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Talent Acquisition Specialist Career Guide

What is a talent acquisition specialist?

A talent acquisition specialist is responsible for the staffing of an organization. They may work for the organization as part of the HR team or for a recruitment agency on behalf of a company. They are typically involved in every step of the hiring process, including recruitment, interviews, and evaluations. Their goal is to find the right candidates for each open position. They evaluate the company’s staffing needs based on interaction with managers and supervisors and implement recruitment and hiring strategies based on those needs. 

This role is different from unique from recruiters in that they develop long-term recruitment and hiring strategies and screening processes and actively search for and hire specific people for specific jobs. A recruiter typically fills an open position from a pool of applicants and is focused on short-term needs. 

As part of their job function, they assess the talent of applicants based on applications, resumes, and interviews, and they fill vacant positions with qualified candidates. They may conduct initial interviews by phone and narrow down the field of applicants before scheduling in-person interviews. Some talent acquisition specialists are also present at in-person interviews. They run background checks, contact references when needed, and advise hiring managers of the best candidates. They also anticipate the future needs of the company by looking at current company trends and available staff.  

They typically create and post open position listings on job boards and social media sites and also use these sites to actively search for potential candidates. They ensure that the company’s needs are being met when looking for talent. For example, if a company requires a diverse staff, the talent acquisition specialist will make sure the pool of candidates is diverse. 

Professionals in this role typically handles onboarding procedures when an applicant is hired. These may include making sure all paperwork is done and explaining salary, benefits, work environment, and company culture to new employees.

Qualifications and eligibility

A talent acquisition specialist should have a talent for quickly and accurately assessing a candidate’s skills and determining if they are right for a position. They need to be polite and have excellent interpersonal skills as they act as the company’s face.  

Professionals in this position typically have at least 5 years of HR experience. They need to be familiar with recruiting talent and handling the onboarding process. They should be good at developing strategies and networking to find potential candidates. As well as, a solid grasp of the company’s brand identity and what they’re looking for in a potential candidate. Talent acquisition specialists work with people of different ages and backgrounds and need excellent communication skills and people skills. 

Some employers require that you have experience using applicant tracking systems (ATS) and/or human resource information systems (HRIS). This typically requires a basic proficiency using Microsoft Word and Excel. If you’re unfamiliar, you can get the Microsoft Office Specialist certification to help you learn these platforms.

Talent acquisition specialists need to be able to connect with people and make them feel at ease. Solid writing skills, excellent networking skills, and a strong internet presence are important because you will find many candidates through Facebook, LinkedIn, social media sites, and even through email in this profession. Other key skills needed include attention to detail and good organization. 

Most employers prefer that you have a bachelor’s degree in HR management or a similar field. Some degrees focus specifically on talent management or talent acquisition. Completing a master’s degree in human resource management can help you advance in the field. You can transition into roles such as a director of human resources or a similar position, where you would oversee a staff of talent acquisition specialists. You can also earn a PhD in a human resources field, which can be especially useful if you aspire to become a university teacher or a researcher. 

Becoming certified isn’t required, but it can help you stand out from the crowd and open up more job opportunities. You may want to consider earning a credential from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which offers two certifications, the SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) and the SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP).

Work environment

Talent acquisition specialists work indoors, typically at a desk in front of a computer. They spend their day making phone calls to potential candidates or performing online research to find specific talent. They work closely with HR departments and hiring managers or supervisors who have open positions they are looking to fill. Some can work remotely.

Typical work hours

Most people in this role work a typical 40-hour workweek from Monday through Friday. They may have to occasionally work evenings and weekends to meet hiring deadlines.   

Types of talent acquisition specialists

Talent acquisition specialists typically perform the same job functions whether they work for a large corporation, a recruiting firm, or independently. Below is a list of the typical functions a professional in this career performs. Depending on the job, they may do some or all of these duties: 

Sourcing and lead generation

This is a job function where talent acquisition specialists take advantage of social networks, industry events, conferences, online forums, and communities to network with others in the industry, build relationships, and generate a pool of qualified candidates. 

Attracting and recruiting candidates

Attracting and recruiting candidates involves building a strong company brand, promoting your company culture, and putting together a compensation package that will entice job seekers and help retain them once they are hired. Another aspect of attracting and recruiting is creating a positive candidate experience, tracking down leads, and maintaining contact with candidates who aren’t a good fit for a particular position but have the potential to be in the future. 

Interviewing applicants and assessing talent

An important part of the hiring process is interviewing candidates and determining if they are a good fit for the position. The talent acquisition specialist creates performance indicators based on the most important tasks that are required to succeed in the position and measures the candidates against them by developing interview questions to glean the information they are looking for. ls test (like a sample writing or programming task), a personality or cognitive evaluation, or a demonstrated pitch or close.

Checking references

Many times, a hiring manager or company will not follow up on references, but it is an important part of the hiring process. In this role, you will need to contact references to get general impressions, discover any concerns, and get a feel for whether the candidate is a good fit for the position. 

Narrowing the field of candidates

Talent acquisition specialists use the procedures they have in place to determine who the strongest candidates are. They might use people tracking software or an internal system in this step. They typically pick out 2 or 3 candidates in this step. 

Hiring and onboarding

Many larger companies have designated employees in the HR department who handle hiring and onboarding. But many times, this falls under the talent acquisition specialists’ job function. It’s the last step in the hiring process, and an important one as the new hire should feel at home and a part of the organization.

Lastly, they over important information with the employee such as salary and benefits, but they also want to smoothly integrate the new hire into the company, so they don’t feel overwhelmed or isolated. ring top talent. A solid onboarding process can make the difference on whether the new hire is still around in 6 months.

Income potential

The earning potential for a talent acquisition specialist can vary greatly depending on geographic location, education, experience, and acquired skills.  

  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for human resources specialists was $62,290 in May 2021. The lowest 10% earned less than $37,680, and the highest 10% earned more than $108,160. The top industries in which human resources specialists worked were as follows:
    • Professional, scientific, and technical services – $76,920
    • Government – $74,150
    • Manufacturing – $72,370
    • Healthcare and social assistance – $57,720
    • Employment services – $48,440
  • The 5 states with the highest annual pay for talent acquisition specialists are listed as:
    • Massachusetts – $67,175
    • Washington – $61,596
    • Maryland – $59,469
    • New York – $59,348
    • Virginia – $58,244
  • The bottom 3 states are:
    • Florida – $44,745
    • Georgia – $41,718
    • Louisiana – 41,070 
  • The best-paying cities for talent acquisition specialists as:
    • Decatur, AL – $101,590
    • Vallejo, CA – $99,070
    • Savannah, GA – $94,820
    • San Jose, CA – $91,780
    • Norwich, CT – $89,740

Position trends

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the overall employment of human resources specialists will grow 8% from 2021 to 2031, slightly faster than the average for all occupations. This will account for approximately 81,900 openings for human resources specialists a year over the decade.

The trend for companies to outsource human resources functions to organizations that provide these services is likely to continue as it saves the costs of directly employing human resources specialists. More human resources generalists will likely be needed to handle increasingly complex employment laws and benefit options as well. 

Career path

The career advancement opportunities for talent acquisition specialists include management and director-level positions within an HR department. They can also use their experience and talents in other fields. Some of the common career path options include:

  • Senior corporate recruiter
  • Human resources manager or director
  • Senior recruiter
  • Talent acquisition director or manager
  • Recruiting manager or director
  • Senior talent acquisition manager
  • Human resources administrator
  • Human resources business partner
  • Recruitment coordinator
  • Recruitment consultant
  • Human resources analyst

Steps to becoming a talent acquisition specialist

1. Get your bachelor’s degree

For most talent acquisition specialist positions, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement. Some common majors for aspiring talent acquisition specialists are human resources, business, finance, and marketing.  

2. Find volunteer work or internships

While completing your undergraduate degree, look for opportunities to do volunteer work or internships in an HR department or a talent acquisition firm. You’ll gain valuable experience that can help you land a job when you get your degree.  

3. Consider a master’s degree

A master’s degree typically isn’t a requirement for an entry-level talent acquisition specialist position, but it can help you advance more quickly in your career and open up more job opportunities. Many senior-level positions require a master’s degree. Common programs include a master’s degree in human resource management and organizational development.   

4. Cet certified

Certification is not generally a requirement, although some employers prefer that you have one. Even if they don’t, earning your certification can help you stand out among your peers and improve your chances of gaining employment. Certification shows your dedication and desire to work as a talent acquisition specialist and proves your knowledge and ability in the field. There are many certification programs available. Some of the top certification programs include:

The CPTD is offered by the Association for Talent Development and provides the knowledge and skills you need to succeed as a talent acquisition specialist. Candidates must have at least 5 years of work experience in talent development or a related field. 

Administered by the HR Certification Institute (HRCI), the PHR demonstrates your technical and operational understanding of HR management and U.S. laws and regulations. Eligibility requirements include a combination of education and experience. The exam covers employee and labor relations, business management, talent planning and acquisition, and more.

Also offered by the HRCI, this credential is designed for leaders responsible for planning HR policy and shows your understanding of planning, business strategies, technology, and the overall HR needs of the organization. To be eligible, you must have a combination of education and experience. The exam includes topics on leadership and strategy, employee relations and engagement, talent planning and acquisition, and more.

The SHRM-CP is offered by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and proves your competency in operational level HR work, such as implementing HR policies, supporting day-to-day HR functions, and serving as an HR point of contact for staff and stakeholders. Candidates for the SHRM-CP credential do not need experience or a degree to apply, but it is recommended that they have a basic working knowledge of HR practices and principles or a degree in a related field.

The SHRM-SCP exam is also offered by the SHRM and is designed to assess your knowledge of developing HR policies and/or procedures, overseeing the execution of integrated HR operations, directing an HR enterprise, and leading the alignment of HR strategies to organizational goals. You must have at least 3 years of strategic level HR experience to be eligible to sit for the exam. 

5. Get work experience

You can gain work experience in an HR department as a generalist, in recruitment, or in another position that will give you the experience and training you’ll need to transition into a talent acquisition specialist role. You can also develop the skills you’ll need in other fields, such as customer service, curriculum development, digital marketing, and analytics.

6. Join professional associations

Being a part of a professional organization is always a good idea, regardless of the field you’re in. You’ll find information on job openings, meet others in the field where you can network and build business relationships, meet industry leaders, and get great references for your resume. Here are some of the top organizations for talent acquisition specialists:

Tips for becoming a talent acquisition specialist

If you are planning to become a talent acquisition specialist, a few things can help set you on the right path. Here are some tips:

  • Develop the skills you’ll need. A talent acquisition specialist should have excellent communication skills and strong time management skills. They need to have great interpersonal skills and be able to work with a diverse range of ages and backgrounds. They should be good networkers and have good relationship-building skills. 
  • Find opportunities to volunteer or work as an intern where you can see what talent acquisition specialists do and become familiar with how HR departments and hiring processes work.   
  • Research different industries to find which one you are most interested in working in. You might want to find talent for tech firms, healthcare, or another specific industry. You may also want to be more of a generalist and find talent across a wide range of industries.  
  • Develop your social media skills and your platform as the internet is where you’ll network, build relationships, and find much of the talent you’re looking for.   
  • Develop your computer skills and become familiar with applicant tracking systems (ATS) and/or human resource information systems (HRIS) that you will typically use as a talent acquisition specialist.

Talent acquisition interview questions to expect

  • What are some of the most important qualities you look for in a candidate?
  • How do you evaluate a candidate’s qualifications for a job?
  • How would you go about finding candidates for a position that you were unfamiliar with?
  • A candidate has all the necessary qualifications but their background check shows a pending charge from a few years ago. How do you handle this with the employer?
  • If you can’t find a qualified employee, how do you tell the employer that the recruitment has failed?

Talent acquisition specialist FAQs