human resources

Not so differently, when someone asks me what I do for a living, and I tell them “I’m a recruiter”, a common response is “oh, so you’re in HR then?”. “No” I reply, “I’m not part of the HR department at all, I’m in Talent Acquisition,” to which they will usually give me a confused look. The funny thing is, I’m not too bothered about getting called an Australian almost everyday, but I do have a problem with people assuming I’m in HR – I can’t explain why I react differently about the perceived miscategorization of my profession vs my nationality, I just do.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand why people assume that recruitment is part of HR. Recruitment was born out of HR many years ago, and was traditionally lumped in under the ‘HR umbrella’ throughout the 1980’s, 1990’s and most of the 2000’s. However, it’s different now: recruitment has gone through a major metamorphosis over the recent years and, in my opinion, has forged its own identity and therefore deserves it’s own department (aka Talent Acquisition). In this case, Talent Acquisition will still likely ultimately report to the CHRO’s office, but be seen and managed as it’s own business unit.

HR vs Talent Acquisition, What’s the Difference?

The way I see it, when you boil it all down it’s fairly easy to distinguish between the core functions of HR vs the core functions of Talent Acquisition: Talent Acquisition is responsible for attracting and bringing talent into an organisation, and HR is responsible for retaining and nurturing that talent.

It’s Time For An Honest Conversation:

Those in our industry know that attracting and bringing talent into an organisation ain’t easy, especially with the relentless ‘war for talent’ raging on around us. The fact is, you need specialised resources (i.e. recruiters), tools, and time to be successful in Talent Acquisition, and a traditional HR department typically isn’t in a position to supply these. In the same way, HR also needs their own specialised resources, tools, and time to be effective in performing their core function of retaining and nurturing talent effectively.

Many HR professionals openly admit that they despise the recruitment part of their role, and prefer to outsource it, even if it means using expensive and ineffective recruitment agencies. Similarly, most recruiters (including myself!) are turned off by the thought of dealing with the day-to-day responsibilities of HR such as employee relations, payrolling and performance management etc.

Hello Marketing!

The longer I work in Talent Acquisition, the more it becomes clear to me that the relationship between Talent Acquisition and Marketing is, in fact, much closer than one might initially think,. You see, both departments are essentially doing the same thing – the key difference is that traditional Marketing creates demand for customers to buy products and services, whereas Talent Acquisition creates demand for customers (aka ‘candidates’) to join an organisation. Commonly used terms like ‘employment branding’ and ‘employment value proposition’ stem from traditional marketing concepts.

Key Stakeholders are Key

Talent Acquisition has two key stakeholders: yup, you guessed it – HR and Marketing, and it’s critical that Talent Acquisition forms close relationships with both of these business groups to be effective. Talent Acquisition must work closely with HR to ensure hiring plans are aligned with business strategy and headcount. Also, recruiters are constantly evaluating long-term fit during the screening and interview process. There’s also crossover and collaboration with the onboarding process done by HR amongst other areas of overlap.

Talent Acquisition must also work closely with Marketing to ensure consistency of branding and market message. There’s also a lot of opportunity to partner on projects such as the company careers site, social media and industry events.


Although recruitment was born out of HR, it has evolved and matured over the years and now deserves its own identity in Talent Acquisition. However, in order to attract and bring talent into an organisation effectively, Talent Aquisition needs to build stronger relationships with Marketing, while still retaining some of its deeply-rooted connections with HR.

*these are my personal views and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer*

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Enlightened by the Dark Side:

In 2013, after 8 great years of working in agency recruiting, I decided to change career paths slightly and switched to the ‘Dark Side’ (or ‘Light Side’ depending on which side you’re on!) and became an in-house recruiter at an international corporation with their global HQ in downtown Vancouver. Being on the Dark Side felt new and strange at first, but it didn’t take me long to adjust to my new environment and I’ve enjoyed the experience so much that I doubt I’ll ever go back to the agency world (or what I now refer to as the ‘Dark Side’). Working in house has allowed me to work with businesses at both the tactical and strategic level to design and execute successful recruitment campaigns for immediate and future need, which is a nice change from the transactional, ad-hoc based recruitment style of the agency world.

It also didn’t take long before the flood of cold calls from recruitment agencies wanting business from me started to fill up my voice mail, email and LinkedIn account. After 8 years of ‘hammering the phones’ for new business at agencies, it was an interesting and enlightening experience to be on the other side of a cold call, and I immediately realised how repetitive and annoying they are to listen to. Almost every day I’d have messages in my inbox or voice mail that sounded something along the lines of this:

“Hi Brian, I’m calling from XYZ recruitment agency and I see that you’re advertising for a ABC position. I specialise in the recruitment of ABC’s and have a great candidate for your role. Please call me back at…”

Sound familiar?

It sure sounded familiar to me as I was guilty of leaving the same message on voicemails all over Vancouver for the past 5 years! Sure, it worked sometimes, but not very often, which is no surprise seeing as all of my competitors were probably leaving the same message.


Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for… (drum roll please!)

What is the secret to building a solid client base for recruiters? After reflecting on this for a while, I’ve concluded that if I were ever to return to agency recruiting, I’d go about business development with an entirely different approach and here’s how:

1) The goal of the cold call should be to form a relationship with the HR representative or hiring manager as a CANDIDATE and not a CLIENT.

Sound simple? Well it is!

You’ll find that people are a lot more willing to take time and talk to you if you are offering them something. Instead of asking for business from a hiring manager or HR representative, offer to help them with their own career. In fact, make it clear that you don’t want their business and instead that you want to form a relationship so that you can confidentially notify them of career opportunities in the market. Don’t ask for something, instead give them something.

2) Don’t expect to get business for at least 6 – 12 months.

Go in with the expectation that you’re not going to get the business for at least 6 – 12 months and be ok with this. Take this time to build a deep relationship with them as a candidate and don’t be tempted to cross the line by offering to help them with their hiring.

3) Be genuine, keep it organic and don’t force it.

If you’ve done a good job of building a genuine candidate-based relationship with them, then you can be almost certain they’ll ask for your help eventually: “Hey, by the way, if you’ve got a great developer on your books then I’d be interested in seeing a resume…”

Also, if you’ve managed to place them in a new position during this time, the chances are that they’ll be picking up the phone to call you next time they look to expand their new team.



Separate yourself from your competitors by trying this approach. Even if they don’t become a client in the end, at least you’ve gained a good candidate (and maybe even a friend!).If they do become a client, then they’ll probably be one of the best and most loyal clients you’ll ever have.


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