Table of Contents
- External Recruiting Terms
- Internal Recruiting Terms
- Types of Positions
- General Hiring Terms
- Interviewing Terms
- Sales Terms
- Marketing Terms
- Engineering Terms
Are you and your recruiting partners speaking the same language? With new terms appearing every year, it can be hard to keep up. We created this glossary to help you clarify definitions on terms you might know, refresh your knowledge, and stay up to date on the latest recruiting and HR terminology.
Remember, the most effective words are the words that are understood. Your organization may define these terms a little bit differently than we do. If you discover you have an alternate definition for any of these terms, use it as an opportunity to ask questions, do some research, and find alignment within your recruiting team — including company leaders, hiring managers, and interviewers.
External Recruiting Terms
External recruiting is a form of outsourcing. A company with open positions hires a recruiting firm to find and screen suitable candidates before sending them to the company site. Jobs can be permanent or temporary, with temp or contract jobs ranging from a day to a year or more. External recruiters are paid by their recruiting firm, which collects fees from the company where the candidate is placed.
An agency recruiter that works at a recruiting agency. Their job is to find and place candidates into roles at various companies.
A contingency recruiter does not receive payment until the candidates they find get hired. Payment is usually a percentage of the new employee’s salary.
Executive Search Firm/Executive Recruiter
An executive recruiter focuses on filling positions at the executive level (usually Vice President or C-level).
A headhunter is an external recruiter who is focused on placing candidates into senior roles.
An outplacement firm assists workers who have been laid off or downsized from a company. Workers receive job search assistance and training, and the outplacement firm is paid by the company from which the worker was let go.
A retained recruiter is contracted by a company to fill specific (usually senior-level) positions. The retained recruiting firm is paid a flat fee and expected to deliver the hire. The arrangement is exclusive, meaning that no other firm is asked to participate in the search.
Temporary (Temp) Recruiter
Temp recruiters usually work for a staffing agency to find candidates to fill short-term positions for companies.
A staffing agency fills positions for various companies. Workers are legally employed by the staffing agency, who pays them hourly and deducts taxes. Positions can be temporary, temp-to-perm (the worker will be hired on by the client company after a specified period if performance is satisfactory), or direct hire (the worker will be hired by the company without an hourly trial period). The staffing agency marks up the hourly rate paid to the worker or charges a fee for placements. Staffing agencies can specialize in various position types, such as administrative or IT.
Internal Recruiting Terms
Internal or in-house recruiters work for the same company for which they find and place candidates. Their primary responsibilities include sourcing, reviewing applications, screening candidates, and setting up interviews with hiring teams. Companies often use a combination of internal and external recruiters, based on staffing needs.
Contract recruiters work at the company site but are not permanent employees. They may be hired to cover another recruiter’s leave of absence, meet aggressive hiring goals, or hire for specialty positions.
Another term for an in-house recruiter.
An HR generalist manages many aspects of the employee experience such as benefits administration, training, onboarding, and employee relations. They may also serve in a recruiting function as needed.
A sales recruiter specializes in finding and screening candidates for open positions in the sales department.
Talent Acquisition Specialist or Partner
Talent acquisition takes a strategic approach to recruiting in order to meet evolving business needs. In addition to the activities of recruiting, talent acquisition specialists may work with business leaders to strategize and execute optimal processes for sourcing, interviewing, and onboarding.
A tech recruiter specializes in finding and screening candidates for technical roles. This role requires knowledge of highly specialized technical terms and the ability to screen candidates.
Temp recruiters manage and oversee the staffing of temporary workers at sites such as factories, warehouses, or other locations that require large numbers of temporary staff.
Types of Positions
Understanding the terminology that refers to the various types of positions within an organization will help you identify candidates whose experience match the open roles you need to fill.
When “Associate” appears at the end of a title, it usually refers to a junior-level role, such as “Customer Service Associate.” When it appears at the beginning of a title, it usually refers to a junior level of that role, such as “Associate Manager.”
An employee with a C, for “Chief” in their title, is a member of the top level of the executive team. They report to the Board of Directors, or the CEO (Chief Executive Officer). Individuals with VP (Vice President), SVP (Senior Vice President), or EVP (Executive Vice President) in their titles generally report to one of the C-level executives.
A contractor is a worker who is employed for a specified period of time. Contractors do not usually receive health insurance, vacation time, or other benefits available to permanent employees.
Entry level jobs are typically focused on recent high school or college graduates. Screening criteria relate to basic functional skills and education more than workplace experience, though many entry-level jobs require internship experience.
An individual contributor does not manage any other staff members.
An internship is a short-term training period with an employer, with or without pay and is usually geared toward students.
A job transfer occurs when an employee takes a position in another department. When the new position is at the same level as the former position, it’s called a lateral transfer. A transfer can be voluntary (in which the employee chooses to move departments) or involuntary, (in which the employee is assigned to another department or region for organizational reasons).
A lead is usually an employee who has a high level of responsibility but does not manage other employees.
Managers oversee a set of activities and are accountable for their successful execution. A manager usually supervises other employees.
Maternity leave cover
A contract employee covers the responsibilities of an employee on leave due to the birth of a child.
Titles such as “Principal Engineer” refer to a senior level employee who oversees the completion of projects. The principal can also refer to the owner of a consultancy.
A returnship is a short-term employment contract with an experienced professional who has taken an extended leave (usually two or more years) from work in order to attend to family responsibilities.
Senior is a term that refers to employees who have a high level of experience. It can be included in job titles, such as “senior designer,” or refer to employees of high rank, such as “senior executive team.”
Staff is another word for employees. In a job title, staff can refer to an experienced or senior level employee. Double check to find out the hierarchy within your organization.
General Hiring Terms
To make sure you’re up to date on the latest terms typically used in hiring, check out this list.
An active candidate is actively looking for a new job. They may or may not be currently employed.
An applicant is someone who applies for a job.
ATS, or Applicant Tracking System, is a technology solution that allows companies to keep track of candidates and their application information. An ATS usually automates some aspects of the recruiting process and allows for keyword searches within candidate applications. The ATS can also be used to gather key recruiting metrics.
Key candidate information such as name and gender are eliminated as applications are screened.
The candidate experience refers to the range of touchpoints a candidate makes during the evaluation process. It includes filling out the application, receiving communication about the role, screening, interviewing, and extending of the offer.
A candidate pipeline is a database of qualified candidates for positions that your company typically fills.
Candidate quality refers to the level of competence, experience, and personal traits that fit in with the position requirements and your organization’s culture.
A career website, or job website, is site where job seekers go to find open jobs. They may also find career advice, salary information, company reviews, and other useful information that supports their job search.
Close the Loop
Closing the loop refers to ending a discussion. In recruiting, it often means informing candidates of the outcome of a hiring process when they did not get hired for the position.
Culture add considers a candidate’s contribution to the organizational culture. This way of thinking about hiring focuses on building diversity within an organization to foster innovation.
Cultural fit refers to a candidate or employee’s alignment with the organizational culture and processes in terms of beliefs, work expectations, and values.
A debrief is a meeting at the end of a completed project. In recruiting, it often refers to a meeting of interviewers and the hiring manager at the end of an interview process to discuss the merits of each candidate.
Employer branding refers to all the activities that affect a company’s reputation with job seekers. The internal employer brand consists of the ways employees perceive working at the company. The external employer brand is communicated to job seekers through word of mouth, the careers website, social media, and employment sites like Glassdoor.
An employee referral occurs when candidates in existing employees’ social networks apply for open roles at your company. The referring employee usually receives compensation if the candidate is hired.
The hiring pool, or applicant pool, is the total number of applicants for a given position.
An informed candidate is one who has researched the position and your company through research. Research can include reviewing company reports, news articles, and employer reviews as well as informal networking conversations.
The interview process, or hiring process, is the progression of steps for screening and interviewing candidates until an offer is made.
A job board is a career website on which employers or recruiting firms place ads for their open roles.
A lateral hire occurs when a candidate is hired who was at the same level of experience and responsibilities in his or her previous organization.
Mobile strategy refers to the collection of activities that target candidates on mobile devices. It ensures that candidates are able to easily find jobs, learn about your company, apply, and communicate through the hiring process from a smartphone. It may also include a mobile-optimized component for recruiters, hiring managers, and interviewers.
A non-compete (on non-competition) agreement is a legal provision in which an employer requests that an employee not work for a competing company for a specified period of time upon leaving the company. Non-compete agreements are not enforceable in some states.
Onboarding is the process of welcoming and integrating a new employee into the organization. It includes collecting relevant paperwork, orienting the employee to the workplace, and usually includes training on the company’s products as well as work processes with the goal of making the employee productive as quickly as possible.
A passive candidate is one who is employed and not looking for new work.
Poaching occurs when an employer hires an employee directly from a competitor.
A purple squirrel is a term used to describe a candidate who precisely matches all of the employer’s job requirements. Because purple squirrels don’t exist in real life, it is generally considered to be an unobtainable request.
The recruiting funnel is a term used to describe all the aspects of the hiring process. It includes candidate awareness, consideration, application, interviewing, and making the hire.
Recruitment marketing is a term to describe all activities and communications (such as advertising and social media) that an organization uses to attract talent to its workforce.
Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO)
Recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) is when a company hires an external firm to act like its own recruiting department. This differs from traditional external hiring firms in that the RPO firm takes responsibility for the entire recruiting process and may assume the identity and recruiting technologies of the client.
Recruitment Management System (RMS)
A recruitment management system is a software solution that automates and manages all the aspects of recruiting, including attracting, identifying, assessing, and hiring candidates.
A referral incentive is a money paid to an employee who refers a candidate. The employee is usually paid after the candidate has been hired and employed for a specified length of time. Some employers provide smaller incentives for the referral itself, regardless of whether the candidate is hired.
Req can be short for “requirement,” “request,” or “requisition.” A job req often refers to “requisition,” or a document that specifies the need for a hire. It usually includes the title, position responsibilities, and budget required.
Candidate screening involves all the activities prior to inviting a candidate in for a formal interview. Screening includes reviewing resumes, conducting phone or video interviews, and may include a test or assessment.
Social recruiting entails using social networks to find and attract candidates. Recruiters may engage in such activities as posting job ads and employer brand content on social networks, and engaging in groups on social websites.
Sourcing refers to the proactive activities related to finding qualified candidates for a current or future open position. These activities may include online searches, social media outreach, contacting universities, alumni associations and professional associations, as well as attending industry conferences and recruiting events.
Talent acquisition takes a strategic approach to recruiting in order to meet evolving business needs. The talent acquisition department works with business leaders to strategize and execute optimal processes for sourcing, interviewing, and onboarding.
Talent analytics helps companies and talent acquisition professionals use data wisely to improve their recruiting strategies. Talent analytics intelligence and insight can lead to more accurate hiring projections, investment in more profitable recruitment channels, and putting the right employees in the right jobs.
Talent management is the overarching approach to strategically attracting, hiring, and retaining employees with long-term business goals in mind.
Keeping on top of interview terms will help you be prepared to respond to any new types of interview requests.
Behavioral interview questions seek to predict a candidate’s suitability for a role based on their behavior in past jobs. Behavioral questions usually start out with, “Tell me about a time when….” or “Describe a situation when….”
An exit interview is conducted before a departing employee leaves in order to obtain feedback that might improve the organization.
A group interview can refer to either 1) a situation in which multiple candidates are interviewed at the same time, such as at a recruiting event, or 2) multiple people interviewing one candidate at the same time (also known as a panel interview). Either way, part of the goal is to see how the candidate interacts with others in a group setting.
A candidate can leave a review of their interview experience on Glassdoor. They are asked to rate the difficulty level, the experience as a whole, and provide a sample question. This information helps candidates find out what expect and helps employers learn what’s working or what needs to be improved in their interview process.
A panel interviewer entails multiple people interviewing a candidate at the same time. It may include a presentation by the candidate.
Stay interviews are often conducted as part of an employer branding project in order to uncover insights about why employees stay at an organization.
Situational interview questions probe the candidate on how they would respond to a hypothetical scenario in the future.
Structured Interview Process
A structured interview process aims to assess candidates objectively by having interviewers ask the same set of questions to each candidate, in the same order, and provide ratings on key measures.
Technical interview questions seek to uncover the candidate’s knowledge of specific technical skills required for a job. Candidates may be asked to talk through how they would solve a problem or be asked to solve problems on a whiteboard or computer.
An unstructured interview is one in which the questions are not predetermined and different candidates may be asked different questions. They tend to be informal, resembling a conversation more than standard question-and-answer process.
A candidate, usually in an engineering role, is asked to solve a coding problem on a whiteboard while interviewers ask questions. Whiteboard testing has become controversial as it does not replicate the daily coding environment and often disadvantages women due to unconscious gender bias in male-dominated fields.
Recruiting for the sales department can introduce you to new terms, concepts, and acronyms. Here are some of the most common words you’ll hear when recruiting for sales.
CRM, the acronym for Customer Relationship Management, is a company’s approach to managing interactions with customers and potential customers. CRM software is typically used by sales staff to log interactions and track success.
Cross-selling is the activity of selling a different or complementary product or service to an existing customer.
A discovery call is generally the first conversation between a prospect and a salesperson. The purpose of the call is to discover if the prospect is a good fit for the product or service being sold.
A lead is a prospective customer of a product or service. Contact information for leads may be obtained from research, events, or marketing campaigns.
Needs-based selling is a consultative method of selling in which the salesperson uncovers the key issues relating to the product or service and develops a solution appropriate to those needs.
On-Target Earnings (OTE)
On-target earnings refer to the expected compensation of a sales professional if selling targets are met.
A pain point is a problem of a potential customer that the product or service being sold may help solve.
Proof of Concept (POC)
A proof of concept is a test example that proves to the prospect that the proposed solution is viable.
Prospecting is the activity of identifying potential customers and determining if they are qualified.
A quota is the target number or dollar amount that a salesperson must reach in order to have satisfactory performance.
Sales Development Representative (SDR)
A sales development rep is an employee who prospects and qualifies leads to pass on to other sales staff.
The selling cycle is the process by which an organization finds potential customers, qualifies them, provides samples or a demonstration, and then closes a deal.
Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
A sales qualified lead, or SQL, is a lead that has been determined to be ready for the next stage in the selling cycle, which could be a demonstration or in-person meeting. The qualification factors for an SQL will be different at every company depending on its products and services.
Upselling occurs when a salesperson attempts to sell a customer additional related products, a more expensive solution, or add-ons that will increase the value of the total sale.
Marketing can be filled with mysterious jargon. Check this list for top marketing terms that recruiters might encounter.
Attribution is the science of assigning credit to various media campaigns or customer interaction points for making a sale. Companies use a variety of “attribution models” to determine how credit is given.
Churn rate, also known as attrition, is the rate at which subscribers discontinue their subscriptions.
Conversion funnel, or marketing funnel, is the term used to describe the steps a customer takes from product awareness to consideration all the way to purchase. The conversion funnel will vary by an organization based on the available steps and marketing activities.
Cost Per Click (CPC)
Cost Per Click, or CPC, is the amount that an advertiser pays for each click on an ad, (usually on a search engine such as Google).
Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)
CPA is the total cost of trackable marketing activities directly related to a sale. CPA can also stand for “Cost Per Action,” in which a dollar amount is assigned to an action such as signing up for an email list or filling out a form as a result of clicking a link.
Digital marketing is an umbrella term that covers all the marketing activities that occur on digital devices, whether it’s on websites, within apps, text messages, or email.
Display advertising is visually-based communication that appears on square or rectangular boxes on websites.
Lead generation is the process of finding potential customers, or leads, by conducting various marketing activities such as offering free content, encouraging subscription to email newsletters, or participating in events.
The customer lifecycle is the various stages a customer goes through from learning about the product, purchasing it, and becoming a loyal customer. Lifecycle marketing targets specific marketing activities to each stage the lifecycle.
List segmentation is the process of breaking up an email list based on known characteristics, such as demographics, location, purchase history, or download history.
Marketing Automation Software
Marketing automation software automates specific marketing actions, such as sending emails, posting on social media, and triggering website actions. Popular marketing automation software companies include Marketo, Pardot, Infusionsoft, and Hubspot.
Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
A marketing qualified lead is one that has been determined to be more likely to buy due to a variety of factors that can include opening emails, downloading content, and other specific website actions.
Online marketing, also called internet marketing, is a subset of digital marketing refers to digital marketing activities that occur specifically on websites. This can include display advertising, search engine advertising, social media, and website activities.
Pay Per Click (PPC)
PPC is a form of advertising in which the advertiser places an ad but only pays when the ad is clicked upon.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Search engine marketing is the process of directing visitors to a website by purchasing PPC ads on search engines.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is the process of optimizing the words used on a website in order to rank higher in search engine results.
User Interface (UI)
The user interface is the parts of a website or device that users interact with. It is primarily concerned with the visual input controls.
User Experience (UX)
The user experience is the sum of interactions a user has when using a website or device. It is primarily concerned with creating an experience that meets a user’s needs through various steps while using the product.
A workflow is the sequence of actions required to reach a specified outcome.
If you’re recruiting for engineering, you’ll likely encounter dozens of unfamiliar terms. While this list provides a sampling of common terms, be sure to do your research and ask colleagues for clarification when you encounter new terms.
ASP.net is a Microsoft developed framework used to build dynamic web applications.
Back-end technology refers to the programming that determines how the site works, updates and changes, but that the user doesn’t see. Common back-end programming languages are Java, Python, C#.
Big data is a term used to describe the vast amounts of information that companies collect that they may or may not be using to their advantage to improve services and processes.
C is a low level, general use programming language.
C++ (pronounced C plus plus)
C++ is an object-oriented programming language based loosely on the C language.
C# (pronounced C-Sharp)
C# is a programming language developed by Microsoft for use in developing dynamic web applications and general use Windows applications.
Cloud computing entails using offsite servers, accessed through the Internet, to store and process data.
Data mining is the computing process of discovering patterns in large data sets.
Data science is an interdisciplinary field that uses principles of social science and statistics, and information and computer science to query data. Findings are used to improve products and processes.
Front end refers to the programming that affects everything the user sees on a website or application. Common front-end technologies include HTML and CSS.
A full stack developer is someone who is familiar with both front and back-end technologies and programming languages.
Java is a popular general use object-oriented programming language.
A programming language that was initially developed to execute within the web browser, but is now becoming a more general use language.
LAMP – Linux Apache MYSQL PHP/Python
LAMP is an acronym of a common tech stack for building web applications that include the most common open source components: the Linux operating system, Apache HTTP server, the MySQL relational database management system, and the PHP programming language. Sometimes Python is substituted for PHP.
A native application is one that is built for that specific operating system. In contrast, a web app is built to be accessed on any device, usually through a browser.
Objective C is the primary programming language used when writing software for Apple computers (macOS) and Apple devices (iOS).
Python is a popular programming language that allows for easier reading and reviewing of code than other languages such as C++ and Java.
Quality Assurance (QA)
Quality assurance is the process of checking for mistakes to ensure a product is fully functional before making it available for use.
Ruby on Rails
Structured Query Language (SQL)
SQL is the standard programming language used to communicate with relational database systems.
Swift is the programming language developed by Apple to write software for macOS and iOS.
Technology (Tech) Stack
The tech stack is the collection of software products and programming languages that a company uses to build its web or mobile product.
How To Conduct a Behavioral Interview >
Good hiring practices like behavioral interviewing are essential to keeping recruiting costs low.
50 HR and Recruiting Stats for 2019 >
Our annual review of top HR and recruiting statistics includes survey data from employers and job seekers.
The Ultimate Screening Checklist >
Informed candidates do their homework before applying - that's why they're 2X more likely to be hired.
Recruiting Glossary: Terms Recruiters Need to Know >
Are you and your recruiting partners speaking the same language? Stay on top of new terms with our glossary.