Recruitment dictionary

A list of recruitment terms with accessible definitions for all the non-HR specialists out there. You can reference this list whenever you come across a a-related word or concept that you want to learn.

If a term you’re looking for isn’t listed here, please let us know!

Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

Software used specifically to manage the recruitment process. From gathering application forms and candidate data, to storing and organizing resumes.

Active candidate

A person actively pursuing work. This type of candidate is searching job boards, reaching out to friends, and checking LinkedIn to find their next job.

Active recruiting

Making recruitment a part of company culture, so that the company is always recruiting, even if there is no specific job to fill.


Compensation offered above an employee’s wage such as health insurance, stock options, and pension. Benefits, unlike perks, cover basic needs and are often set by an industry standard.

Candidate experience

How candidates experience the entire hiring process from start to finish. Well written job posts, an easy application process, and streamlined interviews are all essential to a first-rate candidate experience.

Candidate pipeline (Talent pipeline)

An index of qualified people, including contact information and (preferably) work history, that a company can reference to fill job openings when they pop up. An important part of ‘active recruiting’ that’s similar to a talent pool, but more targeted.

Career site

A site where people can go to learn more about a potential employer, browse their active job openings, and apply for jobs.

Company culture

The characteristics that set a company apart and inform how people at the company behave and interact. Company culture is based on the company’s values and mission, and is aligned with overall strategy and brand.

Cost per hire (CPH)

The total cost associated with attracting, recruiting, and hiring a new employee. This may or may not include cost of training. The formula used to calculate CPH is: CPH = ∑(External Costs) + ∑(Internal Costs) Total No. of Hires in a Time Period

Culture fit

How well a person fits in with the values, behaviours, and culture of a company. Culture fit is one of the best indicators that a hire will be successful.

(Workforce) diversity

The similarities and differences of employees at an organization including: cultural background, physical ability, sex, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Diversity of workforce has been shown to improve employee engagement, productivity, and problem solving!

Employer brand (branding)

How a company presents itself to potential hires: In other words, its reputation as an employer. Employer brand shapes how people feel about a company as a place to work and is the most important (non-financial) factor people consider when applying for jobs.

Employee retention

The ability of an organisation to keep its best employees represented by a percentage rate: a retention rate of 75% shows that a company held on to 75% of its employees in a given period.

(Employee) engagement

How committed, enthusiastic, and excited employees are about their work and the company that they work for.

Employer strategy

The plan behind a company’s recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and employee retention efforts.

Flat hierarchy

An organizational structure that gets rid of most middle-management and encourages all employees to work together at the same level.

Hard skills

Specific skills required for the performance of a job. Hard skills are (usually) teachable and easy to quantify.


Headhunters are hired by companies to find people with a particular skillset. They’re usually independent consultants who focus on specific fields or types of candidates and have a strong network within their area of focus.


The process of finding and then engaging a specific person based on their skillset, with the end goal of getting them to apply, or hiring them, for a job.

Hiring process

The entire process of attracting, selecting, and eventually hiring people to fill open jobs at an organization.

Hiring team

A team put together with the goal of filling a job opening. The most effective hiring teams represent a diverse cross-section of staff and have a deep understanding of the job being filled, and the person needed to fill it.

Human Resources (HR)

Typically, internal staff who assist the organization in employee management. The Human Resources team may engage recruiters when necessary to help them find the best candidates.

Job brief

An internal brief that includes all the information necessary to identify, define and describe the core duties, key tasks, and necessary abilities to perform a job.

Job description

An explanation of a particular job including responsibilities, duties, and it’s function meant for both internal and external consumption.

Mission statement

An organization’s core purpose: its reason for being. The mission statement serves as a guide when making key decisions about priorities, choosing which problems to solve, and providing a sense of direction to the entire organization.

(Employee) onboarding

The process of bringing a new employee into the fold. Onboarding includes the paperwork, orientation, and training necessary to get a new person up to speed, as well as everything a company does to welcome them and make them feel like part of the team.

Organizational structure

The system used to define the hierarchy within an organization. Organizational structure helps determine how roles and responsibilities are assigned and managed. It also shapes the flow of communication between different levels of management and between management and staff.

Passive candidate

This type of candidate makes up about 75 percent of the workforce. They’re not specifically looking/applying (searching job boards, reaching out to friends, and checking LinkedIn), but the majority of them are open to considering a new job.


The little extras that companies offer employees on top of salary and benefits. Perks are a great way to attract great candidates, and to express company culture and values. Perks can including everything from a company car, to team trips, to gym memberships.


The act of publishing a job post and then neglecting to do anything to promote said job post. Post-and-pray is widely considered by recruiters to be an ineffective way to attract qualified applicants.

Passive candidate

This type of candidate makes up about 75 percent of the workforce. They’re not specifically looking/applying (searching job boards, reaching out to friends, and checking LinkedIn), but the majority of them are open to considering a new job.


Skills, knowledge, or ability needed to perform a job. Qualifications are usually gained through training, education, or experience. Qualifications do not equal competency!

(Employee) referral

When an employee recommends someone from their social network for a job at the company where they work or used to work. Referrals are considered to be the best source of successful hires.

Employee referral program

A program used by companies to encourage employees to make referrals. Employee referral programs reward employees for using their social networks to help fill open positions at the company.


A person that potential employers can contact in order to verify a candidate’s resume and ask relevant questions about their background. References are the best way to ensure that candidates are portraying their skills and work history accurately.


A person responsible for filling open positions at a company. Recruiters can be employed directly by a company, or on a contract basis.

Recruiting (Recruitment)

The process of attracting, finding, and then hiring the right candidate for the job. Recruiting includes determining job requirements and important qualities that candidates must possess, publishing job posts, attracting talented people to apply, reviewing applications, then interviewing, selecting, and hiring the new employee. Recruitment can (should!) also include onboarding the new hire.

Soft skills

Skills that are not specific to training or education. Soft skills are a combination of interpersonal skills, communications skills, character traits, attitude, and emotional intelligence. These skills are what enable people to effectively navigate their work environment, be a productive team player, and work well with their colleagues..


Finding and engaging (qualified) non-applicants (anyone who hasn’t applied for a position), with the goal of getting them to become applicants. Sourcing is more broad than headhunting, where the focus is on recruiting a specific person.

Talent Pool

A database, or list that contains profiles and contact info for potential job candidates. Talent pools are used to help speed up the recruitment process and stay connected with talented applicants even when there is no current job opening available for them.

Time to hire

The average amount of time it takes you to fill a job opening.

Turnover rate

The percentage of employees that leave a company over a specified period of time who must be replaced (e.g. Nike has a 10% yearly employee turnover rate.)


The core beliefs and ideals espoused by a company and promoted through their actions, mission, vision, and company culture.

Vision statement

A description of what an organization is working to achieve. Like the mission statement, the vision statement acts as a guide for organizations when choosing a course of action. Vision is pursued in order to accomplish the mission!

War for talent

A term used to describe the increasingly competitive state of recruitment and the fight to hire and retain the best people.The term war for talent was coined by Steven Hankin of McKinsey & Company in 1997.

Turnover rate

The percentage of employees that leave a company over a specified period of time who must be replaced (e.g. Nike has a 10% yearly employee turnover rate.)