Headaches of Recruitment Jargon

There is already a lot of confusion concerning what a recruiter actually does, and the industry’s infatuation with professional jargon does not help its case.

Even 12-year recruiting veteran Matt Churchward of Recruiter admitted to growing increasingly confused by his own industry due to its use of jargon. “I’m pretty sure we help businesses find employees and vice versa,” he writes, “but can no longer say so with 100% certainty.”

If this recruitment insider has trouble interpreting the terminology, one can only imagine the bewilderment of industry outsiders when these terms are tossed around. In response to this problem, Forbes published a guide to working with recruiters last summer to dispel some the profession’s opacity.

An important question to first consider is whether all the jargon actually hurts recruiters. When clients do not understand the services and the benefits provided by the recruitment process, there may be a problem.

Churchward suggests that the recruiter profession suffers from an unfounded inferiority complex: “Do we believe we have to throw acronyms and fancy words at clients to get them to see new value in what is essentially the same service?” In laymen’s terms, recruiters recruit people on behalf of companies to fill positions. This is an essential and worthwhile undertaking sans indecipherable lingo.

There are also the candidates to consider. Though recruiter loyalties lie with the client, candidates do deserve to be able to decipher their interactions with recruiters. Scaling down on the jargon would make the process easier on all sides: for the client, candidate, and recruiter.

There are many other recruiter terminology handbooks online just like the one put out by Forbes, but hopefully the one below can serve newbie recruiters, candidates, and clients alike.

Types of Recruiters

Head Hunter: A recruiter who searches for qualified personnel to fill senior roles, usually approaching those who are not actively seeking new opportunities.

Niche Recruiter: A recruiter who operates within a specific field. Also known as a boutique recruiter.

Generalist Recruiter: One who covers multiple fields.

Independent Recruiter: One who works outside of an agency, offering services on a contingent basis or an hourly rate.

Contingency Recruiters: Recruiters who only receive a fee for successfully placing someone in a job. Usually firms use these types of recruiters to fill low-level openings.

Retained Recruiters: Recruiters hired to fill senior positions who are paid whether the position is filled or not.


Talent: The people recruiters want to hire.

Purple Squirrel: That illustrious, ideal, or perfect candidate who meets every requirement for the position.

Active Candidate: Someone who is looking for a new position. Usually he or she has registered with a recruitment agency and receives feeds from job boards. This person is very open to hearing about new opportunities.

Passive Candidate: Someone who is content in his or her present role. This person is not looking for a new opportunity, but shouldn’t be counted out.

Applicant Pool: The group of candidates who have applied to a position, or a group of potential candidates who might be available or interested in a role.

Job Hopper: A person who moves from one job to the next relatively quickly.

Transferable Skills: Skills that can be utilised across a number of industries and job types.

Pipeline: A curated list of candidates to that one plans to refer to when there are job openings.

Types of Positions

Internship: Usually an unpaid position for someone seeking relevant work experience. If paid, the rate is lower than standard.

C-level Jobs: Top-level positions (e.g. CEO, CIO, and CTO) in the management of a certain aspect of the company.

Entry Level Job: A position that does not require much experience and targets candidates who just graduated from college.

Lateral Job Transfer: An opportunity to move to another position at the same organization at the same level of responsibility and/or pay.

Returnship: An internship for professionals returning to the workforce.

The Process

Requisition: A job opening.

Intake: The meeting that jump-starts the recruiting process between the hiring manager and recruiter.

Kick-off: The meeting with the hiring manager during which he/she describes the ideal candidate.

Sourcing: The practice of recruiting talent using strategic search techniques.

Talent Acquisition: The strategy used to attract and hire talent.

Check-in: An app that allows you to see leads at events and manage them on LinkedIn Recruiter.

Screen: The phone conversation that determines whether a prospect becomes a candidate.

Dashboard: The home page on the Applicant Tracking System that tells the recruiter what candidates are in play and where.

Turndown: When a recruiter breaks the bad news to a candidate that he or she did not get the position.

Compensation: The salary plus bonus offered to a candidate.

Close: The last step! When the recruiter receives the signed employment contract.

Poaching: “Stealing” an employee from a competing company.


KSA: Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities characteristics required to perform a job properly.

OTE: On Target Earnings. The estimated amount an employee will receive after meeting his/her targets.

DOE: Depending On Experience. When a salary is dependent on the amount of experience a candidate possesses.

Still confused about the recruiting process? Check out Launchpad Recruits for tips on finding the best candidates out there.