Chris Russell

4 min read


The Talent Acquisition Process Explained

The talent acquisition process may be the most important of all an organization’s human resources functions. As every CEO knows, having the right people in the right jobs is the most essential ingredient for success.

Yet building a talent acquisition process that consistently delivers the right people is far from easy. It’s a process with as many parts that need to work together as smoothly as a fine watch, and it can be just as delicate. 

In the broadest sense, these parts fall into just a few key steps: marketing, recruiting, qualifying, interviewing, selecting and onboarding. Depending on the size of the organization, each of these steps will have multiple parts. Yet every talent acquisition process starts, or should, with a strategic plan and objectives, as the  Society for Human Resource Management describes in its A Guide to Understanding and Managing the Recruitment Process.


The goal of recruitment marketing is to stimulate job seeker interest in the company, a job and often both. Employer branding gives potential candidates a look at the company’s management style and what it might be like to work there.

Sometimes described as sourcing or lead generation, at its simplest, this step in the talent acquisition process involves advertising available jobs by posting them to the company career site and externally to commercial job boards. 

Recruiters will also seek referrals from company employees and may also search online networks like LinkedIn and resume databases find candidates. 

Prior to launching a search, a recruiter will meet with the hiring managers to learn what skills, experience and other attributes candidates should have. During this step of the process, the recruiter and hiring manager will also discuss the type of personality that will be a good fit with the team.


While it’s common to refer to the entire talent acquisition process as recruiting, increasingly it is considered a distinct step. It overlaps with marketing to the extent that the employer brand plays an important part in enticing candidates to apply. 

The recruiter’s job here is to sort through the applications to identify those that best meet the job requirements and interest them in the opportunity. Compensation, benefits, the company culture and other factors, such as whether the job is remote or on-site all play a role in getting those candidates to move on to an interview.

Recruiters will hold an initial phone call – a phone screen, sometimes done by wideo – with each of their top choices. The purpose is to assess their interest, clarify or supplement their resume and get a sense of how well they are likely to fit in. At the same time, the recruiter will also be “selling” the company and the job to the candidate.


Qualifying a candidate before scheduling an interview can be as simple as ensuring they have the required licenses and documentation for the job. Or it can involve testing, completing sample assignments, job simulations and other objective methods of ensuring a candidate has the necessary skills. Many companies also include personality tests as part of the qualifying process.

Thousands of different tests and assessments are available from dozens of independent companies, nearly all of which are offered online. Testing is especially common for software and related technical jobs. Many customer service jobs require potential hires to participate in a simulated customer calls.


There are many different types of interviews. Most often, hiring managers will meet one-on-one with candidates. However, there are also interviews with a panel, sequential interviews that include a candidate’s future colleagues. Since the pandemic  interviews have become more common, particularly for remote jobs.

A company’s talent acquisition process may require structured interviews in which each candidate is asked the same questions, then scored on their responses. This reduces the possibility of bias in the selection process and makes comparisons easy. 

Behavioral interviews help an interviewer discover how a candidate is likely to act in the future, based on specific examples of what they’ve done in current and previous positions. 

Recruiters rarely participate in interviews, though they may help hiring managers and interview panels with questions and methods. In most cases, they also debrief interviewers and will review the responses and interview scores.

Recruiters will also connect with the candidate to get their feedback and reaction. At this stage, it’s not uncommon for a candidate to drop out. 


The last step before making an offer is to check references. The goal is to get a candid appraisal of the candidate’s performance, teamwork and working style from their current employer. This step in the talent acquisition process can be especially challenging because so many companies limit the release of information

Where a hiring manager has a personal connection, they may be the ones to do the reference check. A previous employer may be more willing to offer an assessment.

Choosing from among the group of finalists is rarely easy. It often happens that two or three candidates are all highly qualified and each is an excellent choice. With labor in short supply, some companies will make an offer to each, rather than lose them to a competitor.

When making an offer to only one, wait until the offer is accepted before notifying the runners up. Candidates often will reject an offer, choosing to accept a counteroffer from their current employer. You talent acquisition process should plan for this possibility by having the recruiter and hiring manager keep in close and regular contact with each finalist. 


This is the final step in the talent acquisition process, and one of the more crucial. It’s also the one most frequently taken for granted. Too many companies see this as a formality, limiting the involvement of human resources to having the new hire fills out all forms, signs up for benefits, scheduled raining and similar administrative details

More progressive organizations see onboarding as a long-term strategy for the success of the new worker. With these companies, onboarding has managers meeting weekly with new hire for the first two or three months to discuss their progress, set goals and to provide coaching.


No talent acquisition process can be considered complete without a regular review of metrics. This is an ongoing profess, rather than a separate or distinct step.

There are dozens of measures recruiters use to track the success of the recruiting program. Time to hire, cost of hire, source of hire, offer acceptance and retention are just a few of the more common metrics. One of the newest and arguably the most valuable, is tracking the performance of a new hire. 

Together these metrics don’t just report on the success of a talent acquisition process, they inform the strategy for improvement.

The steps we outline here are just the basics of what is required for a strong and successful talent acquisition program. Each step has multiple ingredients. What’s right and works for one company will almost certainly be different for another. The best will reflect the needs and strategic goals of their organization.

Contribution by John Zappe

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