The complete A-Z of recruitment catchphrases

Every industry has its fair share of insider catchphrases, and recruitment is no exception. Whether you’re a hiring manager, a working professional or a curious job hunter, here’s an A-Z glossary of phrases used by recruiters to add a touch of humour to the job.

Al Desko. Any meal eaten at the office desk because the day has been too hectic to take lunch, i.e. "I’ve got 5 candidates to put forwards by 2pm so I’m eating Al Desko."

Bridesmaid. The unlucky candidate that always seems to get to the final stages but never gets an offer.

Career Limiting Move. A CLM is a risky action taken by a candidate that might hinder their future progression, i.e. “She’s got good experience, but she made a bit of a CLM a few months ago…”

Dead stick. A vacancy that has zero momentum and is proving impossible to fill.

Eat a reality sandwich. Necessary when a client’s requirements are almost impossible to meet, i.e  "He needs to eat a reality sandwich if he thinks he’ll get someone with those qualifications for that salary."

Flight risk. A recent placement that you think may be on the verge of quitting.

Golden Handcuffs. Monetary incentives used to retain top talent.

Hopper. A candidate whose CV is peppered with different job moves across a relatively short space of time, i.e. “She has all the necessary qualifications, but she looks like a bit of a hopper.”

Innovate. A word that as a recruiter, you’ll likely read 3 times per CV and hear a solid 12 times per job interview.

Justin Bieber. A candidate that you just can’t bring yourself to like, despite their impressive career journey.

Kim Kardashian. In a similar vein to the above, a candidate that looks fantastic on paper but has no substance when you actually interview them.

Let’s touch base on that later. Used when a candidate has started to veer off topic in an interview, meaning, “Enough about that, let’s go back to what I actually asked.”

Magic bullet questions. The kind of absurd interview questions that no recruiter worth their salt would pose, such as, “If you were a colour, what colour would you be?”

Nail jelly to the hothouse wall.  To fill an impossible vacancy.

Onion peeling. The art of digging deep with interview questions and finding out what a candidate is all about.

Purple squirrel. That absolute rarest, almost mythical recruit: the candidate with exactly the right qualifications and experience who will actually accept an unrealistic job offer.

Quick win. Guaranteed, speedy success with filling a role, i.e. "I’ve got some tough developer jobs to fill, but this IT support role should be a quick win.”

Resume stain. A terrible role that drags a whole CV down.

Show pony. A candidate who superficially presents well but lacks any kind of real depth.

Teflon vacancy. A role so undesirable you’ll never make a candidate stick.

Uptitling. The art of making a position sound better than it is by using an impressive sounding title.

Visionary. A word often used entirely out of context by job candidates, often translating into “I’m something of an egomaniac.”

Who’s who in the zoo. A phrase used by recruiters to signify the process of mapping a market sector or company for headhunting purposes.

Xerox application. A generic job application that a candidate has clearly submitted to 20 different roles without adjusting.

Yak shaving.  An apparently useless activity which, by allowing you to overcome intermediate difficulties, allows you to solve a larger recruitment problem.

Zombie role. An undefeatable role that just keeps coming back, no matter how hard you might try to fill it.



Would you add any further catchphrases to the list? We’d love to hear what other funny phrases recruiters are using! 

Views: 7023

Comment by Sean Durrant on January 6, 2015 at 8:42am

Having been in Recruitment for over 20 years I certainly recognise a lot of these situations but never heard these phrases.

Sean Durrant

Comment by Jeremy Spring on January 7, 2015 at 12:53pm

Bieber.  Good stuff.  

Comment by Robert Natowitz on January 14, 2015 at 8:31pm

Roxanne, I loved your post.  Entertaining and accurate to a troubling degree.  How am I ever going to remember all 26?  Would you publish a chart suitable for printing?  ;)


Comment by Roxanne Abercrombie on January 15, 2015 at 3:34am

Haha thanks Robert, glad I added a touch of humour to your day :)

Comment by Paul Petrone on March 10, 2015 at 11:44am

Very funny! Thanks for sharing.

Comment by Roxanne Abercrombie on March 10, 2015 at 3:14pm

I'm still amazed at the response this article got - thanks for reading! :)


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