Headhunter Lingo: 14 Terms to Know to Get Hired

July 18th, 2013

 Toronto Financial Services & Insurance Recruiter Ross Campbell

By Ross Campbell Toronto-based Financial Recruiter

Imagine that you get a call from a headhunter and they start using these industry buzzwords that you haven’t heard before. You assume that you’ll probably figure out what the words mean over the course of the conversation so you don’t ask. The mystery may, or may not, have been solved when you hang up the phone however.

So to avoid confusion … and to give you the inside track for the next time you speak to a recruiter … here’s a quick guide to help you decipher common headhunter lingo.

1. Best Practices

The best way of doing things. A method or technique that has proven to be consistently better than other approaches so it becomes a standard for the industry to use or strive for.

2. Candidate

The person who is being considered for a job. When you’re applying for a job, you’re a job seeker. If your name is submitted in a search, you’re a candidate.

3. Confidential Search

This is a search where a recruiter can’t reveal to candidates the name of the company that’s hiring until the final stages of the recruitment process. Sometimes this is a scam to gather data and no job exists (typically when you find the job on craigslist.) But with a trusted recruiter like IQ Partners, this is done when the client doesn’t want word to get out that they are looking to hire. This could be because they don’t want to affect company morale or they’re launching a new project or division they want to keep under wraps.

4. Contingency Recruiter

A contingency recruiter searches for candidates to fill a job opening. If the company hires a candidate sent to them by a recruiter, the recruiter gets paid. Their fees are “contingent” upon one of their candidates being successfully hired.

5. CV

A CV is like a resume, only longer and more detailed. CV stands for “Curriculum Vitae” which is Latin for “course of life”.

6. DOE

This means “Depends On Experience”. If the salary is DOE, it means you’ll get paid more if you have more experience.

7. Informational Interview

This is an interview that you do as a job seeker to gather information. You meet with someone in your field of interest to get career and industry advice, rather than employment. It’s like a job interview but with a twist – you the job seeker is asking the questions.

8. On-Boarding

The process of welcoming a new hire on board with a company – getting all the paperwork done, setting up benefits and completing their orientation.

9. OTE Comp (On-Target Earnings)

This is term you often see in job ads, especially for positions in sales. Compensation is typically a combination of a basic salary with an additional amount of commission that may change based on achieving sales targets.

10. Placement

When a recruiter gets you a job, you have secured a placement.

11. Prescreening

Also referred to as background screening or pre-employment screening. This is testing to ensure that a prospective employee is honest, qualified and capable of performing the functions required by the job.

12. Retained Recruiter

A retained recruiter has an exclusive relationship with an employer. They are hired for a specific period of time to find a candidate for a job, generally for senior-level positions in a company or for positions that are difficult to fill.

13. Sourcing

This is the process of creating lists of potential candidates for a position.

14. Talent Management

Also called human capital management. It involves recruiting, managing, assessing, developing and maintaining employees.

For more tips on industry terms, check out this recent blog post: What Is A Headhunter? (& The 5 Types That May Be Calling You).


IQ PARTNERS is a Recruitment Agency with offices in Toronto, Montreal & Vancouver, We help companies hire better, hire less & retain more. Our recruiters specialize in Marketing, Communications, Consumer Goods & Services, Retail, Sales, Technology, Finance & Accounting, Financial Services, Life Sciences, HR & Operations, and Construction, Property & Real Estate. IQ PARTNERS has its head office in Toronto and operates internationally via Aravati Global Search Network. Click here to view current job openings and to register with us. – 


Ross Campbell

Ross Campbell is a Partner and Practice Lead, Financial Services & Insurance with IQ PARTNERS. Celebrating over 10 years of management consulting experience in executive search, recruitment, and training in Canadian financial services and insurance companies, Ross thrives on the belief that business can be done significantly better by investing in the right people.