04/07/2016 04:47 EDT | Updated 04/08/2017 05:12 EDT

A Guide To Essential Recruitment Terms For Novices

The HR sector, employment and recruiting world are constantly evolving. And so are the terms that define the industry. You have probably already noticed, we no longer speak only of recruiting but also of staffing and talent acquisition.

The HR sector, employment and recruiting world are constantly evolving. And so are the terms that define the industry. You have probably already noticed, we no longer speak only of recruiting but also of staffing and talent acquisition.

Notwithstanding these developments, the main mission of recruiters remains the same. That is matching the right candidate to the right employer.

However this recruitment role is not always filled by a hiring professional. Sometimes it is an entrepreneur in search of a collaborator, or an HR generalist who must perform talent acquisition tasks.

Not everyone has the same level of expertise, but everyone will have to navigate through the terminology of recruitment to carry out their mission.

The Terminology of Recruitment

To demystify the jargon of recruitment, here is a list of terms that are increasingly used in the vocabulary of recruiters. Some terms will allow you to revisit familiar notions while others will allow you to deepen or discover new concepts.

Active vs Passive

First, what is an active candidate vs a passive one?

In very simple terms: the active candidate is actively seeking new career opportunities while the passive candidate is not.


On some occasions you will also hear the expression "semi-active" candidate or jobseeker.

As you have already probably guessed, those people are already employed but they are sometimes looking at employment opportunities and are also open to considering offers.

While it is possible to easily recruit active and semi-active candidates via postings, this method is unlikely to work with passive candidates, even if they are generally very much in demand. They already have a fulfilling career and you will not find them on job boards.

In order to attract a passive candidate, I recommend the appointment (as described below) of a headhunter or the use of sourcing services.

Employee Referral Program

Employee Referral Programs are put in place in order to use employees to recruit their peers. This form of recruitment is often accompanied by a reward that is paid to the person who referred the new recruit to the organization.

In France there are several websites dedicated to "co-optation" (or Employee referrals) such as Coopt Action which recognizes that "More and more companies are now using the networks of their collaborators to find new talent."

Employee referrals have many benefits

Referring people makes recruitment procedures inexpensive, valued and effective. When specialists or executives are sought, the professionals working in the same field can easily identify the most qualified potential recruits. This has the advantage of shortening the research and therefore it potentially saves time and money.


Sourcers are experts who provide candidate sourcing services. Their main function is to search for, categorize and analyze specific profiles to fill vacancies.

Using various data and online tools such as social networks, forums, blogs, groups, corporate sites, ATS, and others, they unearth active, semi-active and passive profiles very quickly.

One of the main advantages of sourcing is it can quickly find passive candidates. It is also used to create a pool of potential candidates which is particularly helpful in areas with skilled labor shortages.

Usually the sourcer occupies a complementary role to the recruiter. The sourcer finds profiles, contacts them and then the recruiter takes over to complete the subsequent steps leading to the selection and hiring.

For more information on sourcing, I recommend you read Vince Szymczak's article on the subject.

Talent Search

Increasingly, terms such as headhunting and executive search are giving way to a more user-friendly name: talent search. Hunting talent is a well-known activity that is required where usual recruiting practices lose their effectiveness. Its main advantage is to allow the delegation of difficult hiring to experts.

The talent search approach varies greatly depending on the expert, the firm and/or sector. And the same applies to the fees. Therefore, do not hesitate to inquire about available services and fees as the practice is evolving quickly and changes are significant.


With outsourcing, a part or the entire recruitment process (or HR management process as appropriate) can be delegated to an external entity. Although some insist on the differences between outsourcing, externalization of the recruitment process and the RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing), these three terms are commonly used to describe a corporate strategy that makes use of an external resource for one or more HR functions.

In Quebec, the most common expression is outsourcing (impartition in French) while in the rest of Canada we speak of RPO. In Europe it is more frequent to see the externalization of the recruitment process although RPO is gradually being introduced.

HR Marketing

HR marketing, also known as employer branding, has become common practice over the last few years. The goal is to facilitate the retention and attraction of talent by combining a marketing approach to human resources. This combination of the two disciplines may seem odd but it is proving to be an essential strategy in a context of skilled labor shortages.

HR marketing utilizes a set of practices and policies that are part of an organization in order to trigger favorable behaviors in line with its HR objectives both in its public and internal environment.

Increasingly, HR marketing is accompanied by specializations such as content marketing and relationship marketing.

Content Marketing

When a company uses a content marketing strategy, it creates informative and useful content (as guides, case studies, testimonials, blogs, videos and other) corresponding to a specific theme.

With the creation and publication of content, the company is acquiring a target audience. In talent acquisition, the editorial strategy is created in order to be in harmony with the desired talent group providing specialized, educational and interesting content.

Relationship marketing

To complement their approach, many companies use relationship marketing to retain the targeted talent community. In other words, relationship marketing facilitates the development of an individual and personalized relationship with candidates through emails, newsletters and other automated marketing tools. A common example is to send emails to people with profiles corresponding to a new job opening.

In conclusion, I have to point out that the above list is not exhaustive. Although it addresses some common questions, there are still further terms specific to the world of recruitment that could be clarified.

If you are curious and would like to learn more, I invite you to leave your questions and comments below.

"The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing." -- Albert Einstein

A blog by Sonia Desrosiers

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