Recruitment glossary

A complete guide to hiring terms.

Recruitment terminology is ever-evolving. We’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help you understand and keep up with the latest hiring and HR terminology. Whether you’re new to hiring terms or need to refresh your knowledge, this is your go-to resource for all things recruiting and talent.


Ability tests

Ability tests or aptitude tests are standardised assessments used in the recruitment process to measure candidates’ cognitive abilities, such as numerical, verbal or abstract reasoning. Ability test results provide valuable insights into a candidate’s ability to process information whilst working within a time limit and are a strong indicator of future job performance.

Assessment centre

An assessment centre is a method of evaluating candidates for a job opening, combining different tasks and activities. If an assessment centre is part of the recruitment process, it is usually the final stage and is held in-person or virtually. Depending on the case, candidates engage in various activities, such as psychometric tests, role plays, case studies, presentations and group discussions.

Applicant tracking system

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is computer software recruiters and employers use to track candidates throughout the hiring process. It helps manage, structure, and automate parts of the process to save time and increase efficiency.

Active candidate

An active candidate is someone actively looking for a new job. An active candidate can be unemployed or employed but looking for new career opportunities and searching and applying to job openings.


While employee attrition is often used interchangeably with employee turnover, they are not the same. Employee attrition refers to employees leaving their employer voluntarily or involuntarily without being immediately replaced, meaning the total headcount will shrink over time.

Assessment platform

An assessment platform is software organisations use to evaluate job applicants to identify the best fit for the role and organisation. An assessment platform can contain different types of assessments, from soft skills assessments to coding tests.

At-will employment

In the United States’ labor law, at-will employment refers to an employment agreement that can be terminated at any time, for any reason by either party, as long as the reason is not illegal.

Affirmative action

A policy that promotes equal employment opportunities for groups that have been historically excluded or underrepresented.


Background check

A background check can include verifying a candidate’s job history, education credentials, drug screening and criminal records to make a safe hiring decision. A background check is usually the final step of the recruitment process before the job offer for the selected candidate.


Employee benefits are any benefits or perks offered to the employee besides salary. Some common benefits include healthcare and insurance plans, lunch benefits, well-being programs and a retirement plan.

Bespoke assessments

Bespoke assessments are used in recruitment when regular off-the-shelf solutions do not suffice. Bespoke assessments are fully tailored psychometric tests designed by business psychologists to meet the needs of a specific organisation.

Blue-collar worker

A blue-collar worker does hard manual labour, typically in construction, mining, manufacturing or agriculture. The blue-collar worker’s name derives from the colour of the shirt, historically worn in these occupations.

Boolean search

Boolean search is a type of search allowing users to combine keywords with operators such as AND, NOT and OR to further produce more relevant results.

Blind hiring

Blind hiring is a recruitment strategy that seeks to eliminate biases by removing personal and demographic information from the hiring process.


Candidate sourcing

Candidate sourcing or talent sourcing is the process of actively identifying and searching for qualified candidates to fill open vacancies and build the talent pipeline. Recruiters use different channels to identify suitable profiles and engage in conversations with active and, more importantly, passive candidates to increase the applicant numbers.

Candidate experience

Candidate experience describes the experience job candidates have with a potential employer, from sourcing to onboarding.

Confidentiality agreement

Confidentiality agreement is a legal contract between two or more parties that signifies a confidential relationship exists between them.

Cost per hire

Cost per hire is a key recruitment metric representing the average amount spent to hire a new employee. This amount includes various costs such as advertising, sourcing and job boards, agency fees or internal resources and recruiting tools. Adding up all the costs and dividing by the number of candidates you hire in a specific period will give you your average cost per hire.

Contingency recruiting

Contingency recruiting refers to a recruitment service where the recruitment agency gets their feed paid only when a qualified candidate is found and placed in the client company.

Cultural fit

Cultural fit in recruitment refers to hiring candidates whose beliefs, values and attitudes align with the hiring company. Candidates who are a good cultural fit are more engaged, more productive, better colleagues and are more likely to stay with the company for longer.

Counter offer

An offer made in response to a resignation, typically involving an increase in salary or better terms.


Compliance in the workplace means that the employer ensures all HR policies and practices are in line with the laws, regulations, and standards that apply to the organization.


Data-driven recruitment

Data-driven recruitment refers to using stats and data to aid hiring decisions and strategic planning. Utilising data, such as psychometric test data and various recruitment metrics, can help improve hiring quality and reduce hiring costs.

Development centre

Similarly to an assessment centre, a development centre includes various activities, such as group exercises, psychometric tests, role plays, and other activities, but rather than talent selection, it is designed for talent development.

Direct hire

A person who is employed directly by the company, not through an agency or as a contractor.

Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are often used in conjunction. Diversity in the workplace means having people with different gender and sexual identities, ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds and various experiences and interests. Inclusion refers to creating a workplace environment where everyone feels valued and appreciated and given the same opportunities to develop and thrive.

Disability discrimination

Treating people less favourably or putting them at a disadvantage because of their disability.


Employer branding

Employer branding refers to how companies want to be perceived by candidates to attract new talent and retain their existing employers. Employer branding uses different marketing tactics to showcase the company’s culture and differentiators and communicate the employee value proposition to position as an attractive employer.

Employee turnover

Employee turnover is the percentage of workers who leave the organisation in a given time period and are replaced with new employees. There are several reasons for employee turnover, but a high turnover rate usually signals poor management and company culture, inadequate compensation or lack of development and growth opportunities.

Employee value proposition

Employee value proposition (EVP) refers to the balance of rewards and benefits received by employees in return for their skills and performance.

Employee engagement

A measure of an employee’s emotional commitment and willingness to contribute to the organization.

Executive search

Executive search is a specialised recruitment service to find high-level executives, typically for C-level roles. Executive search firms often use headhunting methods, including researching, identifying and proactively approaching suitable candidates for the position.

Exit interview

An exit interview or exit discussion takes place when an employee is about to leave the company. An exit interview can offer valuable insights to the organisation as to why people leave, how they experienced their time with the company and what works and what doesn’t work within the organisation. This feedback can then be used for development and improvements.


Fixed-term contract

A fixed-term employment contract is an employment contract for a specific period. Fixed-term contracts have a pre-set end date and are typically used for projects or absence cover.


Furlough is a mandatory temporary leave for employees, often used due to the economic conditions of the company. As opposed to layoff, furloughed employees can be called back to work once the economic conditions improve.


A self-employed person who is not committed to a particular employer long term.

Full-time equivalent

Full-time Equivalent (FTE) is a unit that indicates the workload of an employed person in a way that makes workloads or class loads comparable across various contexts.


Gamified assessments

Gamified assessments or game-based assessments are psychometric tests that incorporate gaming elements to create a more engaging candidate experience. Despite the attention, no research evidence shows that game-based assessments would be superior to traditional assessment tools.


Candidate ghosting usually refers to candidates dropping out of the recruitment process without a trace. A candidate ceases all communications with the recruiter instead of informing that they are no longer interested in the position or have accepted a job offer from another employer. However, it is a two-way street; sometimes, a recruiter can go silent, and the candidate is left to wonder what happened. Both situations are highly undesirable.

Glass ceiling

A glass ceiling refers to an invisible barrier that prevents career advancement, especially affecting women and minorities.


A labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work.

Gender bias

In gender bias, one gender is preferred over the other, and assumptions about a person’s competence are based on gender. While gender bias can concern any gender, it predominantly affects women and non-binary people.

Graduate scheme

A graduate scheme is a training programme aimed at people who have just graduated from university. Typically they last about two years and offer the participants different placements within the organisation to gain varied experiences.

Golden handshake

A “golden handshake” clause in an executive employment contract guarantees the executive a sizeable severance payment in the event that they lose their jobs as a result of termination, reorganization, or even planned retirement.


Hard skills

Hard skills are skills and competencies obtained through education and experience. Hard skills are teachable and measurable skills like language skills, programming, Excel, photo and video editing, and copywriting.

Halo effect

The Halo effect is a tendency to make assumptions about a person based on one positive quality or attribute. In a recruitment setting, an example would be to think that a candidate with a firm handshake must possess other positive qualities to succeed in a job.

Horn effect

The horn effect is the opposite of the halo effect. One negatively perceived attribute, such as a scruffy appearance, means that the person is sloppy and incompetent.

Hybrid work

Hybrid work is a flexible working model mixing in-office and remote working to offer employees more autonomy, flexibility and a better work-life balance.

Human resource management system

Human Resource Management System (HRMS) is a software application that combines many human resources functions, including benefits administration, payroll, recruiting and training, and performance analysis and review into one package.

Human capital management

Human Capital Management (HCM) refers to comprehensive set of practices for recruiting, managing, developing and optimizing the human resources of an organization.


Internal mobility

Internal mobility is the movement of employees, either vertically or laterally, within the organisation. It includes promotions, demotions, transfers, job swaps and project-based mobility. Internal mobility opens new employee opportunities, improving retention, engagement and cross-functional collaboration.

Interview to offer ratio

Interview to offer ratio is the number of interviews a recruiter or a hiring team conducts with job candidates to extend one offer. For example, suppose a recruiter conducts ten interviews to extend one offer. In that case, the interview-to-offer ratio is 10:1. The more candidates a company can attract, the higher the interview-to-offer ratio they typically enjoy.

In-house recruitment

In-house recruitment is the act of recruiting personnel for positions within an organization, performed by a company’s own recruiter or a hiring manager and not an agency or a recruitment consultant.

Internal recruitment

Internal recruitment is the process of filling vacancies within a business from its existing workforce.

Independent contractor

Independent contractor is a self-employed individual who provides services to clients in exchange for compensation, without the legal classification of an employee.


Job analysis

Job analysis is the process of gathering, understanding and interpreting information about a job and the essential requirements necessary to perform it.

Job board

A job board is an online platform that provides a list of open jobs for job seekers.

Job description

A job description summarises the essential job requirements, responsibilities, working conditions, possibly a salary range and the necessary skills. A compelling job description helps you to stand out in the eyes of the applicants and attract qualified candidates.

Job profile

The job profile shares similar elements with the job description, but the job profile is more centred around the competencies needed in the vacancy. It includes, for example, the required soft and hard skills, experience, certifications and other qualities to do well in the role.

Job rotation

Job rotation is a management approach where employees rotate between different jobs to gain exposure to different roles.


Key performance indicator

Interview to offer ratio is the number of interviews a recruiter or a hiring team conducts with job candidates to extend one offer. For example, suppose a recruiter conducts ten interviews to extend one offer. In that case, the interview-to-offer ratio is 10:1. The more candidates a company can attract, the higher the interview-to-offer ratio they typically enjoy.

Knowledge worker

A knowledge worker has acquired specific skills and competencies in a particular field through education and formal training and applies those skills to high-level problem-solving, typically in an office setting or non-manual labour.

Knockout questions

Kockout questions are screening questions used early in the hiring process to easily and quickly identify whether a candidate meets basic qualifications for a job.

Knowledge transfer

The process of transferring or disseminating knowledge from one part of the organization to another.


Lateral recruitment

Lateral recruitment means hiring employees working in a similar position at another organisation. Lateral hiring is the practice of hiring passive candidates who are seasoned professionals or in leadership positions. The benefit of lateral hiring is that the desired candidate already has the specific talent and expertise you’re looking for, as opposed to promoting internally. Hence they can get up to speed faster and bring in a wealth of knowledge.


Layoff is the permanent or temporary elimination of a job position due to economic conditions or lack of work for the employee.

Leadership development

Leadership development refers to the activities that improve leaders’ skills, abilities, and confidence or those about to move into a leadership position.

Long-term disability insurance

Insurance that pays a percentage of an employee’s salary if they become unable to work for a long period due to an illness or injury.


Management by objectives

Management by objectives (MBO) is a management model that aims to improve the performance of an organization by clearly defining goals agreed to by both management and employees. It is a similar framework to OKRs (objectives and key results), but MBOs are tied to compensation; OKRs are not.


A relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.

Minimum wage

A minimum wage is the lowest salary the employer can legally pay its employees. The minimum wage paid varies by country.

Merit increase

Merit increase is a pay increase that is based on the employee’s individual performance.


Non-compete agreement

A non-compete agreement is a contract where an employee agrees not to compete with their employer by starting a similar business or joining their competitor after leaving the company. Non-compete agreements also prevent the employee from revealing business-critical information or secrets to other parties. Typically non-compete periods last six months to a year after the employment ends.


Neurodiversity refers to the natural range of differences in human brain function, and highlights how people naturally think differently from each other including those with dyslexia, autism, ADHD, dyspraxia, and other neurological conditions.



Favoritism granted to relatives in hiring and promoting.

Notice period

The time period between the receipt of the letter of dismissal and the end of the last working day.



Onboarding is the process of integrating new employees into the organisation. Onboarding is more than just introducing the office premises, company policies and work responsibilities. The onboarding process should extend far beyond the first days and weeks to ensure your new hires stay motivated, engaged and productive.


The counterpart of onboarding is offboarding. Offboarding is a process where an organisation and an employee formally separate and part ways through either resignation, retirement or termination. A good offboarding process should encapsulate all the decisions needed when an employee leaves, such as recovering any company assets or equipment, ensuring that knowledge is transferred to the new employee and gathering feedback.

Overconfidence bias

Onboarding is the process of integrating new employees into the organisation. Onboarding is more than just introducing the office premises, company policies and work responsibilities. The onboarding process should extend far beyond the first days and weeks to ensure your new hires stay motivated, engaged and productive.


The counterpart of onboarding is offboarding. Offboarding is a process where an organisation and an employee formally separate and part ways through either resignation, retirement or termination. A good offboarding process should encapsulate all the decisions needed when an employee leaves, such as recovering any company assets or equipment, ensuring that knowledge is transferred to the new employee and gathering feedback.


Personality questionnaire

Employers use personality questionnaires in recruitment to assess a candidate’s personality profile: how they like to work, approach problems, stay motivated, and what drives their emotional reactions. Trait-based personality questionnaires can better predict job performance than type-based assessments, as the results are compared to a norm group, allowing recruiters to make more accurate comparisons.

Psychometric test

Psychometric tests, or psychometric assessments, measure an individual’s mental capabilities, such as numerical, verbal and abstract reasoning and their personality, behaviours and potential. Employers use psychometric tests in recruitment to identify the best-suited candidates for the job role and the organisation. Psychometric tests offer a scientific way to measure the elements above objectively in a hiring process and are reliable indicators of future job performance.

Probation period

The probation period is the trial period for new employees when joining the organisation. The period can vary in length, but usually, it is around six months. The most important aspect of the probation period is that the employee can be let go without the standard notice period.

Purple squirrel

Purple squirrel is a term coined by recruiters to describe sought-after job candidates with the perfect combination of education, experience, skills and qualifications that perfectly fits a job’s requirements. Essentially, it refers to the perfect candidate (which is nearly impossible to find).


Quality of hire

Quality of hire is a key recruitment metric that measures the value a new hire brings to the organisation. This metric is used to evaluate how much a new hire contributes to the organisation’s long-term success during their time there.

Quiet quitting

Quiet quitting is a term coined during the COVID-19 pandemic as an antidote to the hustle culture and employees’ unwillingness to do more than expected outside regular working hours.


Recruitment to recruitment

Yes, there is such a thing. Recruitment to recruitment or rec to rec is a process where a specialist recruitment agency helps find recruitment consultants for another recruitment agency.

Recruitment process outsourcing

Recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) differs from what typical recruitment agencies offer. An RPO provider acts as a strategic in-house partner, often taking responsibility for the entire recruitment process.

Recruitment agency

A recruitment agency is a specialised business that companies hire to find and attract qualified candidates for an open vacancy. The agency will handle the recruitment process, from sourcing, pre-screening and first-round interviews to presenting the top candidates to the client, who makes the hiring decision.

Retained search

Retained search is typically used for senior executive and leadership roles, involving researching and finding suitable candidates and inviting them to interviews. In this model, the client works exclusively with a specialised recruitment agency. Unlike in a contingency search, the agency is paid part of the fee upfront, regardless of the outcome of the assignment.


Soft skills

Soft Skills represent various abilities, personality traits and attributes necessary for success in a particular role. Soft skills, such as communication, creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking and teamwork, play a crucial role in how we interact with colleagues, build relationships and perform work-related tasks.


Candidate screening is the second phase of the recruitment process after the application phase. Screening is the process of evaluating job candidates based on resumes or assessment results to determine the most suitable candidates to put forward in the hiring process.

Situational judgement test

Situational judgement tests are pre-employment assessments used in recruitment to help identify the best suitable candidate for the role. Situational judgement tests (or SJTs) provide employers with insights into candidates’ decision-making styles and how they are likely to respond to daily tasks and challenges in a given role whilst offering the candidates a realistic job preview.


Staffing is a flexible and risk-free way to hire suitable candidates quickly for an open vacancy. Staffing agencies are typically used to screen and interview candidates to fill temporary positions. The staffing agency is the employer for the employees handling all the employer obligations.

Skills-based hiring

Skills-based hiring concentrates on candidates’ soft skills and hard skills rather than previous experience or educational background. Skills-based hiring approach brings many benefits, such as an expanded talent pool and reducing risk of a bad hire.

Structured interview

A structured interview is the most effective and accurate way of interviewing candidates. In a structured interview, the interviewer asks all candidates the same questions in the same order, which are rated against the same criteria.

Semi-structured interview

In a semi-structured interview, some questions are predetermined, but most are open-ended and loosely structured, giving the interviewees more freedom and flexibility to express themselves.


Talent acquisition

Talent acquisition and recruitment are sometimes used interchangeably, but they’re different. Both involve finding new talent for an organisation, but the main difference is that recruitment is primarily about filling urgent personnel needs, and talent acquisition is a more strategic take on the talent function as a whole.

Talent marketplace

A talent marketplace is a platform that matches job seekers with employers based on their skills and preferences. A talent marketplace connects talent seeking new opportunities and companies with hiring needs.

Talent pool

A talent pool is a database of potential job candidates that recruiters can use to source talent for open vacancies. A talent pool can include second-choice candidates, employee recommendations, potential candidates from social media and job fairs, and internal employees.

Talent assessment

Talent assessments are similar to psychometric tests, but can also include a variety of hiring assessments that are not psychometric by nature, such as coding tests or language skills tests.

Time to hire

Time to hire is a recruitment metric used to measure the time between when a candidate is first contacted to the point they are offered the job. Time to hire is a key hiring metric to measure the effectiveness of the hiring process. Quick time to hire helps save costs and creates a better candidate experience.

Transferrable skills

Transferrable skills are skills that are relevant in many job roles and can be taken from one job to another. Soft skills like communication, creativity and adaptability are essential across many job roles. Some hard skills like excel or other technical skills are also transferrable, assuming you’re moving to a similar position requiring those skills.


Unconscious bias

Unconscious bias refers to making decisions based on stereotypes, beliefs and attitudes. This behaviour can lead us to favour certain people and discriminate against others without realising it. Unconscious bias in recruitment is harmful to candidates and will inevitably lead to costly bad hires.

Unstructured interview

Time to hire is a recruitment metric used to measure the time between when a candidate is first contacted to the point they are offered the job. Time to hire is a key hiring metric to measure the effectiveness of the hiring process. Quick time to hire helps save costs and creates a better candidate experience.


White-collar worker

White-collar worker refers to professionals working in an office setting. While office dressing is much more relaxed nowadays in many professions, in the older days, all the office workers wore white collared shirts, hence the name.

Workforce planning

Workforce planning is analysing and forecasting the demand of the organisation’s workforce. It involves identifying gaps, defining the required workforce and making short-term and long-term plans to ensure the organisation has the people and skills needed to succeed.

Workplace well-being

Workplace well-being is crucial in maintaining employees’ mental and physical health. Workplace well-being refers to different aspects of the working life, including safety, job design, rewards, managerial and team relationships and other factors contributing to the overall wellbeing of the employees.


Virtual assessment centre

A virtual assessment centre is an assessment centre that is conducted virtually via a software tool, meaning that candidates and assessors alike can participate remotely.

Volume recruitment

Volume recruiting means recruiting multiple people for a similar role. There’s no exact number of what constitutes volume recruitment, but usually, it involves hiring tens, hundreds or even thousands of candidates into a particular role. Typically these roles include, for example, customer service representatives, retail sales roles, or extra staff for peak seasons.