Recruiting for non-recruiters made simple

Some, especially those new to the field, view the recruiting world as a complex system of business interactions, offers, counter-offers and dialogue where things could go wrong at any moment in time.

These thoughts are in no way irrational; if you are inexperienced in the inner workings of the recruitment niche, the chances of understanding the meaning of a particular term work against your favor.

However, today’s modern corporate landscape is an intersection of disciplines, fields, and knowledge. For business leaders, it’s imperative that they understand what they’re dealing with across all departments in their company. You are only as strong as your weakest link, right?

Right. To understand a recruiter, you must think, act and do as one. So, without further ado (double entendre notwithstanding), let’s peek behind the recruitment curtain and clarify any misunderstandings to prevent costly mistakes down the road.

What is a recruiter?

A recruiter is an encompassing term that describes a person who does multiple things, including sourcing and screening talent (also known as talent acquisition), managing the interview process, pre-screening qualified candidates, and more.

The recruiter is focused on building and nurturing relationships with all parties and providing the candidates with a seamless interview experience from beginning to end.

Sometimes, recruiters are called hiring managers, and some of their responsibilities are known to overlap. Often, however, recruiters are more focused on handling the recruitment process, while hiring managers are responsible for the hiring process of the candidates.

Hiring managers often have the final say on hiring decisions, and they usually investigate what went wrong when there is a bad hire.

Types of recruiters

Generally speaking, there are three types of recruiters:

  • Headhunters
  • General recruiters
  • Technical recruiters

Headhunters are recruiters who mainly focus on finding senior talent, typically for advanced roles that require more experience (senior developer, CFO) and other executive positions.

General recruiters include personnel who handle the recruiting process for various fields, disciplines, and niches. For example, they could conduct hires for the marketing and financial departments or even find fitting job seekers to fill their own ranks (human resources, hiring department).

Technical recruiters are professionals who understand the job they’re hiring for on a level the prospective candidates should understand. They usually have multiple years of experience in a particular field and ample familiarity with specific technologies, frameworks, or systems related to the open position.

But, what happens when a non-recruiter gets involved in the recruitment process somewhere along the way? What is the best way to handle things then?

Undoubtedly, the best way is to prepare. Here’s a handy recruitment dictionary for non-recruiters that explains the most popular “insider” terms that recruiters use in their daily work.

Terms used to describe candidates

These are job-specific terms that recruiters use to describe the status of the candidate in the interviewing pipeline:

Active candidate: a job seeker who is actively looking for employment. They join multiple job seeking groups, they regularly visit the most popular job boards, and sometimes they can even join a recruitment agency to help them find a job.

Passive candidate: this refers to a person who is happy in their current position. They don’t actively look to change employers, but if the time and offer are right, they would consider meeting up for a chat. The interesting thing about passive candidates is that they represent an underutilized pool of professionals that may fit a certain role better than their current ones. To reach the pool of passive candidates, one thing you could do is adapt your hiring strategy to include their concerns as well (remote working options, better offer, more engagement in the workplace).

Job hopper: this is someone who changes jobs regularly. Changing jobs on the regular is not always a bad thing, but a “job hopper” will often act like a mercenary more than as a loyal employee.

Applicant pool: recruiters will often use the phrase “applicant pool” to describe all of the job seekers who’ve applied for a certain position. More broadly, however, “applicant pool” can also refer to a wider group of promising candidates who haven’t necessarily applied, but are nonetheless more than capable of meeting the duties and responsibilities of the role.

Terms used to describe different types of positions

Job positions are divided into a number of different categories. For example, entry-level jobs require fewer qualifications and less experience than senior roles. C-level positions demand even more from the applicant than the previous two. Here are the terms used for some of them:

Internship: an internship usually refers to an unpaid position and is aimed toward a person who wants to gain some traction, knowledge, and hands-on experience in a field they want to build a career moving forward. Internships are usually unpaid, with some exceptions (but the compensation is lower than the median salary for that position).

Entry-level position: jobs that don’t require experience, aimed at candidates with little or no experience who are just starting out. In contrast with internships, entry-level positions are paid roles.

C-level position: also known as C-Suite positions, these jobs are meant to fill a top-level vacancy such as a CEO, CTO, CFO, and more. C-level jobs rest atop the corporate pyramid and decisions made by the people in one of these roles carry the most weight in the organization.

Benefits, perks, job incentives—what’s the difference? Here’s a short rundown:

Compensation: This means the amount of money (excluding the benefits) the candidate will receive after starting their job responsibilities.

Benefits/perks: This term refers to the non-cash additions that the employee will receive apart from the salary. The perks can vary, covering gym memberships, health and wellbeing coupons, breakfast, snacks, a parking spot, and the eponymous ping-pong table, among other benefits.

DOE: This term means “depending on experience”. It’s a signal that denotes the salary rate depending on the experience of the candidate.

OTE: It’s an abbreviation for “on target earnings.” It’s a term more commonly prevalent in sales-related positions, where the employee will receive an estimated compensation based on their sales performance.

Time in lieu: Employees don’t have to come to the office for the time they have spent working overtime. In this working model, companies don’t pay for overtime and use the “time in lieu” system instead.

Work-life balance: This is a more colloquial term that means time spent at work versus leisure activities. Ideally, employees will seek employment where they can more easily achieve a good work-life balance.

Internally used recruitment terms

As with any other occupation, recruiters use an “internal lingo” to communicate better with their colleagues and peers. Some of these terms include:

RPO: Refers to recruitment process outsourcing. RPO is a type of recruitment model where the employer transfers either parts or the entirety of the recruitment process to a provider outside the company. RPO differs from external staffing or agency recruitment in that the RPO provider assumes full responsibility for the recruitment process from beginning to end. The recruitment process outsourcing provider can also use the company’s staff, systems, and methodology to achieve better results.

Applicant tracking system: This is a term used to describe a business's software to automate one or more recruitment processes to better manage, track, and sort prospective candidates.

Talent management: This is a system for managing a company’s current talent to attract and retain future talent.

Human resources: A department in an organization that manages employees. Often, HR will work hand-in-hand with recruiters to find the most suitable candidate for an upcoming job vacancy.

Social recruiting: Also known as social hiring, this type of recruitment is using social networks (LinkedIn, Twitter, Github) to find top talent. Recruiters can utilize these platforms as databases, advertising spots, or brand awareness hubs to make their company stand out from the rest for promising job seekers.

Employer branding: Refers to a company’s reputation or how it appears in the public’s eye. Prospective candidates will be more likely to apply to a company that has a positive employer reputation compared to other companies.

Sourcing: This is a term that refers to identifying, reaching out to and attracting talent. It can involve organic or paid online advertising, in-person word-of-mouth advertising, database outreach, social media job postings, and more. As the demand for skilled professionals grows, recruiters are becoming increasingly more creative in the ways of sourcing new talent.

Terms used to describe different types of interviews

The process of attracting qualified candidates to your company means that recruiters have to adapt their interviews accordingly. A technical interview for a front-end developer can look a lot different than interviewing a mid-level manager for a pickle factory.

To that end, here are some of the most common types of interviews that recruiters have to prepare for:

Group interview: These are interviews that focus on volume rather than assessing individual candidates. Back in my hospitality days, once I went on a group interview together with more than 70 other people. By the time the recruiters were ready to hear us out (all candidates were divided in groups of 5-7) they were visibly tired and ready to call it a day. It was one of the most intense experiences I have been a part of, period.

Assessment center: Similar to group interviews, assessment centers are designed around hiring multiple people at once instead of individuals. The organizers (recruiters) will come up with a half-day workshop to test, assess, and observe how the candidates will perform their “mock-duties” and take it from there.

Pre-screening interview: Meant to assess if the candidate will be invited for a second interview, which is usually considered the main one. It can be done over the phone or conducted as a short, introductory video chat.

Stay interview: Refers to an interview with an employee who is already part of that organization. At stay interviews, interviewers may ask about the employees motivation, drive, and what they would like to see improve internally—among other questions.

Exit interview: It sounds counter-intuitive, but exit interviews do exist in the real world. They are more akin to surveys than classical interviews, where the employee answers questions regarding their former employment and shares other job-related experiences. The company can then use these surveys to improve their management processes, and as a result, improve their employee retention rate as well.

Panel interview: A type of interview where the candidate is interviewed by multiple people, either at once or in future successive calls. For example, members of the panel can be the CTO, CFO, hiring manager, or even the CEO themselves.

Case interview: Here, the candidate is given a case/problem they need to solve, and they act out the steps as they’d do in a real-world situation. Tech companies may introduce a “buggy” code snippet to the prospective developer, and see how they will go about troubleshooting the code.

Working in HR demands its own vocabulary, and professional recruiters are the first ones to point it out. Here are the most common terms that recruiters use to describe talent attraction and selection:

KSA: This is an acronym referring to the candidate’s knowledge, skills, and abilities. It’s the proverbial triple crown that makes a potential hire stand out from the rest of the candidates.

Counteroffer: When the candidate quits but the same company offers them more money to stay. Sometimes, it’s also colloquially referred to as a “buy back”.

Outsourcing: In recruitment lingo, outsourcing means when an organization contacts a different company to perform a given service rather than doing it internally.

Insourcing: When an employee changes roles within the same organization.

In-house: This refers to any task, problem, or issue that is worked on by the employees from within the company rather than delegating it to a third-party organization. For example, in-house recruitment means the business has a full-time HR person (usually a hiring manager or head of recruitment) responsible for scouting, attracting, and recruiting new talent.

Referral bonus: A type of strategy where existing employees are financially rewarded by introducing a viable candidate to the organization. Some referral models don’t follow through until and only if the potential candidate signs with the company.

Talent acquisition: This semantically loaded term has recently varied greatly in its meaning. When someone says talent acquisition, they usually refer to the entire strategy for attracting, recruiting, and retaining new talent.

Cover letter: A short introductory paragraph that outlines the candidate’s motivations and expectations for the position they are applying to.

References: Refers to individuals (managers, CEOs, coworkers) willing to vouch for the candidate’s skill, experience, and past achievements.

People, processes, and teams change and will continue to change. Work terminations are never easy, but they are necessary for organizations to grow, adapt, and evolve.

Recruiters have their own sets of phrases they use when an employee leaves the organization. Some of the most common termination-related terms include:

Severance package: The financial compensation an employee receives when they leave the company, also known as "severance pay".

Redundancy: Refers to the termination of work when the employee’s position is no longer needed/available and not because of performance inefficiency. The party that was let go often receives a redundancy package after leaving the company.

Downsizing: This is a term denoting the permanent reduction of a company’s existing workforce. A decision to downsize is usually accompanied by a large number of redundancies and layoffs.

Non-compete clause: A type of clause where the employee agrees they will not work for a competing business during, and especially after a certain period of time following their company exit. In some circles, it’s also known as a "restraint clause".


Organizations should have a dedicated recruitment team, but not everyone can afford it. Sometimes, small business owners take it upon themselves to scout for talent, conduct interviews, and make the hires.

Hopefully, this handy dictionary will help you navigate through the tricky mazes of the entirety of the recruitment process—with considerable success.

Happy hiring!

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