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What’s the Difference Between a Talent Acquisition Specialist and a Recruiter?

At first glance, recruiting and talent acquisition might seem like the same thing — both involve finding technology consultants and IT talent and placing those consultants in open positions. That, however, is where the similarities end. What’s the difference? Here are two quick definitions:

IT Recruiter: IT recruiters fill vacancies as quickly as possible.

Talent Acquisition Specialist: Talent acquisition specialists develop strategies to find specific high-level technology talent for your company.

Need to know more? To better understand the work of both recruiters and talent acquisition specialists, let’s start by assuming your organization has a position to fill and see how each might go about helping you hire a person to fill it.

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Finding top IT talent: recruiters vs. talent acquisition specialists

Your organization is hiring for a high-level IT position. Maybe you’re looking for an experienced developer to lead your in-house team. Maybe you’re looking for a new chief technology officer (CTO). How do you find someone to fill that role? Chances are, you won’t be able to just post the position on a job board and hope the right person responds to your ad.

“People don’t really apply to senior level roles,” says Michael Kenyon, one of Omni’s talent acquisition specialists. So, to get the right person for your job, you’ll have to call in someone to help find you a candidate. Who do you call and what happens when you call them?

Working with a recruiter

Once you realize that you have an opening, you call a recruiter and pass the job description on to them. The recruiter then gets down to work: turning over LinkedIn for people who match your job description, sending messages and making calls.

After the search is complete, the recruiter sends you the qualified resumes they’ve collected, and your human resources team can start making calls and scheduling interviews. And that’s it. It’s a straightforward transaction: you hand over the job description and they hand over the resumes.

Working with a talent acquisition specialist

Ideally, your relationship with the talent acquisition specialist started before you even knew you were going to need this position filled, so the talent team could get to know your company, the way you staff your teams and how you work. If you’ve been working with this consultant for a while, maybe they knew you’d need this position filled and have been grooming potential candidates for your opening. Talent acquisition specialists tend to be proactive — they’re like consultants for your staffing needs, so if you work with one, they’re always looking for candidates who might be a good fit for your company and your unique culture.

However, even if you’re just starting to work with the talent acquisition specialist right now, because you need to hire someone immediately, the team is going to take a proactive approach. They won’t start searching right away — instead they’ll start by sitting down with you. For example, a talent acquisition specialist will go over the job description with you and offer advice based on their knowledge of the job market. They’ll ask you what your must-haves are and based on that, tell you what sort of candidates you can realistically expect to find. They may suggest that one job be broken into two positions — maybe you can’t expect to hire one person with all the qualifications you need but you can easily find two high-level candidates with all your qualifications between them.

“Both clients and candidates expect us to have a handle on the market. What is the market telling us? What positions are realistic to fill? What’s the compensation data we’re gathering? What’s the labor market like,” says Omni’s Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist Kerry Weber. “All of those things are part of talent acquisition.”

That meeting is about more than settling on a job description. It’s also about understanding the soft skills you want the candidate to have, the culture of your company and knowing what worked — and didn’t work — for the last person to occupy the position. Talent acquisition specialists will also talk about their strategies for finding the right person — they might use marketing, job fairs or a specific kind of search to find your candidate. It all depends on the role and your needs.

Once you and the talent acquisition team agree on a job description and the strategies they’ll use to fill it, the team will get to work combing through their contacts for appropriate local talent that matches your job description. Some of those contacts may be high-level candidates that the talent acquisition team have been cultivating and building relationships with for years — Omni’s own team, for example, is deeply familiar with top technology candidates in the Midwest and have been in touch with some of those candidates for decades.

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“It’s not just looking for those candidates that are out on the job market and posting resumes, it’s building long-term relationships with people and nurturing those relationships” said Kerry.

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During the search you’ll get regular updates from the talent team, and if the going is rough, they’ll consult with you, letting you know why they haven’t been able to find your candidate — maybe there aren’t job candidates with the skills you need in the area, for example — and advising you about any new strategies they might be able to use to find the candidate.

When suitable candidates are found, a talent acquisition specialist won’t just hand you a pile of resumes. Instead, they do the work of reaching out to the candidate — and if you’ve decided on this previously — the talent team will also vet candidates by assessing their skills, creating personality profiles and making sure the candidate is a good fit for your organization.

Sometimes the work of finding the perfect candidate means convincing a person who would love to work for you to take a risk and leave their current job.

“I worked with a candidate once for a really senior level job,” said Michael. “He’d been with his company for 15 years and had all the juicy benefits, but he was tired of working there.”

Michael found the candidate an exciting new job with a big company, but the candidate was concerned about making the leap from his current job. Three times he accepted the offer and three times got nervous and rejected it. Michael coached him through his case of nerves and the candidate took the job.

“He’s in love with it but if it hadn’t been for me pushing him in that direction, he wouldn’t have taken the job and he wouldn’t have known how much fun it would be and how exciting it is,” said Michael.


Why work with a recruiter when you can work with a talent acquisition specialist?

A recruiter’s job is done as soon as they hand over the resumes, but a talent acquisition specialist’s work is not done when your position is filled. After your new employee has reported to work, the talent acquisition team is still making calls, checking in with you and the employee to make sure everyone is happy and they are a good fit for your team.

Often, that long-term relationship means you’ll be comfortable coming back to the talent acquisition specialist in the future for any open positions and can collaborate with the individual to ensure you get the best talent for the role you need. 

“Talent acquisition is a holistic process,” says Michael. “It’s much more than just filling a job, it’s building a long-term relationship.” 

Ready to start hiring top Midwest technology consultants for your company?

Contact Omni’s Talent Acquisition Team today

Maureen Haeger

About Author Maureen Haeger

Maureen is the VP of Sales & Marketing and Recruiting at Omni and has over 20 years of sales, marketing, communications and management experience in a variety of roles in the technology industry. She leads her team to develop and execute the marketing strategy and drive demand for Omni’s products and services. Maureen is passionate about making the most of each day and positively affecting those around her. She enjoys spending her time away from work with her husband and three boys having a family adventure.


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