How’s your current talent acquisition strategy working out for you?
Are you confidently plugging the gaps in your org chart and transforming your company into a future-facing organisation filled with highly-skilled employees?
Or do you have a revolving door of talent? No sooner have you recruited an uber-qualified candidate than the person you hired last quarter resigns.
If you fall into the second category, you’re not alone. Manpower research highlights that 75% of companies struggle to hire the talent they desperately need to power ahead in the new era of work.
The talent shortage is real, and it's a problem unlikely to subside. To stay ahead of the curve, companies like yours must use a dependable talent acquisition strategy to find the most suitable candidates in the market. In this article, we’ll reveal the secret recipe for creating yours. We'll explore:
- What is a talent acquisition strategy?
- Why is talent acquisition important?
- The difference between talent acquisition and recruitment
- How to create a talent acquisition strategy framework
- Best practices for your recruitment strategy plan
- Examples of successful talent acquisition strategies
Saddle up, it’s time to get started.
What is a talent acquisition strategy?
Talent acquisition is an HR strategy that focuses on the broad goal of seeking, attracting, and hiring the best talent for your organisation.
But it doesn't stop there. A key part of your strategy will also be nurturing the talent you hire through continuous growth and development opportunities. The aim is to ensure your best people remain engaged in their work. It's about hiring and retention existing in perfect harmony, so your strategic recruitment plan serves you in the long term.
Why is talent acquisition important?
Let’s face it: a business will only ever be as good as the people it hires. As Steve Jobs famously said,
It’s not the tools you have faith in–tools are just tools–they work, or they don’t work. It’s people you have faith in or not.
By prioritising human capital, you’re investing in the future success of your company. So, it’s vital you select the right candidates to join your journey.
If you inspire candidates with your company mission and promises of development opportunities, they'll turn into employees who are passionate, productive, and motivated to achieve your business goals.
And if you’re committed to improving diversity in your workforce (which you should be), this starts with the candidates who arrive in your teams.
Rather than relying on diversity quotas or positive discrimination to try and enact change, use your talent acquisition strategy to be fairer and more inclusive, so you attract candidates from a wealth of minority backgrounds.
The difference between talent acquisition and recruitment
Talent acquisition and recruitment are two terms that are often used interchangeably, and incorrectly, even amongst HR professionals. But there are key differences between the two.
Recruitment is a short-term strategy focused on filling vacant positions as quickly as possible. It's a reactive approach – someone has quit their role, and you need to fill it, so you turn to recruitment strategies to get someone in-seat ASAP.
Talent acquisition, on the other hand, zooms out to look at the bigger picture. It takes a people-first approach, focusing on attracting, retaining, and developing talent over the long term. This means taking a proactive rather than reactive stance. You’re not waiting for people to quit before you start thinking about who to hire next – you’re getting ahead of the game.
By thinking long-term, you can avoid the talent shortages that plague so many companies. And by nurturing talent within your organisation, you’ll also reduce staff turnover and associated costs. This is a popular way of thinking – Capterra research highlights that 87% of HR leaders believe that investing in employee learning and skills development programs is a critical retention strategy.
So, should you choose talent acquisition over recruitment or vice versa? No, it doesn’t work like that. Recruitment forms part of any talent acquisition strategy – one is short-term, one is long-term, but they can and should co-exist.
If you have an urgent open vacancy, then priority no.1 will be to fill it. And you can use a strategic recruiting plan to find a suitable person.
But ideally, you'll also have a talent acquisition engine running in the background, creating a pipeline of leads to make it easier to fill those vacancies with qualified candidates the next time they crop up.
How to create a talent acquisition strategy framework
Keeping those differences between recruitment and acquisition in mind, the first stage of creating an acquisition framework is to take a methodical, calculated approach to attract people who will achieve excellence for your organisation.
1. Identify and prioritise your capability gaps
First up, take a hard look at the holes in your current organisational lineup. You'll also need a crystal ball to predict your business direction over the next few years and the talent you'll need to get from A to B.
Let’s get real: every single employee you hire won’t be equipped with every single skill you need. But what you can do is prioritise hiring people with the skills that will bring the most value to your business. Some examples?
Digital transformation is a huge concern for many companies as businesses strive to keep up with the competition and changing customer expectations.
Take, for instance, cloud adoption. We know from PwC research that there's a significant shortage of people with technical cloud skills – a problem that 42% of CHROs are concerned about due to the challenges of filling these roles. If this is a priority for you, then put it on your list.
Sustainability is another issue on talent leaders' minds, and we're seeing a growing focus on social and environmental responsibility.
Companies desperately seek employees with the green skills to understand biodiversity laws, tackle supply chain management, reduce business carbon footprints, and so much more.
LinkedIn’s Global Green Skills report highlights that 13.3% of the current marketplace is equipped with green skills. And while this is an increase of 38.5% in the five years prior, the demand for green talent is growing so rapidly that we will have a marketplace shortage from as soon as 2026.
This means that companies are desperately seeking employees with the green skills to understand biodiversity laws, tackle supply chain management, reduce business carbon footprints and so much more.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion is also a major priority for many companies, as they strive to create more balanced and equitable workplaces.
A depressing fact: the Fortune 500 list has a record-breaking number of black CEOs in charge…. but there are only six of them, including two black women!
Not only can businesses benefit from a diverse workforce at all ranks, but this is something that candidates want too. Glassdoor’s Diversity and Inclusion Workplace survey reveals that 76% of jobseekers look for a diverse workforce when evaluating companies and job offers.
Without the skills to support a diversity talent drive, we can't change this situation. Companies will continue to struggle with unconscious bias, a lack of cultural intelligence, and talent pipelines that only attract a narrow range of employees.
Prioritising talent gaps will be different for every company, but it’s important to think long-term here. What talent and skills does your company need to take advantage of upcoming opportunities or a new business area within the next 3-5 years?
2. Identify skills to bridge these gaps
After identifying your capability gaps, the next step is pinpointing the specific skills your company needs to succeed. You may need talent with excellent interpersonal skills or people who can demonstrate agility and problem-solving abilities. An effective talent strategy focuses on skills rather than qualifications, formal education, or experience.
- 3x more suitable candidates
- 4x boost in diversity
- 66% less time spent hiring
- 93% retention rate
3. Create a talent persona
If you're familiar with sales and marketing, you'll be aware of buyer personas – these are semi-fictional characters representing your target market. Talent personas work the same way for the roles you hope to fill.
Talent personas are based on your ideal candidate for a specific role and the skills and competencies you'd love them to have in their toolkit.
Remember: if you’re focused on diversity, you shouldn’t have a preference on socioeconomic background, gender, age and ethnic identity – talent personas should be based on skill sets and attitudes needed to fit the role, not physical characteristics.
4. Gather feedback about your current approach to talent acquisition
Any company that’s hired staff before will have a loose approach to hiring, even if it’s not something you’ve templatised. But when assessing your future-facing talent strategy, it’s useful to look at what’s worked well (or not) for you in the past.
Gather feedback from your Human Resources department about what candidates say throughout their application and onboarding journey. Then remember to analyse this feedback and act on it! Some crucial questions to ask:
- What’s the overall candidate experience like?
- Are candidates refusing your job offers?
- What are employees saying during their exit interviews?
- Where are the best sources of candidates?
- What feeds into an employee’s decision to stay or leave?
- What questions do candidates ask during the interview stage?
- Are potential candidates most impressed by compensation, benefits, employer brand, etc?
5. Adopt a growth mindset
Having a growth mindset is key for talent acquisition teams – you need to be proactive about exploring different talent acquisition channels and regularly review your talent strategy to make sure it’s fit for purpose in an ever-changing landscape.
Because if you've only tackled recruitment in the same way, it shouldn't come as a surprise if the applicant pool starts to run a little dry or everyone you hire looks and sounds the same!
Taking your feedback from the step above can certainly be uncomfortable. It's challenging to take a hard look at how you've done things in the past and admit your failures. But it's how to improve things in the future.
“It’s easy for companies to view the lack of diversity in tech as a pipeline problem or a legacy issue – it’s a comfortable diagnosis that would mean that it’s someone else’s problem, another area’s fault." - Laura Smith, Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at software company, Bolt
Stagnation is the enemy here. If you head to the same career fairs, use the same stale job descriptions and haven’t changed your benefits packages since before the pandemic, then you’re not going to reach that untapped market or attract those gems from minority backgrounds that your competitors already have their eye on.
6. Create your recruitment strategy plan around your business goals
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to acquiring talent. Every business has its own goals, company culture, future plans, and existing employees in the mix. And these will constantly shift in line with the changing landscape.
Your job is to develop a strategy that works for your specific business and consider any upcoming goals you already know about when planning the talent you need.
If you're going to expand into a different region, you might require talent with specific language skills or cultural experience to support you.
Or, if you're launching a new product, you might need employees with skill sets in coding or UX to accelerate growth.
7. Invest in continuous learning
Let’s say you’ve hired a candidate with the perfect blend of skills and competencies for a role in your company. Is your job done?
Well, no! Ideally, you'll hire people with a rich set of skills that can be built upon and repurposed to match the changing needs of your organisation.
By promising continuous learning opportunities, you’ll continue to distribute talent to the areas of your business that need it. But you also make your company an attractive proposition for external candidates hungry for growth.
A recent LinkedIn Workplace Learning report highlights that employees have "renewed calls for growth and purpose," with “Opportunities to learn and grow” listed as the no.1 driver of great work culture. While Monster’s Future of Work Global report also highlights skills training as one of the top three ways to win the race for talent.
8. Constantly work on employer branding
The global talent pool is made up of 30% who are actively looking for work and 70% passive candidates. So, how do you attract even those passive candidates who aren't actively looking for a new role? The answer is you’ll need a strong employer brand if you want to sway them with the right offer at the right time!
Employer branding is the way talent perceives your company as a potential employer. It encompasses everything from your website and social media presence to how you treat your employees.
Of course, you'll focus on employee retention to ensure that talent stays with your company long-term. But when you have a strong employer brand, even the talent who leaves you behind should spread the word about their positive experience working for you.
Your employer brand is a crucial part of your acquisition strategy. Glassdoor’s Mission and Culture survey finds that a whopping 79% of candidates would consider a company’s purpose before applying for a role.
1. Think like a marketing team and sell a lifestyle
Talent acquisition is much like marketing. You're selling your company culture, values, and working environment to prospective candidates in the talent marketplace.
But more than that, you're selling a lifestyle. Nope, a job isn't a new car or a house. But it is a big life decision and one that your candidates will think long and hard about before committing to. And just like buying a house or car, they'll want to visualise themselves in the role before they sign your contract.
When 'selling' a job, you're also selling:
- the team they'll work with
- the product or service they'll be working on
- the employee benefits they'll enjoy
- the identity that comes with the role
- the salary you’ll pay them.
So, for each job opportunity you promote, consider who you'd like to attract to ensure your job description speaks to your target audience.
Let's say you're hoping to attract more women to your company. Your ad should showcase your commitment to flexible working or your equal pay and parental leave policies. On the flip side, job descriptions that demand frequent travel may be less likely to appeal to working parents.
2. Take a data-driven approach to your job ads
Marketing and sales teams wouldn’t dream of going into a meeting without understanding their target audience inside out. And the same goes for hiring.
The good news: hard data (see below) can optimise your job ads and attract the most suitable candidates to your role.
- Use a text analysis tool to reduce gender-coded language. Applied flags the masculine and feminine word count of your text to make your ads more neutral and inclusive.
- Keep the job description text length between 300 to 800 words. LinkedIn data suggests that shorter ads receive 8.4% more applications.
- Analyse the reading burden of your job to make sure you’re not just appealing to people with PhDs. If in doubt, use plain, simple language and kill the buzzwords!
- Include a video in your job post to increase applications by 34%.
Need a pointer? Check out this inclusive job description template to get you started.
3. Decide where to promote your job opportunities
There's a talent war out there, and multiple companies often approach the most qualified candidates. To make sure your company stands out, you need to be strategic about where you post your job opportunities.
Your talent acquisition strategy can include a mix of both online and offline job postings.
A popular job board attracts plenty of views but can be expensive. To promote a sponsored ad on Indeed, you should budget as high as $499 for a single post. This may sound expensive but be aware that women are more likely than men to use job boards in their job search, while men favour networking opportunities.
Another great option is niche job boards that can attract high quality diverse candidates. Check out some options here:
Top tip: attach UTM links to each job board URL to track which of your ads yield the best results.
Building talent pipelines can happen online via social platforms like LinkedIn or offline at events like talent meetups or even good old-fashioned face-to-face coffee catch-ups. In terms of diversity, talent meetups for women, people of colour, and LGBTQ+ talent are a great way to get in front of people that may not be actively job-seeking but could be interested in hearing about your company.
Another option is to consider setting up an employee referral program. After all, it makes sense that solid employees might know other contacts who would excel at your company.
Employee referral programs can be super effective in getting talent through the door.
But they can also damage diversity hiring if you're just hiring more of the same (think white males!)
This is the basis of affinity bias, where we're preconditioned to favour people who remind us of ourselves, perhaps because they look like us, live in the same neighbourhood, are a similar age, or attended the same college.
To counteract this, you can set referral bonuses for employees who successfully refer talent from underrepresented groups.
4. Set talent acquisition metrics for success
Data should be at the heart of every talent acquisition strategy. By understanding which recruitment channels deliver the best results, you can focus your budget and efforts on the areas with the most significant impact.
You can use data to track every talent acquisition metric imaginable, from cost-per-hire to time-to-fill, quality-of-hire, and even employee retention rates. But which talent acquisition metrics should you be monitoring?
The answer, of course, depends on your business goals. But as a general rule of thumb, you should always track the following:
- application rates
- employee retention rates
- candidate experience
- employee experience
- diversity of candidates
- candidate sources.
5. Prioritise candidate experience
In a jobseeker's market, candidates are juggling multiple offers, so your company must stand out from the crowd.
Take the story of job seeker Charles Campbell who sent out 30 applications for sales, customer relations, and HR positions, attended 7 interviews, and received 3 job offers!
This story is far from unusual. Data from ZipRecruiter also confirms that candidates have the upper hand, with 20% of jobseekers juggling 2-3 job offers and 5% receiving 4+ job offers.
To make sure you're the employer of choice, deliver an outstanding candidate experience from start to finish, including:
- Strong communication throughout all stages, from scheduling interviews to onboarding – don't leave your candidates hanging if you don’t want them to entertain other offers.
- A positive interview experience - ensure your interviewer is well prepared and ready to sell your company.
- A fair and transparent hiring process - explain what is entailed, and outline how you eliminate bias from your process, for example, by using blind hiring.
- Be flexible - things come up, so if your candidate must reschedule an interview, be accommodating and offer a video call.
- Simplify the hiring process, so the best candidates don't lose interest.
- Make sure the process is mobile-friendly – some 90% of job seekers search for a job from their mobile device.
Examples of successful talent acquisition strategies
So, who's doing a great job of talent acquisition, and what tips can we learn from these companies? Here's some inspiration!
Pinterest’s diversity referral program
Pinterest has long been ahead of the game with its approach to employee referral and creates an open dialogue with current employees about the importance of diverse hiring. This allows them to feel connected to the company's overall mission – improving company culture and performance with a rich mix of employees.
Pinterest has set up a referral program that challenges employees to refer candidates from underrepresented backgrounds. As well as a 24% increase in female referrals, Pinterest has also seen a 55x percentage increase in the number of referred candidates from underrepresented backgrounds.
Spreetail’s commitment to candidate experience
This eCommerce solution has improved its candidate experience by distributing CX surveys to potential candidates, good fits for open vacancies, and passed-on prospects to track and improve its Net Promoter Score.
Spreetail has learned that rejected candidates want better feedback about the hiring decision to understand where they could improve. By delivering what candidates asked for, Spreetail has grown its NPS score and builds long-term relationships with the non-hired talent to consider them for future opportunities.
Atlassian’s Talent Community development
Atlassian is one of the tech industry's most prominent talent attractors and has built its opt-in Talent Community, filled with members who receive a bi-monthly newsletter.
Atlassian’s talent acquisition pros access the community to find leads and identify the most suitable candidates for open vacancies. As of 2021, the Atlassian Talent Community has more than 13,000 active members, and Atlassian has hired 300 of them!
Level up your talent acquisition strategy with Applied
If you’ve taken an honest look at your approach to workforce planning and realise it leaves a lot to be desired, there’s an easier way to entice top calibre candidates to work for you.
Forget about using the same old tried and tested methods that only produce average results. To access a goldmine of talent, use a platform like Applied to simplify the hiring process and add strength in depth to your applicant pool.
Applied was built to reduce recruitment bias and takes a skill-based approach to talent acquisition. Our platform allows hiring managers to easily source the right talent for their business needs, safe in the knowledge that they're proactively creating a more diverse talent pipeline.
Applied is the essential platform for fairer hiring. Purpose-built to make hiring ethical and predictive, our platform uses anonymised applications and skills-based assessments to improve diversity and identify the best talent.