How to set up a career path in talent acquisition  

In a recent episode of the Recruiting Brainfood podcast, hosted by Hung Lee, a comprehensive discussion unfolded, covering the complex details or the tricky parts of setting up a career path in talent acquisition. The episode featured insights from several industry experts, each contributing their knowledge to different aspects of this vital process.  


Nonso Onowu on November 25, 2023 Average reading time: 5 min
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How to set up a career path in talent acquisition  

Building the framework: Starting out and choosing the right model 

The journey towards a successful career in talent acquisition begins with understanding the importance of timing and choosing an appropriate model. This is especially crucial at the onset of one’s career. Smaller organizations, as noted by Annie Jackson, Head of Talent Acquisition (CLEO) greatly benefit from initiating this process early. 

Such a proactive approach not only helps in retaining talent but also provides clear pathways for growth and advancement.

Conversely, larger organizations, with their more delicate structures and diverse employee needs, may require a more diverse and detailed strategy. This contrast highlights the necessity for a tailored approach to career development, one that accommodates the unique characteristics of each organization. 

The significance of having well-defined and adaptable career path models in the dynamic field of talent acquisition is emphasized by the varying needs of different organizational structures and individual professional aspirations. Different models cater to diverse requirements; for instance, startups might prefer flexible, skill-based models, whereas larger companies may require more structured, hierarchical ones, according to Andrea Marston, Senior Director, Global Talent Acquisition (VMWare).  

It’s crucial to align individual career goals with organizational needs for long-term satisfaction and growth, with options like linear progression or rotational models.

The recruitment industry, being highly dynamic, requires a variety of approaches, from hierarchical advancement to skill development-focused frameworks. 

Simpler models, like mentorship-based approaches, can also be effective. Choosing the right model involves considering personal career objectives, organizational culture, and development opportunities. In talent acquisition’s ever-changing demographic, professionals must remain adaptable, evolving their career plans to accommodate new trends and organizational changes. Highlighted below are the various models available for structuring career paths, with some common models within recruitment included:  

Enterprise RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing): This model involves outsourcing the entire recruitment process to an external provider. It’s suitable for organizations looking to streamline their recruitment activities comprehensively.

Hybrid RPO: A blend of in-house and outsourced recruitment processes. This model allows companies to maintain control over certain aspects of recruitment while leveraging external expertise where needed.

High-Volume RPO: Specifically designed for organizations that need to fill a large number of positions in a short time frame. This model is often used for seasonal or project-based hiring needs.

Total Talent Acquisition: This approach integrates the recruitment of all types of talent, including permanent, temporary, and contract workers, under a single strategy. It’s aimed at providing a holistic view of talent management.

In-House Recruitment: The traditional model where the recruitment process is entirely managed within the organization by its own HR or talent acquisition team.  

Each of these models offers different advantages and can be chosen based on the organization’s specific needs, size, and recruitment goals, according to CIELOS Strategic Guide to Talent Acquisition Models

Structural considerations: Flat organizational structures and adaptable TA team structures  


This method is about keeping organization structures simple and efficient by having fewer management levels. It’s important to let everyone communicate openly and give all employees power to make decisions. This makes the workplace active, ready to respond, and good for working together and sharing ideas. It helps bring out the best in creativity and teamwork.

Looking at Talent Acquisition teams, we see a mix of old and new ways  Annie Jackson notes. Many companies have a clear system where people know how they can move up in their career.

But now, there’s a new trend for more flexible systems that change as the company’s needs and goals change.

The table below shows some common ways Talent Acquisition teams are set up. It shows a balance between the usual way of doing things and new, more flexible ways.

Here is a table outlining the typical structures within Talent Acquisition teams:  

Structure Type   Characteristics   Decision Making   Implementation  
Centralized Structure   Managed centrally, often at headquarters.   Central team makes all talent acquisition decisions.   Strategies implemented uniformly across the organization.  
Decentralized Structure   Each department or unit has its own TA team.   Independent operation and decision-making in each unit.   Recruitment strategies tailored to the needs of each unit.  
Hybrid Structure   Combination of centralized and decentralized models.   Some functions managed centrally, others by individual departments.   Mix of uniform strategies and department-specific approaches.  
Functional Structure   TA team organized by specific recruitment functions.   Team members specialize in areas like sourcing, recruiting, interviewing, onboarding.   Each function focuses on its specialized area.  
Matrix Structure   Team members report to multiple managers.   Dual reporting lines, e.g., functional and project managers.   Designed for flexibility and adaptability to business needs.  
Project-based Structure   Teams assembled for specific recruitment projects.   Teams are temporary and often disbanded after project completion.   Used for high-volume or specialized recruitment needs.  




Navigating compensation and differentiation in career levels  

Setting up fair and competitive salaries is a big challenge. It’s important to be clear and fair about how much people get paid. This means making sure that the pay matches the work and is similar to what other companies offer. Doing this helps attract good workers and keeps them happy and motivated


It’s also key to make each job level clear and different. Andreea Lungulescu, Founder (TA Crunch), talks about this. Each level should have its own tasks, how much you can decide on your own, and what skills you need.

This helps workers understand where they are now, where they can go next, and what they need to learn to get there. This good setup helps them grow personally and professionally and matches the company’s goals. 

This way, workers get more involved in their jobs and the company. They see a clear way to move up and do better. This can make the whole team work better and be more excited about their jobs. 

This is very useful in big companies where jobs can be complex. Making each job level clear helps avoid confusion and makes sure workers are ready for their jobs. It also makes it easier to manage and review how well people are doing, as everyone knows what is expected at each job level. 

In short, being clear and fair about pay and making each job level different are very important. They make workers happier and more involved, and help the company do well.

Implementation: Bringing the career path to life  

Implementing a career path plan successfully is crucial, and the key to this is clear communication as highlighted by Andreea Lungulescu. It’s important that every team member knows about and understands the new system. Also, it’s vital to give good training so that the team can use the new career pathing system well and get the most out of it. It’s also important to change the plan based on feedback from real situations and any changes in circumstances, to make sure the plan stays useful and works well.

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