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Glossary of terms & definitions for recruiters

A complete list of all the important terms and definitions that you as a recruiter should be familiar with.


• Ability Talent or skill in a particular area of expertise.

• Ableism Discrimination or prejudice favoring able-bodied people over disabled people.

• Absenteeism Absenteeism is the failure of an employee to attend work when they are expected to be working. Employees who frequently do not attend work when scheduled can be dismissed for frequent absenteeism.

• Accessibility The quality of being easy to reach, enter, obtain, use, or understand, ideally in a way that does not discriminate. E.g. Lifts provide accessibility to those who can’t easily use stairs

• Accountability The quality of taking responsibility for your actions, whether they’re right or wrong.

• Acculturation The process of assimilating to a different culture from your own, typically the dominant one.

• Advocate The act of championing and supporting a cause both in public and in private. Also refers to a person who does this.

• Affinity group A group of people with a common interest or goal. They might act together for a specific purpose or outcome.

• Affirmative action Affirmative action is the explicit and proactive actions HR professionals take to enhance employment opportunities for particular groups, including female applicants, applicants of an ethnic minority group, applicants who have a disability, etc.

• Affirmative action plan (AAP) A procedure that is specified as part of a plan to improve the employment opportunities of particular minority groups or underrepresented groups in society. The plan itself is a document that details all the steps your organization has taken and will take to put in place equal employment opportunities.

• Ageism Discrimination or prejudice on the basis of age.

• Agender Refers to someone who does not identify themselves with a gender.

• AI bots AI bots (also known as chatbots) are a type of software application programmed with natural language processing and machine learning. They can enable you to automate and simulate applicant screenings.

• Allyship The condition of being an ally for a marginalized person or group; consistently advocating for and having a meaningful, supportive relationship with them.

• Androgyne A person whose nature or appearance is neither clearly masculine nor clearly feminine.

• Anti-racist Actively in opposition to racism.

• Anti-semitism Discrimination or prejudice towards Jewish people.

• Appropriation The act of taking something such as language, clothing, or artifacts belonging to another person or group without permission or acknowledgment.

• Applicant tracking system An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a type of electronic software application that makes managing your organization’s recruitment and employment requirements easier and more efficient.

• Asexual A person who does not feel sexual attraction.

• Assimilation The process of becoming similar to something. Cultural assimilation is when a minority culture assumes the behavior and values of the dominant culture in a society (see also “Acculturation”).

• Autism Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong, developmental condition that affects how a person experiences the world and communicates and relates to others.


• Background checks/screening Background screening is a type of testing approach that involves validating applicants’ qualifications, knowledge of your industry, or cultural alignment with your organization.

• Behavioral competencies Observable and measurable behaviors and skills that are required to perform effectively in a job function or role. 

• Behavioral interview Behavioral interviews focus on the behavior and previous performance of candidates, enabling you to determine a candidate’s alignment with the organization’s open role. During a behavioral interview, you ask applicants open-ended questions and follow up their responses with further questions to get a better understanding of a candidate’s behavior in certain work-related situations.

• Blind screening Blind screening refers to a candidate screening approach in which personal details are omitted or obscured to prevent unconscious biases from affecting a hiring decision.

• BAME A UK-specific term that stands for Black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups.

• Benevolent prejudice The act of expressing or framing prejudices that reinforce oppression in a superficially positive way.

• Bias A tendency or inclination to be prejudiced against a person or group, especially in a way that is unfair.

• Bigotry An unreasonable attachment to an intolerant or prejudiced belief, opinion, or camp.

• BIPOC A US-specific abbreviation for Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

• Biracial Involving members of two races; or, having parents from two races.

• Bisexuality Romantic or sexual attraction to both males and females, or to more than one gender.


• Candidate assessment satisfaction The overall measurement of how satisfied your candidates, both successful and unsuccessful, are with the assessment(s) included as part of your hiring process.

• Candidate sourcing Strategies you can use to find active and/or passive candidates whose skills align with the requirements of a vacant role in your organization. Candidate sourcing takes place in the first stage of the recruitment process, alongside writing and posting a job description. It’s a proactive part of recruitment that might involve using traditional job boards or some form of creative candidate sourcing.

• Career pathing Career pathing involves outlining the goals and career trajectories that employees can achieve. Employers, HR professionals, and employees work together to plot out a course for career development within an organization.

• Compensatory time off If an employee works overtime, some organizations offer them compensatory time off, which is paid time off to compensate for the extra hours worked. It is used to balance out the hours the employee worked.

• Cultural alignment A concept that describes when members of your organization hold values that are aligned with your organization’s culture. Cultural alignment can contribute to employee satisfaction at work and promote employee retention. You can assess it with a cultural alignment/culture add skills test.

• Custom questions Custom questions are part of a skills assessment. You can use them to ask applicants for additional details as part of their application.

• Constructive dismissal Constructive dismissal occurs when an employee resigns from their position due to negative working conditions in the workplace caused by severe incidents instigated and carried out by an employer. Since these severe incidents are classed as a breach of the employee-employer contract, the employee can go through the courts to receive compensation for this.

• Confidentiality agreement A legal agreement that prevents an employee from revealing information about the organization they work for. The agreement can be permanent, so even if an employment contract ends, the employee is still bound by the terms of the agreement.

• Compensation Compensation can include direct compensation, which is the salaries employees receive from employers for the work they do. However, there are many different types of compensation, including Commissions, compensatory time off, bonuses, employee benefits, and stock options.

• Cost per hire Use this metric to assess and measure the recruiting expenses used to attract candidates to an open position, screen them, and hire them. Other costs that contribute to cost per hire include admin, travel, and equipment costs. The formula to calculate cost per hire is the total recruitment cost divided by the number of hires you make.

• Creative sourcing A creative strategy or combination of creative strategies used to approach, engage, and source candidates for a job opening. Some creative sourcing approaches include: Creating a company blog and attracting candidates with SEO, attending a career conference, setting up an employee referral program, using employee testimonials to demonstrate your organization’s culture, etc.

• Cisgender A person whose gender identity corresponds to the sex they were assigned at birth.

• Classism / Class discrimination Discrimination or prejudice against people who belong to a particular social class, often the working class.

• Communities of color Communities that hold a racial identity that describes shared racial characteristics.

• Critical race theory A cross-disciplinary movement examining the intersection of race, justice, and society, particularly in the US.

• Cross-cultural Relating to different cultures or a comparison of them.

• Cultural competence The ability to interact and communicate effectively with people from other cultures.


• Deadnaming To call a transgender person by their birth name or pronouns after they have transitioned.

• Disability Any condition of body or mind that affects people’s ability to carry out everyday activities or to interact with their environment.

Disablism Prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination against a person with a disability.

• Discrimination The unfair or biased treatment of specific groups on the basis of their shared characteristics, often relating to age, class, disability, gender, race, or sexuality.

• Disenfranchisement When people or groups are deprived of a right or privilege, particularly the right to vote.

• Diaspora A population that has settled across regions outside their geographical place of origin.

• Diversity The practice of including people from a range of groups with different shared characteristics, such as age, class, disability, gender, race, and sexuality.

• Diversity training A type of training you can use to enhance your organization’s awareness of cultural differences, cognitive differences, and differences in skills within the work environment. Diversity training can help teams promote inclusion and team cohesion, increase positive interactions between team members, help prevent unconscious bias, discrimination, or prejudice, and enlighten teams about what makes team members unique.

• Dyscalculia A difficulty in understanding numbers that can occur across all ages and abilities. Does not affect general intelligence.

• Dysgraphia A difficulty in expressing oneself effectively in written form, including weaknesses in spelling and punctuation. Does not affect general intelligence.

• Dyslexia A difficulty in reading or interpreting words and letters. Does not affect general intelligence.

Dyspraxia A difficulty with movement and coordination, such as tasks requiring balance. Does not affect general intelligence.


• Employer branding Marketing and strategic efforts related to an organization’s brand and reputation. This approach might include developing a company career page or creating a company blog to enhance how prospective or current employees view the organization. Employer branding can also be important for organizations that are trying to attract funding or venture capital.

• Employee attrition The reduction of the size of a workforce due to the resignation or retirement of employees. Attrition occurs when an organization doesn’t replace these employees. Attrition can be deliberate; in this case, it can be described as “downsizing” or a “hiring freeze.”

• Employee empowerment The process of empowering employees and making it easier for them to work with management to make essential business decisions. Employee empowerment involves providing employees with tools, resources, training, and skills that help them to contribute to the organization’s success. With success comes reward.

• Employee onboarding Employee onboarding includes the many steps taken to orientate new employees and help them complete the transition from being a candidate to an employee. Some of the onboarding steps required to successfully orientate new employees and help them adjust to the company are benefits and salary administration, setting up tools and equipment, and providing a new employee checklist.

• Employee orientation Employee orientation is the process of helping new hires acclimate to your organization’s culture and gain a better understanding of all its departments and how each department is connected. It involves teaching employees about the company’s policies and giving them training opportunities to help them get used to their roles within the organization.

• Employee retention The processes through which you ensure your employees stay with your organization, such as incentives and policies that create a favorable environment to work in. When done correctly, employee retention can reduce turnover rates in your organization.

• Employee turnover Employee turnover refers to how many employees leave your organization over a certain timeframe (typically one year). Employee turnover is different from attrition, as with employee turnover, the employees who leave are normally replaced. It is often measured as a percentage. Measuring turnover is important for understanding the key reasons behind employee turnover.

• Employee wellness program A program set up by an HR professional or employer to help maintain or enhance the health of an organization’s employees. Some of the many types of employee wellness programs include: Offering gym memberships to employees, programs to help employees stop smoking, setting up gym classes, such as classes for yoga or meditation, offering healthy snack options in a canteen, etc.

• Equal employment opportunity Equal employment opportunity is the concept that an employer should treat all candidates fairly during the recruitment process and after they have been hired. To offer candidates and employees equal employment opportunities, every applicant who is a good fit for the role should be given equal opportunities for success. In the US, equal employment opportunity is supported by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is a body that enforces laws and regulations related to discrimination in the workplace. Similar laws protect equal employment opportunities in other countries as well.

• Exit interview An exit interview involves speaking with an employee who has chosen to leave your organization. When you conduct an exit interview, your goal is to analyze the employee’s experience and find ways to enhance employee retention. Exit interviews are a good way to increase your other current employees’ level of employee engagement going forward.

• Expatriate employee An expatriate employee is a professional worker who chooses to take up a role in a country outside of their country of national origin or home country. Expatriate employment can either be chosen by the employee or set up by the employer as an assignment.

• Emotional tax The effects on health, well-being, and ability to succeed occur when someone’s identity is different from the people around them and they are on guard to protect themselves against potential bias.

• Environmental racism Racial discrimination in the creation and enforcement of environmental law, such as targeting ethnic-minority neighborhoods for the dumping of toxic waste.

• Equality The state of being equal to other individuals, especially in terms of opportunities, status, and rights.

• Equity The process of recognizing inequality and making adjustments to overcome prejudice (including systemic bias) and its effects.

• ESL English as a second language, as used by speakers of other native languages.

• EssentialismThe view that categories of people, such as women and men, have different basic characteristics that cannot be changed.

• Ethnicity The state of belonging to a social group that has a common racial, cultural, or national identity.

• Ethnic minority A cultural or racial group that is fewer in number than the dominant social group and has been disadvantaged due to their ethnicity.

• Eurocentrism A tendency to interpret the world in terms of European or Anglo-American values.

• Exclusion A situation in which someone is prevented from participating in or withheld access to something.


• Feminism The belief in and advocacy for the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. Is most commonly expressed through organized social and political activity on behalf of women’s rights.

• Fetishization Sexualizing someone based on a specific aspect of their identity.

• First nations Refers to various indigenous and aboriginal tribes from the North American continent, especially Canada.


• Gender Refers to the socially constructed characteristics and traits of one sex.

• Gender Equality Index A measurement tool widely used within the European Union for assessing gender equality across different nations. Often abbreviated to GEI.

• Gender fluidity Refers to the change that occurs over time in a person’s gender expression or gender identity, or both.

• Gender identity How an individual perceives and labels their gender. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.

• Gender-neutral language The practice of using inclusive language that avoids bias towards a single gender or sex.

• Gender Pronouns A word used to refer to another person other than their name. These terms are usually used to reflect a person’s gender identity (e.g. she/her).

• Glass ceiling A metaphor referring to the barrier that is often encountered by minorities and marginalized groups of people when seeking career advancements.

• GNC Acronym for Gender nonconforming. A term used to refer to someone who expresses gender identity or cultural and psychological traits that are different from their biological sex.

• Gender critical A view or belief that someone’s sex whether they’re male or female is biological and immutable; their gender cannot be changed or be something different.


• Hard skills Technical expertise and understanding of a specific topic, such as software engineering, programming, coding skills, or knowledge of frameworks. These skills are required for candidates to be successful in specific fields.

• Health savings account A health savings account is an account that employees make regular contributions to and use to build up savings to cover health care costs. Medical costs might include visits to a doctor, dental care, and/or eye care. Health savings accounts are usually accompanied by an HDHP (high-deductible health plan). Either an employee or an employer or both can make contributions to a health savings account. The contributions can be built up and gain tax-free interest.

• Holistic HR Holistic HR is an approach you can use to support employees’ work ambitions as well as their important personal goals. It involves learning about your employees’ lives beyond their work environment and helping them to achieve workplace goals while ensuring their work life doesn’t conflict with their personal goals. Benefits of holistic HR include reduced sick leave, a more productive workforce, a healthier workplace, and enhanced company culture.

• HRIS (human resource information system) A system that is used to handle several separate HR processes more simply and efficiently. Some of the processes that HRIS systems simplify include – managing payroll, managing employees, applicant and candidate tracking, employee onboarding, employee benefits, time tracking, and monitoring, monitoring vacation/leave, etc.

• HR outsourcing A strategy in which organizations request the services of an external party to handle the HR aspects of the business. External HR parties can manage a range of services on your behalf, some of which include: administration and payroll, performance management of your employees, talent management of candidates, sourcing, and recruitment, employee benefits administration, assessing the company’s compliance with labor laws, tasks related to human resource management, etc.

• HR metrics Methods of measurement your HR team can use to quantify costs and calculate where expenses are being spent, how employees are performing, how they have progressed, or how long it takes to hire a candidate. Some of the specific HR metrics you might be familiar with include – time to hire, cost per hire, the quality of certain channels used to source candidates, source-to-close metrics, how engaged candidates are or the candidate experience, etc.

• Heteronormativity The assumption that heterosexuality is the preferred sexual orientation.

• Homophobia Feelings of fear, hatred, discomfort, or mistrust towards members of the LGBTQI+ community.


• Identity-based violence Any act of violence that is motivated by the perpetrator’s perception of the victim’s identity.

• Inclusive language The practice of using language that avoids bias towards any single gender, sex, or minority group.

• Inclusion The action or state of including or of being included within a group, activity, or social structure.

• Internalized racism When an individual exhibits racial tendency toward people and cultures of their own race (including themselves).

• Interpersonal racism The racism that occurs between individuals.

• Intersectionality The theory that people can be marginalized or discriminated against based on a complex and interconnected set of social identifiers, including their gender, race, class, sexual orientation, and religion.

• Islamophobia An unfounded fear of or hostility to Muslims, Islam, and Islamic culture. These beliefs can lead to violent, exclusionary, and discriminatory actions against Muslims.


• Job profile A job profile is part of a job description. It accurately outlines the specific tasks that a job requires and features the skills you’re looking for from applicants to successfully carry out the position.

• Job analysis The systematic and thorough process of collecting job-specific data and information that relates to the requirements of an open position. A job analysis will give you data on a few key areas related to the job, including job title, a summary of the position, responsibilities, and duties of the role, the knowledge required for the position, qualifications that make it easier to perform the role, etc.

• Job restructuring Job restructuring is the process of altering the role requirements and responsibilities of an employee’s position. This typically means employees gain other responsibilities due to the reorganization of a business or alterations to a department.

• Job description A job description is a document created by HR professionals and posted on a job board that summarizes a job role in terms of the responsibilities and duties of the position as well as the qualifications and skills needed to be successful in the role. In many cases, job descriptions are the first way your applicants will get to know your company.


• LMS (learning management system) An LMS, in the context of the workplace, is a type of software that organizations use when developing training and courses to educate employees so that they can progress in their careers. Also referred to as a corporate learning management system, the software functions online, and employers can choose a training path for employees to follow.

• LGBTQIA+ A collective term that encompasses a range of genders and sexual identities, including people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual, agender, and community allies.


• Mansplain A pejorative term used to describe the way in which a man explains something to a woman, assuming she has no knowledge of the subject.

• Maternal bias A form of unconscious bias in which mothers are assumed to be less committed or competent in the workplace. It can intensify existing performance biases against women.

• Marginalization When an individual or group is socially excluded and denied access to services or opportunities.

• Microaggression Everyday behaviors and actions that communicate some form of bias against individuals from marginalized or non-mainstream groups.

• Minority A culturally, racially, or ethnically distinct group of people that is subordinate to a more dominant social group within a community.

• Misgender Addressing a person – usually an individual who identifies as transgender, nonbinary, or non-conforming – with an incorrectly gendered name, pronoun, or honorific.

• Model minority A minority group that is stereotyped as high-achieving in some regard. The concept is problematically used to undermine the severity of socioeconomic disparities.

• Multicultural An environment that is inclusive of different cultures, customs, and nationalities.

• Multiethnic Something that relates to or includes people of different ethnic groups; or, a person who identifies with two or more ethnicities.

• Multiracial Something that represents or is composed of multiple different racial groups; or, a person who has two or more races within their genealogy.

• Misogyny Hatred or strong dislike of women. It can manifest in the form of abuse, violence, or discrimination against women.


• Non-compete agreement A legal agreement that states that ex-employees cannot compete with your organization when their employment period has ended. It also prohibits former employees from sharing details about your organization with other businesses regardless of whether they decide to leave the company or have their contract terminated.

• Neurodiversity Encompassing and embracing variations in brain cognition and behavior. Neurodiversity considers neurodevelopmental differences such as ADHD, dyslexia, and autism as normal and acceptable variations of the human brain.


• One-way video interview One-way video interviews are also referred to as asynchronous interviews because only the candidate is present in the interview. The candidate is expected to answer set questions, but the interviewer is not part of the interview.

• Organizational development Strategies based on scientific concepts that make it simpler for organizations to enhance their efficiency and effectiveness to achieve certain goals. These strategies normally include aligning the organization’s employees, the structure of the organization, and the rewards given to employees to enhance the organization’s capability.

• Objectification Seeing and/or treating someone like an object, without regard for their personhood or dignity. Usually refers to the sexual objectification of women.

• Oppression When a person or group is subjected to unjust treatment, over a prolonged time period, by an individual or group that holds more power.


• Performance evaluation A formal process that involves assessing an employee’s performance in terms of their work inputs over a certain period of time. Performance evaluations are carried out to analyze how much value an employee adds to an organization revenue-wise.

• Personality test A personality test is a type of assessment that you can use to categorize an employee’s personality. These tests are useful for learning more about how your candidates and employees will work with other employees and how they approach difficult problems.

• Platinum rule A variation of the golden rule (“treat others as you would wish to be treated”), which states: “Treat others as they want to be treated.”

• POC An umbrella term that stands for “people of color”. It refers to any person who does not identify as white.

• Prejudice A preconceived opinion, especially of a negative nature, formed without thought for or knowledge of groups with particular characteristics, such as those based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.

• Privilege A special advantage, right, or opportunity enjoyed by a person or specific group.


• Queer An umbrella term used to refer to any person who does not identify as heterosexual, heteroromantic, or cisgender.


• Race A term used to categorize people based on shared physical and biological attributes. In modern sciences, race is considered a social construct that owes more to social concepts than physiology.

• Racial minority A racial group that is fewer in number than the dominant social group. Usually refers to groups that have been disadvantaged socioeconomically because of this.

• Racism Any prejudice or discrimination against, or hostility towards, a person or group on the basis of their ethnicity or race. Racism can be perpetrated by a person, community, institution, or system.


• Safe space A place or environment intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations.

• Segregation The separation or isolation of a race, class, or minority group via the creation of physical, social, or educational barriers.

• Sexism Behaviors, conditions, and attitudes that are discriminatory or prejudiced on the basis of sex.

• Sexual harassment Sexual remarks or physical advances that are unwanted, inappropriate, offensive, or uncomfortable for the person receiving them.

• Socialization The continuous process of acquiring the social skills, cultural norms, and ideologies of a society. In turn, norms and dominant ideologies are gradually internalized.

• Social justice The fair treatment of and division of resources, opportunities, and privileges amongst everyone in a society, including minority groups.

• Spectrum (On the) A term commonly used to describe someone with signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Often used in a derogatory way to describe people with social awkwardness.

• Stealth A behavior where a person chooses to live solely as their gender without ever revealing that they are transgender, passing as their desired sex or gender at all times.

• Stereotype An unfair and oversimplified image that presents all people with a particular characteristic as the same.

• Stigmatization The act or process of negatively labeling someone based on a distinguishing characteristic such as a mental illness, health condition, or disability.

• Structural inequality A system of privilege created by institutions within an economy that systematically disadvantages certain groups and minorities. Often seen in business practices, law, education, and healthcare.

• Skills-based hiring The practice of hiring based on skills and performance rather than on formal qualifications such as a degree or work experience.


• Test order The order in which tests are placed within an assessment - where an assessment is made up of two to five different tests and/or custom questions.

• Test validation The process of gathering evidence to verify that the intended use, interpretations, and results of a test are accurate. It involves careful test design and development, data collection, analysis, and interpretation to ensure the validity and reliability of assessments.

• Third gender A term used to describe someone who does not identify as a male or female. They can be neither or a combination of both.

• Tolerance Acceptance of behaviors and beliefs that conflict with or are different from one’s own.

• Tokenism The practice of making only a symbolic effort to be inclusive to minority groups and give the appearance of equality and inclusion. “Token hires” give the superficial appearance of diversity.

• Transgender Having a gender identity that is different from the sex one was assigned at birth.

• Transphobia Irrational/prejudiced fear of, or aversion to, transgender people.

• Transracial Having a racial identity or expression that differs from one’s race of birth; or, involving two or more races.


• Upward mobility Refers to the experience of moving up into a more privileged economic or social position in society. Eg. Being promoted to a high-paying position.

• Unconscious bias The unconscious beliefs or prejudices, formed outside of our conscious awareness, that we create and hold about certain groups of people. Also referred to as “hidden bias” or “implicit bias”.


• Values fit The process of identifying and hiring candidates whose motivations and values match those of the company.


• Wimmin An intentional phonetic respelling of the word “women” that was adopted to avoid the use of the word ‘men’ at the end.


• Xenophobia Extreme dislike or fear of people from other countries, their customs, and other cultural traits.

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