Talent Acquisition Is A Cost Centre, Right? 🤨

by | Oct 6, 2022

A cost centre! How often do you hear Talent Acquisition called this?

The people who bring in the people, therefore playing a crucial role in the fate of the company (or client’s company) are just a cost centre.

Lovely. The business can think we are the very definition of a cost centre. 😬

So if your business sees your TA function as a cost centre, what are you doing to disprove it? Or do you agree, has the business convinced you that TA is little more than cost-per-hire? What about productivity or retention of the people you hire? Are you really a cost-centre?

I started this series of articles is to talk about our reputation and to show that TA is a value-add. And as the media, paid to deliver negativity, attempts to scare you into unemployment (even though my feed is overflowing with new-TA-hire notifications), it feels like a good time to focus on this misconception.


Because if you are a value-add you’re less likely to lose your seat.

While I was already formulating this article, inspired by several recent conversations, I read this brilliant interview with Mike Wolford in Tech Recruiting Times!

If you listen to the news, you’re going to hear recession. But the [US] labour market data is telling the exact opposite story. In 2019, certain people loved the economic data — 7.2 million open jobs were considered high. Then, one of the hallmarks of the last two recessions (2008, 2020) was increasing unemployment. Now in 2022, according to the Department of Labor’s monthly report, unemployment has continued to drop throughout the year and there are 11.2 million open jobs. We even added 375,000 jobs in July. For context, at the height of the pandemic in April 2020, the labor market was at its bottom at 4.5 million open jobs.

Mike goes on to talk about, curating and presenting this data. When you finish this one, I encourage you to read Mike’s interview in full. It’s 🧨, of course.


You must use data to cover your butt & change perception around being a cost centre!

This week I ran two workshops focused on retention and recruitment at HUG on Tour, London by Personio. Even with people from many different companies & industries, unsurprisingly, compensation & benefits, and flexibility came up as huge obstacles to hiring and retaining.

HR & Talent acquisition cost centre

Eeesh, these just sound like more cost to leaders, right? 💰

So instead gather data and use it, sprinkled with emotion, to make your case and show that you play a critical part in the bottom line and are not just a cost.

  • Market data – get to the truth of what is going on in your marketplace. Put media hype to one side and seek evidence that your industry is booming or tanking. There are countless sources for this and Chapter 5 of The Robot-Proof Recruiter is a great place to start.
  • Competitor intel – how does your company (client) compare? On benefits, on reputation (EVP/brand), on candidate experience, on career paths, on internal mobility, on anything that makes your competition more enticing to candidates. Gather it all.
  • Candidate data – ask them! How many times are they approached each day, how often do they interview in a year, what makes a role enticing, where do they think their industry is going. What do they like/dislike. Be that toddler; ask them!
  • Urgency data – what will happen if you don’t fill this role in 30, 60, 90 day etc.? If you cannot get the hiring managers to fairly prioritise their roles, then you have to ask them. What is the cost if we cannot fill the role? What is the cost every day while it’s open? You have bigger problems if they cannot answer theses questions.*
  • Internal data – before you go external, you must ask your hiring manager who they have considered internally first. I have a sneaking suspicion TA pros don’t do this because they think it will somehow make them null & void… but it can also be because your managers think they ‘own’ their team members, which is a surefire way to lose staff.* [Check out Glenn Martin & my show with Tracey Parsons for more on this]
  • Recession proof – Elizabeth Lembke shared recently, “Do not hire if you cannot keep the person during a downturn.” Having heard horror stories of people selling up to move continents to start a role, only to have the offer rescinded 3 days before the start date, you – YES YOU, my beloved reader – have a duty to ensure your company won’t be messing with someone’s life! So ask, “Will we be able to keep them in a downturn?”
  • Success data (the real cover your butt stuff) – know your stats. Not just how much you saved per hire by being scrappy, which I never think works in the long run, but I digress. Who are your successful hires? Who have you brought in who has added to that bottom line? Who have they helped you hire who also succeeded? Who did you move internally & backfill – therefore saving by retaining? Gather your wins – always have them jotted down somewhere handy.


Now you can enter your intake strategy session armed with data – asking the tough questions – showing you know your stuff – and agreeing to a partnership and SLAs. Now you can talk to your senior leaders with confidence.

* If your hiring managers don’t like being queried like this or worse they don’t know how to answer your questions, ask your TA Leader/Director to book a time to speak to me about a workshop. They can fix these kinds of issues. You should be able to be the value add partner that you are meant to be so if you can’t have these conversations, ask them to book a call. Now! (Not while I am in Australia for ATC & India 5-26 Nov 😉)


Are you curious enough?

As conceited as this will sound, every time a recruiter asks me where they can buy my book, I despair when I should rejoice. Because it seems like the people responsible for finding new hires, cannot work out where to buy a book? 😲 It could be laziness but mostly it strikes me as a lack of curiosity.

Recruiters MUST be curious. Especially, when they know they are more than a cost-centre!

To succeed and add value, you must be like that pesky toddler constantly asking for an explanation or to learn more. You must push back and not accept the fob off. When they say, “I don’t know” ask “And if you did know?” and wait. Keep asking & learning, it’s the only way to show that TA is most definitely not a cost centre!



If you are thinking I cannot do this, I don’t have the confidence, backing, understanding, experience or whatever is getting in the way, please join my coaching & mentoring group. I will help you become a fearless TA or recruiting pro! But, if your hiring managers don’t have the answers or won’t give you the time, ask your TA Leaders to call me. Those issues will take more to fix!


Part of the Recruitment Isn’t Broken newsletter. For more, be sure to subscribe below, grab Edition 2 of The Robot-Proof Recruiter, check out The Collective, book a workshop or listen to The Hiring-Partner Perspective.

Edition 2 is out! 🥳

Fully updated for 2022, The Robot-Proof Recruiter

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