What is a Talent Acquisition Specialist and What Does One Do?

Looking for a new job can be a stressful endeavor. Exploring potential career options, researching employers, drafting cover letters and participating in interviews is basically a job in itself. Couple this with the daunting reality of not knowing what’s ahead and it’s natural to feel overwhelmed — especially at the beginning of your hunt. 

Luckily, there are a lot of career options for people who have a quality set of skills. In the business world, it’s not uncommon for people to switch jobs frequently, exploring something new every now and then. 

In fact, as long as you’re a good employee, with some of these transferable skills, most doors will open for you. This includes opportunities in talent acquisition. 

Talent acquisition specialists are an essential piece of their organization, connecting individuals with the job opening that’s the best fit for their skills, interests and expectations.  

Whether you’ve been in the workforce for decades, or are just starting your career, transitioning into a talent acquisition role could be exactly what you’re looking for. On the other hand, this job is not the right fit for everyone; recruiters face some challenges you should know about. 

As a large transportation company, Anderson Trucking Service (ATS) has more than 1,000 corporate employees spread across multiple locations. Our talent acquisition team is responsible for filling each opening with qualified candidates who are a good position and culture fit. Over the years, ATS’ talent acquisition team has expanded to match our overall personnel growth and today consists of more than 10 individuals. 

If you’re considering a career in talent acquisition, this article will give you some insight into what it could look like. 

Below we’ve broken down what it means to be a talent acquisition specialist, into the following categories:

If you have any other questions about what being in talent acquisition is really like, contact us here — we’re happy to help you in your job hunt.

What is a Talent Acquisition Specialist?

A talent acquisition specialist, also commonly called a corporate recruiter, is an individual who oversees a portion of their organization’s hiring efforts. In their role, talent acquisition professionals are asked to align talent (job candidates) with the position that best suits their requirements and the business’ needs. 

This is an essential, dynamic role. 

Often, talent acquisition professionals oversee hires in a wide variety of categories — from management and leadership to sales, operations, IT, accounting and more. 

Many organizations (especially the large ones) establish internal growth paths for these individuals based on their tenure, skills and areas of focus. 

What Does a Talent Acquisition Specialist Do?

Talent acquisition is an interesting field. In this job, you’ll be asked to perform a wide range of hiring/recruiting duties. Recruiting, like sales, is all about building relationships. To do so, talent acquisition professionals spend a lot of time interacting with others — conducting phone interviews, reaching out for clarification(s) and working with internal and external stakeholders to ensure everyone’s needs are met. 

While it’s difficult to summarize the diverse duties a recruiter may perform in a day or a week, here are the major responsibilities they shoulder:

  • Reviewing applications
  • Conducting phone screens/interviews
  • Overseeing the interview process
  • Overseeing the job offer stage
  • Initiating background checks and drug screenings
  • Preparing new hires for onboarding
  • Working closely with hiring managers and internal stakeholders
  • Preparing for and attending career fairs 
  • Hosting hiring events

This is by no means a comprehensive list; the duties and responsibilities handled by these employees are robust. Each company sets individual expectations for its recruiters, make sure to check out each role’s job description before applying. 

In the end, talent acquisition professionals manage and oversee all activities associated with the recruiting and hiring process. Sometimes this even includes new-hire onboarding. 

Talent Acquisition Specialist Speaking to Job Candidate at Table

What Background Do You Need to Work in Talent Acquisition?

Getting your foot into the recruiting realm doesn’t require a specific background or degree. While there are four-year human resources programs (talent acquisition falls under the human resources umbrella), this career isn’t only available to people with this accolade. 

In fact, you’ll probably meet more recruiters without a human resources education than those with it. As such, most companies give these opportunities to people with a two-year/four-year degree and a demonstrated history of using problem-solving, interpersonal communication and critical thinking skills. 

High-level positions like senior talent acquisition specialist or talent acquisition manager, for example, require a more specific work history and experience.

How Much Does a Talent Acquisition Specialist Make?

As a baseline, talent acquisition specialists make roughly $50,000-$70,000 per year. A recruiter’s exact compensation is based on their years of experience, location, whether they’re a full-time employee or contract (contract recruiters are relatively common) and a number of other factors. 

Because of their duties, talent acquisition professionals are non-exempt workers who earn a salary. In addition to their salary, it’s not uncommon for recruiters to earn an incentive for hires. This payout structure varies from one organization to the next. However, if you’re motivated by compensation incentives, a job in talent acquisition can usually offer you one. 

What’s Great About Being a Talent Acquisition Specialist?

Many people love being in recruiting — this is a rewarding, fulfilling job most of the time. If you enjoy goal attainment, helping others, building relationships and making a measurable impact on your organization, this could be the perfect role for you. 

More specifically, four of the best things about working in talent acquisition are: 

  1. Watching those you helped onboard flourish
  2. Connecting people with a career they’re excited about
  3. Building relationships with all kinds of people
  4. Doing a variety of tasks every day

1. Watching those you helped onboard flourish

As a recruiter, you’re with each candidate from the start of their journey until they’re successfully onboarded. In turn, you build connections with each candidate you work with. That’s why, when someone you helped recruit and hire does really well — earning accolades, recognition and promotions — it can feel really rewarding. 

While this indicates how good of a job you did and that your hard work was worth it, someone who flourishes in your organization is someone who truly found their fit in the position you recruited them for. That’s even more rewarding. 

2. Connecting People With a Career They’re Excited About

There is nothing quite like extending someone a job offer and hearing the excitement on the other end of the phone. It feels really good to know the person you’ve been working with achieved their goal — and they’re ecstatic about it. 

This is one of the best things about working in talent acquisition. Recruiters aren’t focused solely on “putting butts in seats.” Instead, great recruiters also advocate for candidates they know are a good fit and work tirelessly to find each one the best position for them. Offering someone the job of their dreams is a worthy, rewarding activity that recruiters get to experience often. 

Hiring Manager Shaking Hands With Job Candidate

3. Building Relationships With All Kinds of People

Talent acquisition specialists work with a lot of different people every day. This includes hiring managers, members of the human resources and marketing teams, members of leadership and job candidates from all walks of life. 

Building relationships with interesting people, internally and externally, is a fun way to spend your working hours. This is exactly what talent acquisition specialists do. 

4. Doing a Variety of Tasks Every Day

Some jobs are monotonous, asking those within them to perform the same tasks day in and day out. This can get exhausting after a while, especially if you have difficulty working individually all the time. 

Talent acquisition professionals don’t usually encounter this problem; for the most part, these people do different things every day. Sure, the mechanics of many tasks are the same (performing phone screenings, reading resumes, scheduling interviews, etc.), but you’re constantly encountering new people, challenges and successes. In this way, recruiting never gets boring — every day is truly unique. 

What’s Challenging About Being a Talent Acquisition Specialist?

A career in talent acquisition is great for a variety of reasons — above and beyond what’s listed above. That said, before you start applying for these jobs, there are several challenges you should expect to encounter (at one point or another) in recruiting. 

Three of the biggest challenges of working in talent acquisition are:

  1. Receiving rejections
  2. Navigating difficult job markets
  3. Dealing with factors out of your control 

1. Receiving Rejections

Nobody likes to be rejected. It’s never fun to hear it’s not going to work out. This is true in many aspects of life. That said, in a talent acquisition position, rejection comes with the territory (so to speak). 

You see, while many of the candidates you work with will accept a good offer in the end, some don’t. The job market, like many others, is competitive. This means that great job candidates have plenty of options and, sometimes, they’ll choose a different employer

This is disheartening, especially if you worked hard to nurture them through the hiring process and they were a really good fit. Sure, this doesn’t happen all the time as a recruiter, but it’s definitely a challenge you’ll be expected to face. 

Corporate Recruiter Sitting at Desk

2. Navigating Difficult Job Markets

Like every other free marketplace, the job market is cyclical. Sometimes, things are great for talent acquisition specialists, filling roles is easy and applications stream in the doors. At other times, however, hiring is more challenging. 

Typically, this occurs when there are more open jobs — within an area or region — than there are candidates for them. 

This kind of job market makes working in corporate recruiting a bit trickier. In this environment, recruiters need to work harder and search longer to find qualified candidates, making it challenging to meet their goals. 

Over time, seasoned recruiters learn how to navigate these kinds of markets, developing techniques for predicting when they’ll arrive and tactics for hiring through them. That said, as you start a career in this field, be aware of how difficult some job markets can be so you’re not surprised. 

3. Dealing With Factors Out of Your Control 

As a corporate recruiter, there’s only so much you can control. Things like the number of phone screenings you conduct for a job or the types of questions you ask during them top this list. 

In the end, filling an open position hinges on multiple elements coinciding. 

Unfortunately, many of these factors are out of your control. For example, the candidate being available every step of the way, the salary aligning with their requirements, the hiring manager liking the candidate’s fit and the candidate accepting your offer are important pieces of the hiring process. This is all beyond your control, however. 

Dealing with and accepting these realities is a challenge — especially at first. So, if you’re interested in pursuing a career in this field, be aware that not everything will go your way. 

Who is This Job a Good Fit For? 

The talent acquisition specialist role is a good fit for a mix of people from a variety of backgrounds. Those who succeed in this position are usually goal-driven and thrive in a fast-paced environment. People with a history in customer-facing roles (like sales and customer service) do well in recruiting. 

Other qualities/skills that make someone a good fit for this role include: 

  • Relationship builders: people who enjoy connecting with new people and can develop rapport easily
  • Kind and considerate: people who understand how stressful the job search can be and empathize with others 
  • Charismatic: people that others are drawn to and work well with a team

Once again, this isn’t a comprehensive list. At the end of the day, you might be a great fit for this job, even if none of these qualities describe you. In fact, if you have the drive to help others and aren’t opposed to working hard, you’ll find a place in the talent acquisition realm.

Corporate Recruiter On the Phone Sitting on Couch

Who is This Job a Poor Fit For? 

This career isn’t for everyone. Some people simply wouldn’t enjoy the type of work recruiters do — that’s totally fine. 

Although we don’t want to draw any lines in the sand, talent acquisition is probably not a fit for you if you prefer to do independent work most of the time; this job requires a lot of collaboration. Also, people who are more reserved and hesitant to talk to new people all the time usually don’t like recruiting

Is a Career in Talent Acquisition Right For You? 

Starting a career in talent acquisition doesn’t require a specific background or education; it’s very possible this is an option for you. Talent acquisition professionals also make a very respectable living (between $50,000-$70,000 on average). 

Add in the fact that this job is really rewarding, offers a dependable upward career arch over time and is in (relatively) high demand and you’re left with one question to answer: Does a career in talent acquisition make sense for you? 

Here at ATS, our team of talent acquisition professionals thoroughly enjoy their jobs. 

That said, this role isn’t for people that are more reserved and would be uncomfortable talking to strangers every day. For this reason, it’s important that you do your research before diving into this career full bore. 

Here is a video walking you through a day in the life of a talent acquisition specialist so you have a better idea of what this job actually looks like. 

However, if you’ve decided that corporate recruiting isn’t for you, that’s totally fine too. You might still want to look for a job in the transportation industry, though; there are a lot of advantages to working here

To help you find your fit in this booming industry, check out this article listing eight entry-level transportation industry jobs (and their career paths).

Tags: Career Resources

Ellen Spiczka

Written by Ellen Spiczka

Ellen has a rich history at ATS. In 2015, Ellen started at ATS Logistics as a national sales representative, where her interpersonal, communication and problem-solving skills helped her meet the expansive demands of her customer base. In 2019, Ellen transitioned into a role on ATS' corporate talent acquisition team, using these same skills to connect job seekers with their best-fit position within ATS. Today, Ellen is the lead talent acquisition specialist for ATS Logistics, ATS' fastest-growing division.

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