The Ultimate Guide to Building a Talent Acquisition Strategy

interview handshake
By Joe Sharpe | 06/08/2022 | 22 min read

Even before The Great Resignation entered into our collective vocabulary, the recruitment, hiring, and retention of employees was a pivotal part of growing any successful business. 

With an unprecedented job market, however, quality talent acquisition is more important than ever. As the job market floods with millions of applicants, businesses must be able to identify and nurture top candidates. Similarly, with over 11 million job postings each month, employers must also be able to attract prospective hires in the first place. 

How do we navigate this new environment? By developing a talent acquisition strategy.

In this article we will provide an ultimate guide to developing your business’s talent acquisition strategy, including defining key metrics, exploring potential blueprints, and more.


What is Talent Acquisition?

Within the business world, talent acquisition is the process of sourcing, evaluating, and selecting quality candidates for available positions. 

While often thought to be a synonym for recruiting, attracting talent is just one of the many parts of the talent acquisition process. Along with recruitment, talent acquisition encompasses employer branding, lead generation, interviews and assessments, onboarding, and more.

Generally speaking, talent acquisition strategies are developed to:

  • Develop a long term talent pipeline
  • Position the company as an attractive employer
  • Identify ideal candidates in terms of cultural fit and experience
  • Design roles for compelling candidates
  • Assess applying candidates for roles within the organization

It’s important to note, however, that talent acquisition is not just a Human Resources-related process. Departments such as public relations, sales, and learning and development all play key roles in helping attract top talent too. As a result, most companies form an independent talent acquisition team whose members have experience across multiple disciplines.

The Stages of Talent Acquisition

Because talent acquisition encompasses multiple different focuses, businesses must first understand the process itself before developing a strategy. Businesses should tailor each stage towards their specific needs, capabilities, and preferences.

In this section we will give an overview of each stage in a typical talent acquisition process.

Design a talent acquisition plan

Predictably, all strong talent acquisition strategies start with designing and implementing a plan. Although each business’s talent acquisition plan will differ, there is one key element that every employer should consider when developing their own: their company goals.

A company’s talent acquisition strategy must align with their current and future business goals.

team planning

Typically, these goals are reflected in the company’s growth strategy, which summarizes the overall addition of roles or departments within the organization. Generally, strong talent acquisition plans are consistent with the growth strategy of the company, as the latter provides a blueprint for the former.

A proper talent acquisition plan will reflect the current workforce planning and relevant goals of the business. It will also outline ways to evaluate and improve the process, including assessment procedures and key analytics. 

Lead generation

Within the world of talent acquisitions, job candidates are essentially leads. Instead of selling a product or service, however, companies look to attract, hire, and retain prospective employees.

Cultivating and nurturing prospective hires is the first actionable step in the talent acquisition process. While methods will differ by industry and business, there are many common lead generation tactics. This includes:

  • Social Networks (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Job Posting Platforms (ZipRecruiter, Indeed, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Industry Events (conferences, seminars, expos, job fairs, etc.)
  • Internal Hirings (promotions, department changes, etc.)
  • Paid advertising (Google, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Employee Referral Programs

Alone, these tactics can generate large talent pools, though the quality of applicants can range. To better manage the lead generation process, businesses can use talent acquisition software solutions, which are covered later in this guide.

Recruit and attract candidates

While lead generation can bring candidates in droves, the passive approach is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to talent acquisition. 

Along with generating leads, businesses should also try to attract ideal candidates for their open positions through a recruiting process. These efforts, called recruiting, are relatively similar to lead generation tactics, though they require more active participation. For example, like lead generation, recruitment is also done on LinkedIn, though typically through direct messages instead of public posts.

review resume

Regardless of the approach, talent teams should focus their recruitment on highlighting the company’s brand, the position’s opportunities, the organization’s culture, and any other things that may attract a prospective hire.

When recruiting, talent acquisition teams shouldn’t limit themselves to candidates that are actively looking for a career change. Instead, they should reach out and gauge the interest of potential prospects, even if it’s just a brief message. At minimum, a solid recruitment effort could plant the seed of applying in the future.

Talent acquisition teams can also look inward and recruit candidates from within the company.

Interview and Assessment

After receiving applications through lead generation and recruiting, companies should then shift their focus to the interview and assessment of their candidates. 

How a company interviews their candidate will largely depend on the type of role being interviewed for. For example, a highly technical position, like software development, may require multiple skill assessments, while entry level sales positions may require a single interview.

Regardless of the individual company’s process, every interview and assessment should look to evaluate an employee’s skills, experience, personality, and cultural fit.


Often overlooked, employers should also ensure their interview process provides applicants with a positive experience. Long applications, excessive interviews, unnecessary assessments, and negative interactions can all lead to a negative perception of the company. At their worst, poor experiences can lead prospects to reject offers or abandon the process before completion. 

Finding a healthy balance between a thorough assessment process and a taxing interview experience should be a top priority for talent acquisition professionals.

Evaluate References

While interviews and assessments are instrumental in selecting the ideal candidate, talent acquisition teams should not skip evaluating an applicant's references – even for obvious home runs.

Checking an applicant's references can uncover potential concerns or considerations that may impact a hiring decision, such as behavioral histories or misrepresentations of their previous work. Because interviews rely on the honesty of the candidate, references can be key to confirming the quality of an applicant.

Importantly, however, is to not require too many references. While more references can provide a clearer picture of a candidate, excess requirements can cause applicants to grow frustrated with the interview process, withdraw their application, or even reject an offer.

Three to five references is generally considered to be the norm.

Select Candidate

Depending on the quality of your applicants, selecting a candidate can be either the easiest or hardest step in the talent acquisition process.

When choosing a candidate, employers should take into consideration multiple factors, such as the applicant’s skill and experience, as well as how their personality fits with company culture. Other factors like salary requirements and long-term potential should be considered as well, especially with multiple qualified candidates.

selecting a new hire

For many businesses, the interview process may involve multiple different employees, especially those with multiple assessments. As a result, it can be difficult to track the feedback and evaluations made by each team member.

To improve their evaluation and selection process, businesses of all sizes can use talent acquisition software solutions to centralize all feedback and rank candidates.

Hire and Onboard

After selecting their candidate, companies of course need to offer them a position. If the candidate agrees to the offer, then they are officially hired.

After they accept, talent acquisition teams can immediately begin the onboarding process.

Generally, the onboarding process begins with basic operational paperwork, such as reading the employee handbook, submitting payroll information, and verifying work eligibility. It’s not uncommon for businesses to require new hires complete these more tedious tasks before their first day – often called “pre-onboarding.”

selecting their candidate

A well-developed onboarding process will help introduce the employee to the company, engage in the culture, and prepare for their full-time responsibilities. Easy-to-follow tutorials, training sessions, one-on-one meetings, mentorships, and resource centers are just a few examples of onboarding tactics.

It’s important to not underestimate the importance of developing an effective onboarding process – according to a Jobvite, 33% of new hires quit within their first 90 days, with poor onboarding being a large reason.

Each employer’s onboarding process will, of course, differ. As a result, talent acquisition teams should look to tailor their onboarding to their specific company, as well as regularly assess and update the process.

Assess and Adapt Talent Acquisition Process

No matter how successful a talent acquisition process is, it’s important for teams to routinely review and improve their practices.

When businesses analyze their talent funnel they should examine every stage, looking for feedback from those involved. Evaluating the talent acquisition process can uncover an abundance of information, including which channels drive the most talented candidates, which recruiters have the most success, and which methods generate the most leads. It also can identify problematic parts of the process, which should then be improved.

After assessing the talent acquisition process, teams should look to make adaptations. This may be as small as changing the platforms used for recruiting or as large as a complete overhaul. 

Key Talent Acquisition Metrics

In order to execute a successful talent acquisition strategy, businesses should regularly evaluate their processes with key performance indicators (KPIs). While these KPIs will differ by company and industry, there are few common metrics every business should know.

Common key metrics for evaluating talent acquisition strategies are:

Time to Fill

As the name applies, time to fill measures the length of time it takes to fill open positions in a company. This time period includes anything between the opening of the position to the hiring of the employee, including recruitment, interviews, and negotiations.

To calculate time to fill, simply divide the total number of days of open jobs by the total number of jobs open in a given period.

Average Time to Fill = Total Number of Days of Open Jobs / Total Number of Jobs Open

There is no standard duration for businesses, as each industry differs in their respective hiring procedures. Still, SHRM’s Talent Acquisition Benchmarking Report found the average time to fill is approximately 36 days. 

While having periods of open positions is expected for every business, improving time to fill can still have significant benefits. This includes:

  • Improved productivity for hiring managers
  • Higher retention of top prospects
  • Reduced transition times for existing teams
  • Reduced costs related to the talent acquisition process

Of course, while time to fill is a valuable statistic, quality hires should be priority over pure efficiency.

Cost Per Hire

Cost Per Hire measures the average expense for filling a position within a company. 

This metric takes into account all costs within the talent acquisition process, including travel costs, marketing expenses, sourcing costs, administrative fees, and more. Both internal and external costs are included in this measurement.


Finding the cost per hire for a single role is relatively straightforward: simply determine all costs relevant to the filled position and add them together. To measure average cost per hire across an entire department or organization, simply add all costs together and divide by new hires.

Average Cost Per Hire = (Internal Acq. Costs + External Acq. Costs) / (Total Positions Filled)

As one can expect, the longer it takes to fill a position, the greater the total cost will be. As a result, cost per hire and time to fill are closely related.

Quality of Hire

While efficiency and cost are important, hiring high quality candidates is the overwhelming priority primary goal for the talent acquisition process.

Unlike the previous KPIs, this metric is largely quantitative. As a result, calculating the quality of hire for a role requires a bit more work.

In order to measure the quality of an employee’s work, employers should establish measurable standards of quality. This can be as simple as setting benchmarks for quantifiable performance metrics, which would represent levels of quality. If these standards are surpassed then a new hire would be considered satisfactory.

Common quantifiable performance metrics include: 

  • Performance reviews
  • Total output
  • Hiring manager satisfaction
  • Time employed
  • Employee absenteeism
  • Employer Net Promoter Score

For companies with diverse departments and employees with a range of roles, different benchmarks can be used to evaluate quality of hire.

Talent Acquisition Strategies

After understanding the stages of the talent acquisition process, employers can begin to develop their own.

To start, teams should first develop a talent acquisition strategy. Like any other form of planning, a talent acquisition strategy provides an overall direction, which can be used to guide future decisions.

Every business’s talent acquisition strategy will differ, based upon their goals, resources, industry, and more. Still, many will have similar approaches to finding and acquiring new employees.

In this section we will explore four common talent acquisition strategies, which companies can use to attract, hire, and retain top talent.

Implement a Strong Employer Brand

The most passive of the common strategies, employing a strong employer brand requires entirely internal efforts.

With this strategy, businesses look to acquire and retain talented employees by developing, implementing, and highlighting the company itself – its culture, its employees, its work, etc. Intentionally or not, established companies will already have an existing employer brand, which they can use as the base for this strategy.

company culture

In order to develop a strong employer brand for talent acquisition purposes, employers should tap on three existing resources.

First, employers should develop their brand by looking inward towards their employees. No one, not even the founders, know the company quite like those who work there. As a result, talent acquisition specialists should look for feedback on why employees enjoy working at the company, what they think can be improved, and what drove them to join in the first place. 

Along with receiving feedback to improve upon, talent teams can use these answers to focus on key attributes that contribute to their brand. For example, Salesforce employees feel that the company largely cares about career development, which the company then perpetuates with their messaging.

Second, businesses must update their website and career pages to reflect their current brand and culture. This includes highlighting core values, available skill training, long-term objectives, and the company culture as a whole. When done effectively, a well-conveyed employer brand can drive more enthusiastic applicants for open positions.

Lastly, companies should embrace social media at their fingertips. Now a common tactic, businesses should use platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram to highlight their culture, pique the attention of candidates, and further solidify their employer brand. This can be done with text posts, photos, videos, testimonials, and more.

Data-Driven Talent Acquisition

A more quantitative approach, the data-driven strategy calls for businesses to utilize available metrics to guide their talent acquisition strategy.

In this case, employers should use available data to better target ideal candidates, close skill gaps on positions, reduce lead generation expenses, and improve retention. The same data used to assess and improve the talent acquisition process can be used for this type of strategy.

team evaluating data

Among its many potential uses, a data-drive approach can be used to identify how top candidates are sourced and to determine the appropriate timelines for openings.

For the former, historical data can highlight which methods best attracted talent, such as job boards, social networking, and word-of-mouth. After identifying the best recruiting and lead generating tactics, employers can then double down on their most successful methods.

For the latter, hiring data can also help determine more realistic timelines for hiring certain positions. For example, more senior level positions may require longer timelines due to more explicit skill set and experience requirements. 

By establishing more realistic timelines, businesses can better prepare for position vacancies, as well as allocate resources for recruitment efforts.

Develop a talent pipeline

By far the most extreme effort of the options, developing talent pipelines can be an effective strategy for talent acquisition.

A talent pipeline is a systematic structure that finds suitable candidates before a position is vacant. This proactive approach drastically reduces the time to source job openings, as candidates are already on the hiring team’s radar.

Like all other strategies, creating a talent pipeline can be a long term endeavor that requires consistent assessment and improvement. Still, there are a few things every business can do to develop a pipeline.

talent pipeline

First, employers should focus their pipeline on certain roles instead of all open positions. This could be for roles that are regularly open, like entry-level sales roles, or more niche positions that have long hiring timeframes. 

Second, businesses should develop their own internal talent pool. Unlike applicants, current employees have already demonstrated their skill sets and potential. By using performance evaluations and other metrics, talent acquisition professionals can identify internal candidates that are perfect for open roles – greatly reducing the time it takes to find, assess, and hire ideal employees.

Lastly, teams must leverage the networking opportunities at their fingertips. In order to establish a legitimately effective pipeline, businesses must build relationships with potential candidates. Networking opportunities like social media, events, conferences, and more can provide opportunities to build such a relationship.

While different for every company, a well designed talent pipeline can streamline the hiring process for open positions, as well as produce better long-term employees.

Leverage a Talent Acquisition Software Solution

Lastly, businesses can implement a talent acquisition strategy that leverages the power of software solutions.

When it comes to digital solutions, most hiring teams use an Applicant Tracking System, which do just that: track the journey of an applicant from applying to hiring. While helpful, these systems don’t incorporate the entire employee lifecycle, however. 

Talent acquisition software solutions provide employers with more insight into the applicant’s hiring process, including uncovering essential data that can be used to make better hiring decisions. Dedicated solutions bring every stage of talent acquisition under one roof, including recruitment, lead generation, assessment, and onboarding.

With us, talent teams can streamline the way they source, evaluate, and hire their employees. From posting job openings directly to recruiting sites to efficient background checks to automated onboarding, our digital solution gives employers full control over the talent acquisition process.

With a slew of additional features, our all-in-one solution stands alone. To learn more about the marquee solution and its unmatched capabilities, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the steps of your talent acquisition process?

Because each business is different, each company will have their own individual talent acquisition process. Generally, however, they still follow the same general flow.

The stages of the talent acquisition process are:

  1. Design a Talent Acquisition Plan
  2. Lead Generation
  3. Recruit and Attract Candidates
  4. Interview and Assess Candidates
  5. Evaluate References
  6. Select Candidate
  7. Hire and Onboard
  8. Assess the Talent Acquisition Process

What is the most important KPI for talent acquisition?

There is no single most important KPI for talent acquisition. Some of the most important to consider, however, are:

  • Time to Fill
  • Cost of Hire
  • Quality of Hire

DISCLAIMER: The information provided herein does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, tax, accounting, or other professional advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation and for your particular state(s) of operation.