Do you have an eye for detail? Can you read people easily? Are you a great communicator? If so, you just might do well as a talent acquisition specialist. In this role, you’ll help companies in highly competitive fields find the ideal candidates for their posted jobs.
What Is a Talent Acquisition Specialist?
Though a talent acquisition specialist is part of a human resources team, this role is more specialized than your typical HR role. Most HR professionals are responsible for hiring, but they identify individuals with potential who may still need training to fill their roles. And, generally speaking, many HR jobs don’t involve the creation of longer-term staffing strategies.
On the other hand, a talent acquisition specialist is someone who hand-picks employees who already meet all job requirements and will not necessarily require additional training. If an employer doesn’t want to spend the time or money to train new employees, they typically will work with a talent acquisition specialist to find the right hire. Usually, they work in fast-changing, competitive industries where they’ll need to consider both an employee’s readiness for a current role and their ability to move into future roles.
For example, a corporation might have a senior engineer who will be retiring in the next five years. When looking for a junior engineer, they want to select someone who will work well in the junior role and eventually progress to the senior role. In this scenario, a talent acquisition specialist would likely look for a skilled, motivated junior engineer who possesses leadership skills and is already mastering newer technologies.
Talent acquisition specialists are involved at every step of the hiring process. They are typically the ones who make postings on job boards and search for potential employees on LinkedIn and other sites. They work closely with hiring managers to determine what skills and experience to look for, and they help develop the screening process for applicants.
Typically, talent acquisition specialists also review resumes and applications and select which applicants will move forward in the hiring process. They then will conduct initial interviews by phone and check references when needed before making recommendations to hiring managers. In some cases, they conduct final interviews themselves. In order to excel in this role, acquisition specialists must be especially good at quickly and accurately assessing skills and the candidates themselves for a given job.
Outside of the hiring process itself, talent acquisition specialists also work with companies to make sure goals are met. For instance, if a given company prides itself on having a very diverse staff, the talent acquisition specialist will need to help develop diversity initiatives. They may even focus extra effort reaching out to different communities to ensure a diverse applicant pool. In a more general sense, talent acquisition specialists work with a company’s HR department to determine hiring needs and decide which positions need to be filled and when.
When an applicant is hired, the job of a talent acquisition specialist still isn’t done. These specialists typically handle on-boarding procedures, and they’re responsible for making sure that all new candidate paperwork is thoroughly and accurately completed.
Since a talent acquisition specialist is effectively the face of a company to potential hires, people in these roles need to be polite and personable. After all, by ensuring a great candidate experience, they make it more likely that hired individuals will accept the job. Especially in closer-knot industries, word of a rude or unpleasant talent acquisition specialist is sure to get out, and it may dissuade people from applying.
How Much Do Talent Acquisition Specialists Make?
Even in tougher economic times, employment in this field tends to remain fairly stable. That’s because many talent acquisition specialists work with larger companies that are still willing to pay top dollar to hire the right people.
Talent acquisition specialists make just under $60,000 per year on average. Those with lower salaries generally make just over $50,000, and those with higher salaries earn around $65,000. Of course, there will always be outliers, and you may find that there are talent acquisition specialist jobs offering either far above average or far below average pay.
The rate of pay doesn’t only depend on the company you work for, though. One of the major factors when it comes to earning potential is location. In an area with a high cost of living, you’re likely to make more money to offset expenses. Jobs in areas with a lower cost of living may pay less, but the money you make can go a lot further.
What’s the Difference Between a Recruiter and a Talent Acquisition Specialist?
You might think that the role of talent acquisition specialist sounds a lot like the role of a recruiter. However, while it’s correct that the two are similar, there are some important differences between the two.
The differences boil down to this: recruitment is about quickly filling open positions, while talent acquisition is about implementing a long-term strategy to find the specific people necessary to fill job roles.
Talent acquisition usually involves planning ahead. Filling specialized roles takes time, so people in this role need to estimate when they will need a new hire and then start the hiring process early. This strategy is often necessary in tech and healthcare fields. Both are highly competitive, and both often require a company to hire people with very specific skillsets.
By contrast, recruitment is typically a numbers game, and it’s more commonly associated with jobs requiring less specific skills. For example, if a grocery store is looking for stockers, it’s more likely to hire a recruiter to set up at a job fair than it is to hire a talent acquisition specialist to search for specific candidates.
What Skills Do I Need?
Because talent acquisition specialists are so vital to a company’s success, those hired for this role typically need extensive HR experience — most employers require at least five years of experience in human resources. Most job listings for talent acquisition specialists also mention that candidates need a degree in HR or a professional HR certification.
In terms of specific experience needed for the job, most companies look for people who have had experience recruiting talent and dealing with the on-boarding process. They also will typically need experience with developing different strategies for networking and finding potential candidates. Experience developing branding strategies is also a plus, as talent acquisition specialists will need to have a firm grasp of their company’s brand identity and an ability to project that identity to candidates. And lastly, having experience working with many types of people is a necessity. You’ll need to have experience creating and following fair hiring practices.
Experience with certain programs is necessary for many jobs as a talent acquisition specialist. Many employers ask that you have experience with applicant tracking systems (ATS) as well as human resource information systems (HRIS). In most cases, you also will need at least a basic familiarity with office programs like Microsoft Word and Excel.
To be a successful talent acquisition specialist, you also need to have an array of soft skills as well. Having strong interpersonal skills is a must, as much of the job involves interfacing with a wide variety of people. You’ll need to effectively communicate with HR personnel to make sure you know exactly the type of candidate they’re looking for. You also will need to be able to welcome candidates and make them feel at ease. Having an ability to read people and to connect with them is important, too. Much of being a talent acquisition specialist is assessing people in person and over the phone to figure out whether or not they’re right for the job.
Being able to have a professional, presentable appearance is very important. Successful talent acquisition specialists are well-dressed and well-groomed. After all, they’re the face of the company to new candidates, and it’s vitally important to show the company in a positive light.
But you don’t just need to be a good face-to-face communicator to succeed — connecting with people across a variety of platforms is incredibly useful. Talent acquisition specialists will typically need to be able to network in order to find the best candidates. They’ll need to be able to reach out to people through LinkedIn, Facebook, and even e-mail. Having solid writing skills is a must. After all, if a potential candidate receives a poorly-written e-mail from a talent acquisition specialist, they’ll likely doubt the legitimacy of the company.
Attention to detail is another key skill to have if you want to become a talent acquisition specialist. After all, you’ll need to be able to understand the type of employee a company is looking for and communicate that clearly in a job listing. You also will need to be able to keep track of multiple applications as you evaluate each one.
What Education Do I Need?
Many people think that all you need for a career in HR is strong interpersonal skills. But while interpersonal skills are a major part of what you need, there are also specific degree requirements that most employers will look for. In almost every case, you will need a bachelor’s degree in human resources management or a similar field. A degree in this field is especially valuable because it educates students on the field of human resources on both a large scale and a small scale. Students learn about how various businesses function, and they also receive education on hiring, communication, and training. Some courses in this major will also connect labor laws, employment laws, and company management, as well as the complex ways in which the three interact. Others will teach ways to manage and motivate employees.
Depending on the degree program you choose, you may be able to specialize a human resources management degree to focus on talent management or talent acquisition. In this case, classes will focus on more specific skills like advertising for jobs, interviewing and hiring candidates, and identifying a company’s staffing needs. They also may focus on compensation and benefits practices in order to prepare students to attract great candidates.
If you’re serious about the field and also want the opportunity to advance in the field, pursuing a master’s degree may be a good choice. Some institutions offer a Master of Science in Human Resource Management degree. This degree builds upon a bachelor’s degree in human resources, but master’s level courses are designed to help you get a better grasp of how to strategize employment practices to improve a company in the long term. With a master’s degree, you may be able to work as a director of human resources or hold a job with a similar title. In some cases, you may be tasked with overseeing a staff of talent acquisition specialists.
It’s also possible to earn a Ph.D. in a human resources field, although these degrees are somewhat uncommon. However, if after working as a talent acquisition specialist for a while, you find that you want to go into a teaching or research position, a Ph.D. may be worth pursuing.
To make sure you’ll have access to as many job opportunities as possible, you may also want to consider earning a credential from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). To earn a credential, you’ll need to qualify for one of the exams offered by the SHRM. The qualification criteria for an SHRM exam depends on your level of experience in the HR field, the degrees you have in the field, or both. Earning a credential can show employers that you’re serious about the field and willing to take the initiative to further your knowledge. It also can give you an advantage over other applicants for the same position.
Some of the necessary education for being a talent acquisition specialist is informal as well. Depending on the industry, you may need to have a good working knowledge of labor unions and how they operate. Having the basic legal knowledge to understand and evaluate contracts is a good idea, too. A good talent acquisition specialist will also understand state and federal employment laws and will be able to stay on top of any changes to those laws. And of course, if their industry has specific recruitment standards, they should know these, too.
Though it can be a demanding job, working as a talent acquisition specialist also can become a rewarding career. If you choose this field, you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve helped people find the right job for them and knowing you’ve helped a company achieve its long-term goals.