‘Talent Acquisition Departments’ — Passing Trend or Here to Stay?

The present state of the economy notwithstanding, acquiring and retaining the best talent possible remains the greatest challenge facing the majority of organizations in America today.

Almost every survey conducted on the subject since 1958 has validated the fact that building and maintaining a company’s human capital assets remains their single greatest challenge as well as their greatest source of competitive advantage.

One of the ways many companies are trying to meet this challenge is to establish a “Talent Acquisition Department.” As the name implies, the primary mandate for these departments is to make certain the company acquires the talent it requires at all levels of the organizational hierarchy.

This is not a new concept. Many companies, whether internal or external to the HR departments, have tried variations on this theme over the years with mixed results.

Historically, these “Talent Acquisition Departments” tended to be populated with lower-level candidate screeners and retread third-party recruiters who could no longer make it on their own or while working for an independent recruiting firm.

Certainly, there were departments comprised of senior-level HR professionals reinforced by former successful third-party recruiters who together, performed well for their parent organizations. However, these represented the exception and not the rule.

All of this notwithstanding, they do represent clear-cut competition for third-party recruiters. One of the major strengths of these departments is their growing expertise with mining talent from the Internet. This is proving to be particularly devastating to the “point and click recruiters.”

From the hundreds of recruiting firms around the country that maintain contact with me, many have reported encountering potential clients who prefer to give this internal department control over the recruiting process. However, the number of times the talent acquisition departments are successful with high level or difficult to fill positions still remains small. Nevertheless, some companies are giving these departments first shot at their open positions.

The main advantage we (meaning true recruiters) have over the talent acquisition departments is our ability to penetrate the talent pool and surface qualified and motivated candidates who are unavailable through any other source, including the Internet. This, and our ability to successfully orchestrate a process that actually results in a timely hire and smooth transition for the new employee to our client’s organization. Ultimately, through our services, clients are able to enhance their performance capacity, productivity, and bottom-line results.

Although these words may provide little solace for those of you struggling with competition from talent acquisition departments, I stand by the positioning statement for my organization:

“When your need is now, when your selection criteria are critical and when you have no margin for error – it has to be done right the first time, that’s when you call us.”

The times are definitely challenging, the most challenging I’ve experienced in 37 years. It takes more focused effort to get a search and it definitely takes more focused effort to recruit interested and qualified candidates. However, with every challenge there is always a corresponding opportunity.

The opportunity that exists for us in today’s marketplace is the fact that really good people, the “difference makers” are in short supply, hard to find, and even more difficult to recruit. This is precisely why these professionals are in such high demand and that is also why the services we provide remain the best approach to meeting that demand.

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The smart companies are recognizing the need to “Top Grade” their organizations at a time when it is essential to have the right professional in every mission-critical position. To do anything less will cost them opportunity, market share, and maybe even the long-term viability of their business enterprise.

Courageous executives understand this reality and consequently recognize their organizations can best be served through the services of the top recruiting firms in our industry.

This is what I have found to be particularly true for small- to medium-size companies. They really do not have any margin for error and therefore cannot take the risk of not having the right people. As with larger companies, they may be downsizing but they can upgrade or in the more popular parlance, Top Grade at the same time.

This is the concept we sell not only because it’s true but also because we truly believe in it and our capabilities. As many of you have learned through my coaching and training sessions, to be successful with this concept requires an updated sales approach and strategic process that reflects the realities of the marketplace as well as the ongoing challenge companies face in attracting top talent to their organizations.

Consequently, many potential clients are responding in a positive manner because they know:

It has little to do with open positions and everything to do with properly filled positions.

Yes, the talent acquisition departments may be here to stay and for some, they represent an almost insurmountable obstacle to gaining business. However, this does not need to be the case for you. Economic times notwithstanding, the “war for talent” goes on. Whether or not your clients are on the winning side could very well depend on you.

These final comments may be more personal than would generally be found in my articles. However, when I so clearly see the positive impact an extraordinary employee can have on an organization, I refuse to allow a “no hiring” sign or a “talent acquisition department” to prevent me from fulfilling my mandate as a recruiter (i.e., providing clients with their most important asset – the “difference makers”).

Recipient of the Harold B. Nelson Award, Terry Petra is one of our industry's leading trainers and consultants. He has successfully conducted in-house programs for hundreds of search, placement, temporary staffing firms and industry groups across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, England, and South Africa. To learn more about his training products and services, including PETRA ON CALL, and BUSINESS VALUATION, visit www.tpetra.com. Terry can be reached at (651) 738-8561 or click to email him.


1 Comment on “‘Talent Acquisition Departments’ — Passing Trend or Here to Stay?

  1. The overall problem with “Talent Acquisition Departments” is that generally there is very little talent in the departments themselves. “Low level resume screeners and retread third-party recruiters” that failed in our business and so were willing to take 20% of a successful recruiter’s take home pay and forego a chance at the brass ring.

    In many cases, these departments hurt their own companies. One way is by blocking submissions from real recruiters even as the internal gang fails to fill an opening for six months, eight months or longer. There comes a time when after telling management “we’re on it but there just aren’t any good candidates out there”; that if you open it up to a recruiter and he presents five strong candidates within a week – well, that leaves “talent acquisition” looking pretty bad. Instead, it’s actually in “talent acquisition’s” interest to bring in a weak recruiter who confirms their story that the job just can’t be filled. Astute management should not only recognize this incompetence but should also attempt to quantify the cost of leaving the position unfilled for an extended period – when it didn’t have to be.

    I’m sure you’ve heard this one before: “Wait! We’ve identified a candidate!” WOW! – “Rather then A candidate, wouldn’t your company like to be able to pick the best of five candidates?” Somehow, I don’t think that query ever finds its way upstairs. Another way that “Talent Acquisition Departments” hurt their own companies is by ensuring that the company settles for the best candidate coming from a weak candidate pool. Mediocre staffing departments hiring mediocre employees eventually leads to mediocre companies.

    An additional downside is that all of this mediocritization of a company doesn’t come cheap. Consider the costs of non-productive salaries, benefits, software, web subscriptions, and space. Throw in the cost of mediocre hires and longer “time to fill” positions and this can easily total more than the company ever paid in recruiting fees.

    I’m not going to go so far as to say that all “Talent Acquisition Departments” are incompetent and mainly self serving but unfortunately from my experience that is the rule rather than the exception.

    Certainly, most companies have a variety of “drone” jobs: sales clerks, warehouse workers, etc. and “talent acquisition” departments could be of some help there but when it comes to the people that really make things happen; companies will eventually learn to leave those searches to the professionals.

    Tom Keoughan

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