify skills gaps and strategically plan for the future  
  • Talent acquisition initiates a growth mindset within the company 
  • Recruiting individuals with the potential for growth allows companies to tailor their professional development to company needs  

Disadvantages of talent acquisition  

  • As talent acquisition is a long-term strategy, it may not solve immediate problems or skills gaps 
  • Individuals may not stay with the company long enough to reach their full potential 

Use Case

Space X, founded by Elon Musk, is a private aerospace manufacturer and space transportation company. It focuses on developing advanced technologies for space exploration, including the design and manufacturing of launch vehicles, spacecraft and related systems. 

Space X places great emphasis on talent acquisition to fuel its innovative projects and actively seeks out highly skilled people to join its team. Unlike many companies, however, SpaceX uses the ‘two-hand test’ to find top talent. This talent acquisition approach qualifies candidates through first-hand experience and hands-on testing and therefore removes traditional gatekeepers, such as educational background.  

By assessing factors like real-world experience and soft skills (creativity, emotional intelligence, resilience, etc.), the two-hand test considers a candidate’s potential in a way that the traditional recruitment system may overlook. And it recognises that the most qualified candidates may be those who lack a degree but excel within their specialised field. This approach shows that SpaceX is interested in finding the best candidates with the highest potential – regardless of any traditional barriers that may otherwise hold them back.