Talent Acquisition Strategies: Build, Buy, or Borrow?

Thursday, 30 May 2024

When Google faced rapid growth in the early 2000s, it encountered a significant challenge, "How to acquire the right talent to sustain our rapid innovation and expansion?"

Google’s approach to this problem has become a case study in the talent acquisition methodology, blending three primary strategies: build, buy, or borrow. 

Let's quickly review into each of these approaches to gain a comprehensive understanding of their nuances and implications.

Build: Nurturing Talent from Within

The "build" strategy centers on cultivating talent internally through comprehensive training and development programs. 

A critical aspect of this strategy is hiring fresh graduates, or people with diverse experience and skill sets. This approach not only addresses the skill gap but also injects new energy and perspectives into the organization. 

According to a recent article on CNBC Indonesia, many Gen Z graduates face unemployment due to a mismatch between their skills and market demands. 

By focusing on a "build" mindset and prioritizing the hiring of fresh graduates, companies can bridge skill gaps effectively while contributing to reducing youth unemployment. 

This approach not only develops a culturally aligned and engaged workforce but also fosters a pipeline of talent poised to drive long-term success and innovation within the organization.


  • Enhanced employee engagement and loyalty: Employees feel valued and are more likely to stay with the company.
  • Cultural alignment: Internally developed talent is already aligned with the company's values and culture.
  • Cost-effective in the long run: Reduces reliance on external recruitment and the associated costs.
  • Fresh perspectives: Young graduates bring innovative ideas and adaptability, which can drive future growth.


  • Time-intensive: Developing talent takes time, which may not be ideal for immediate needs.
  • Potential for limited diversity: Relying solely on internal talent can lead to a homogenous workforce.
  • Not always suitable for immediate skill gaps: Urgent needs might not be met promptly.

Buy: Acquiring External Expertise

The "buy" strategy involves actively recruiting and hiring external talent to fill specific roles. Companies leverage various channels such as job boards, social media, and recruitment agencies to attract skilled professionals.


  • Quick access to specialized skills: Immediate availability of expertise to meet business needs.
  • Injection of fresh perspectives and ideas: External hires can bring new approaches and innovations.
  • Potential for immediate impact: External talent can often hit the ground running.


  • High costs: Recruitment fees, higher salaries, and onboarding costs can be significant.
  • Cultural integration challenges: New hires may face difficulties adapting to the company culture.
  • Potential for turnover: External hires might not have the same loyalty as developed internal talent.

Borrow: Leveraging Contingent Workforce

The "borrow" strategy entails utilizing contingent workers or contractors for project-based or short-term assignments. This approach offers flexibility and agility in addressing fluctuating talent needs.


  • Cost-effective for specific projects: Paying only for the duration of the project can be economical.
  • Access to niche skills: Contractors often bring specialized expertise.
  • Scalability: Easily adjust workforce size to match workload fluctuations.


  • Potential for less engagement and commitment: Temporary workers may not be as invested in the company.
  • Knowledge drain: Skills and knowledge may leave with the contractor at project completion.
  • Management overhead: Coordinating multiple contracts and ensuring consistency can be challenging.

Choosing the Right Approach

The optimal talent acquisition strategy hinges on various factors, including the company's size, industry, budget, and specific talent needs. 

But a hybrid approach combining elements of all three strategies often proves most effective. 

For instance, Google has successfully "built" talent through its extensive internal training programs, "bought" specialized expertise by acquiring startups and hiring top talent, and "borrowed" talent through the use of contractors and freelancers for specific projects.

By carefully evaluating each strategy's pros and cons and aligning them with their overarching business goals, organizations can make informed decisions that empower them to attract and retain top talent in today's competitive landscape.