Talent Acquisition: A Guide to Understanding and Managing the Recruitment Process


Research shows that the success of an organization is closely tied to the quality of its employees. A recent study found that employers who excelled in recruiting experienced 3.5 times more revenue growth and twice the profit margin of other employers. But acquiring the right talent can be a challenge. Employers must decide what type of people they want to attract, what recruitment message to convey and how to reach the targeted individuals. To help you meet these challenges and recruit the best talent, the SHRM Foundation has created Talent Acquisition: A Guide to Understanding and Managing the Recruitment Process. This guide focuses on external recruitment. It shows employers how to develop a focused recruitment strategy that takes into account the job applicant’s perspective, targets and reaches specific types of candidates with a well-crafted message, and secures the most highly qualified candidates for the organization.

The success of any organization—whether a small manufacturer or a Fortune 500 company—is closely tied to the quality of its employees, which, in turn, is closely tied to its talent acquisition process. The way an employer recruits affects the individuals it hires, the training they need, their initial performance and their retention rate. The topic of employee recruitment has attracted considerable attention.1 It is estimated that U.S. employers spent $140 billion on recruitment activities in 2012.2 Recruiting processes have a direct impact on an organization’s bottom line; a 2012 study found that employers that excelled in recruiting experienced 3.5 times more revenue growth and twice the profit margin of employers that were less capable in recruiting. 

Acquiring the right talent can be a challenging task. Employers must decide the type of people they want to attract, what recruitment message to convey and how to reach targeted individuals. If done poorly, an organization’s recruitment efforts can produce job applicants who are unqualified, lack diversity or may be likely to quit if hired. A poorly designed recruitment process can also miss highly qualified job candidates because they were unaware of a job opening. 

This report offers practical recommendations for talent acquisition practices based on peer-reviewed research. The focus will be on external recruitment. External recruitment includes an employer’s actions intended to a) bring a job opening to the attention of potential candidates outside the organization, b) influence whether these candidates apply for the opening, c) affect whether they maintain interest in the opening until a job offer is extended, and/or d) affect whether a job offer is accepted. Many of these recommendations also apply to internal recruitment (e.g., publicizing job openings to current employees). And it should be noted that promoting from within is often more effective (less costly, results in a better placement) than external recruitment. However, internal recruitment is not specifically covered here due to the limited research available.

Before getting into the nuts and bolts of recruiting, consider how things have changed in the past few years. Since 2009, the economy has moved from a period of recession to a period of growth, and as a result, it is taking longer for employers to fill job openings. The use of social networking websites like LinkedIn and Facebook has grown rapidly for recruiting. In 2009, for example, UPS hired 19 people using such sites; in 2014, it hired 24,475 individuals.5 Another change is the increased use of mobile technology by job applicants. Today, many applicants apply for jobs using their cellphones

Although these changes in the recruitment landscape are exciting, recruitment managers should carefully evaluate the pros and cons of new developments before making changes to their current recruitment practices. For example, although social networking sites allow greater access to passive job candidates (i.e., individuals who are not actively looking for a job), some evidence suggests that passive candidates are more expensive to recruit and, if hired, do not make as good employees as active job candidates.7 As another example, an employer with a mobile-friendly website makes it easier for candidates to submit applications; however, the ease of submission could result in many applicants who are not serious candidates for the job. A very large applicant pool increases the chance that an employer will overlook strong candidates. Another challenge is the abundance of information about an organization now available to job applicants. Ideally, having access to more information should allow for better applicant selfselection—allowing people to opt out of applying for positions that are not a good fit. However, some of the information available may be inaccurate, such as negative reviews on Glassdoor, making it tougher for candidates to make good decisions. Determining how to respond to such negative reviews can be a challenge for organizations.  

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