What Skills Are Most Critical for Talent Acquisition Professionals?

Talent Acquisition (TA) has different specializations, much like Learning or Compliance. Talent Acquisition professionals have similarities that other HR practitioners might not share, such as sourcing or marketing. One thing that is true across all areas of TA is that the ability to find candidates in unique or rare spots is always in demand. 

Top 10 Critical Talent Acquisition Skills

The biggest challenge in determining critical skills in TA professionals is that industry knowledge is, by its nature, highly specific. A recruiter who is well versed in sourcing software professionals for instance, probably developed their skills through years of experience. Organizations are faced with the difficulty of finding and developing TA professionals with general abilities across all specializations but also possessing the deep industry knowledge that many positions require. 

Having the right TA team in place has far-reaching effects beyond standard metrics such as time-to-fill or immediate retention rate. Candidates who have a more successful and enjoyable candidate experience are much more likely to transition into being more meaningful contributors to the organization. In addition, the majority of candidates are more likely to have a positive impression of your organization if their time during the hiring process was efficient and constructive. For any organization seeking re-applicants or possible customers, the ability to provide a great candidate experience is highly important. 

For an organization trying to determine what the most important skills TA professionals should have, they must first decide what specific business needs are. Key questions organizations should include: 

  • Who is accountable for overseeing the TA team at your organization and improving the candidate experience? 
  • How will you measure the impact of improved candidate experience? 
  • What training and development currently exists for upskilling TA professionals in your organization? 
  • What tools and technology are in place to support TA professionals in their job? 
  • What will be the ultimate business impact of hiring or developing TA professionals with critically important skills? 

The most important ability for any TA professional is creating a lasting, positive candidate experience. Most organizations agree that sourcing, general recruiting, and industry knowledge are the most vital skills to have for this task. 

Although at first glance, it may seem that general recruitment knowledge and industry-specific knowledge are contradictory, they are complementary. Despite what some HR professionals might believe, each industry isn’t completely unique. There may be some significant differences between them such as levels of unionization, amount of contingent workers, compliance or other regulatory pressures, but every industry wants to attract and retain quality workers. 

For a successful TA professional, organizations should be hiring for and developing universal skills, such as using and communicating data and analytics (nearly half of organizations agree that this is critical) and sourcing in non-traditional areas. Too many TA professionals treat recruitment and hiring as a pure numbers game where if they turn in x number of candidates they will fill x number of requests, without truly understanding the lasting impact of a quality hire (or non-hire). 

As for industry knowledge, that is another skill that can be developed easier than it can be hired for. Industries such as aerospace, healthcare and the public sector have unique challenges but if organizations only look for TA professionals with previous experience in their specific industry, they will find a very shallow pool of possible hires. Instead, organizations should develop their own TA professionals through rotations, immersive training and coaching and mentoring from veteran TA practitioners. 

The key takeaway for any organization seeking to determine the skills that are most important for their TA team is to work backward. First, determine the specific business issues you are trying to solve, then find the alignment between your TA strategy and the business strategy to solve those problems. Look at your current TA team organization to see if they possess the experiences, skills and attributes that will help you succeed. If not, make a determination of how you can hire or develop those specific and general skills in a way that will most effectively create success.


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