The language recruiters use…..

This is an edited version of a blog I originally wrote a year ago – one of my first efforts. It is not the most high brow blog about recruitment that you will ever read. But it is a reminder that our profession needs, and obviously has, a good dose of humour. Thanks to those that have contributed some new suggestions (and apologies to those whose suggestions were just a little too ‘edgy’ for this blog). Enjoy.

Recruitment has developed it’s own language, of sorts. It lends itself as well to catchphrases as any other industry. On my travels through the industry I have worked with some very creative individuals who have a beautiful knack of summing up a situation or person with a few well chosen words. I have also worked with others that have developed what seems like an entirely different language and make little sense unless you have the appropriate translation phrase book.

Regardless, what I have found is that a good catchphrase can go a long way to adding a bit of humour to what is a serious and often stressful job.

There must be thousands, and one could probably put together an entirely alternative Thesaurus based around recruitment. Here are just a small selection of some of my favourites and the appropriate translation (with apologies for some choice language).

Whose who in the zoo:

The process of mapping a market sector or company for headhunting purposes.

Teflon vacancy / client:

A vacancy or client that is so awkward you will never make a candidate stick.

Chuck enough mud at the wall, hope some sticks:

The numbers game approach of sending lots of unqualified candidates to a client in the desperate hope that one of them is successful.

Beatles shortlist:

When you have 4 excellent candidates to shortlist for a vacancy (as in ‘Fab 4’). In more recent times this has been amended to the ‘TakeThat shortlist’.

Stocking filler:

An average candidate that you submit just to make up the numbers on a shortlist.

Shit Sandwich Shortlist (or TripleS):

Similar to above, when you put an average candidate in the middle of the shortlist to hide them as best as possible.

Paris Hilton:

A candidate that initially looks OK but it very quickly becomes clear when you talk to them that there is no substance (can also be known by many other names).

Bird shit placement:

A lucky placement that comes from no where.


Acronym to describe a placement that once looked very positive but has gone very wrong (F****d up beyond all recognition)

Can’t polish a t**d:

The impossible process of trying to make a poor candidate sound good.

The Bridesmaid:

A candidate that often gets to the final stages but never gets an offer.

Purple Squirrel:

This is that job order the client gives that has requirements that seldom exist together if at all. This is not for the badly written job order, just that odd job that a company has. E.g a client that wanted a local candidate that had experience configuring and implementing a particular software that was only on the market for less than 2 years. After 7 months we did find this person in their price range. That was a PURPLE SQUIRREL

Oxygen Suckers:

They talk so much that the oxygen is gone thus making one’s eyes roll back in one’s head and one’s ears slam shut.

Seagull Manager:

The hiring manager that flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps all over everything, and then flies away.

Spray & Stick :

Sourcers who think quantity is a good substitute for quality, so they spray out as many candidates as they can find & hope one of them sticks. This is similar to the “post & pray” recruiting method used in some corporate environments. Both were very popular in the 90’s.

The Golden Eagle has swooped and pooped:

A successful check in !

What others are out there……answers on a postcard please……

Luke Collard


4 thoughts on “The language recruiters use…..

  1. Geoff Myzieck on Reply

    The Turkey Burglar – the candidate you reckon you’ll place just in time for the Xmas bonus, only for it to fail at the last minute

  2. Darren Ledger on Reply

    “The Dark Horse” The candidate who is totally left field, the one who really throws your client at the short-list stage and you really have to push to secure and interview for. But just as you predicted gets the job!

    Great post, good fun as well.

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