July 16, 2018

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Five Dirty Words and Phrases

When you talk to candidates and employers, do you refer to interviews as “sendouts” and search assignments as “job orders”? Probably not.

And yet, recruiters use all sorts of professional slang that’s confusing or inappropriate when they talk to non-recruiters.

Whenever I hear recruiter-speak, I’m reminded of the great comedian

George Carlin, who had a stand-up routine in which he made reference to the dirty words you couldn’t say on television.

Well, I have my own list of words and phrases that I feel are a bit too toxic to use in conversation with candidates and employers. Instead, I translate jargon into descriptions, which do a better job of conveying my ideas anyway.

Here are five of the biggest offenders and some suggested substitutions:

Dirty word or phrase: “Passive candidate”

Common usage: “Ted is a really great passive candidate.”

Non-recruiters hear: “Ted is an unmotivated person who’s not looking for a job.”

Better to say: “Ted is a qualified candidate who’s currently employed, but who’s open to changing jobs for the right opportunity.”

Dirty word or phrase: “Crossed my desk”

Common usage: “A new job just crossed my desk.”

Non-recruiters hear: “My office is like a giant mail room. Here’s some junk that just arrived.”

Better to say: “I found a position that aligns with your goals.”

Dirty word or phrase: “Several candidates”

Common usage: “Mr. Employer, I can already think of several candidates who fit your job description.”

Non-recruiters hear: “I’ve got candidates coming out of my ears. This job will be easy to fill.”

Better to say: “Mr. Employer, every job is unique and presents its own recruiting challenges. However, I’ll give your assignment my highest priority, and I’m confident I can find top-quality candidates.”

Dirty word or phrase: “Working up an offer”

Common usage: “Ms. Candidate, I spoke with the company, and they’re working up an offer.”

Non-recruiters hear: “Here’s some insider information: You can expect to receive a job offer.”

Better to say: “I spoke with the company, and things are moving in the right direction. Hopefully, I’ll have some good news for you.”

Dirty word or phrase: “Counteroffer”

Common usage: “You wouldn’t take a counteroffer, would you?”

Non-recruiters hear: “You wouldn’t take away my commission check, would you?”

Better to say: “How would you react if your employer made an adjustment in order to keep you?”

To me, the word “counteroffer” is the dirtiest on my list. It’s way overused and carries too much baggage. Plus, every candidate has a different perception of what a counteroffer is all about, in terms of context and implications. Unless you and the candidate are on exactly the same page, the word “counteroffer” may evoke anxiety or mistrust.

To avoid recruiter jargon, I try to use examples, illustrations or descriptions wherever possible. That way, I can clarify my meaning while keeping my ideas fresh and clean.

- Bill Radin

Bill Radin is one of the most popular and highly regarded trainers in the recruiting industry, and has trained many of the largest independent and franchised recruiting organizations, including Management Recruiters, Dunhill, Sanford Rose, Snelling and Fortune Personnel. His speaking engagements include the NAPS national conference, the annual Kennedy Conference, and dozens of state association meetings and network conventions, including Top Echelon and