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Human Resource Terminologies [Career & Employment Terms]

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Welcome to Zety’s glossary of employment terms, recruitment terms, career words, job phrases, and HR terms to know.

With this complete and comprehensive career compendium, you’ll be better able to understand human resource terminologies and career definitions of words so that you can make the most of your vocation - whether you are a jobseeker, human resources specialist, hiring manager, or for your general knowledge.

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— A —

Successes and key points a jobseeker include on their resume relevant to the prospective company and the role applied for.
Recognition and wins from previous positions a candidate includes on their resume to stand out. Not to be confused with responsibilities. Read more about adding achievements to a resume.
Action Verbs
Words used on a resume and cover letter which express physical or mental action. Read more about choosing the best action verbs.
Someone who has applied for employment, a position, or for a project in return for compensation.
Applicant Tracking System
Commonly abbreviated as ATS, it is software utilized by hiring managers and recruiters which automate some of the hiring process by scanning resumes, cover letters, and emails from applicants, parsing the content of the text rendered, and assigning a score per applicant based on relevancy to the position and keywords set by the employer.
A document a candidate prepares and submits to a company in hopes of obtaining a position.
A person who works for another person or a company to learn a trade and the skills required of that trade.
See: “Applicant Tracking System.”
The time and days a candidate or employee is able to work.

— B —

Background Check
Investigation into the truth of a prospective candidate’s statements from their submitted application and/or resume. A background check may include additional research into a potential employee’s criminal history, social media presence, and more.
Balanced Scorecard
Management metric of performance used to identify different functions and their outcomes.
Behavioral Interview Question
Questions asked during an interview about past work experience and how a candidate has handled certain situations or scenarios in the past. This method implies that past behavior forecasts future behavior.
Programs or some form of non-monetary compensation an employer may give as a perk to employees alongside monetary compensation. Common benefits include health insurance, paid leave, gym memberships, etc.
Describes lower-paying jobs, usually, where workers often wear protective garments as uniforms performing non-agricultural manual labor. Also describes the workers in a blue-collar line of work.
Branding Statement
On a resume, it is a brief subtitle that declares what the applicant is known for, what they want to be known for, a top service, or a defining characteristic.
Software which is used specifically to create resumes and cover letters. Read our reviews on the best resume builders.

— C–D —

See: “Curriculum Vitae.”
Work done as an occupation that takes up a significant period of one’s life and employment history.
Career Change
A change in one’s career path, usually involving a radically-different industry or work field.
An official document, usually accredited by a significant industry body, which attests to a candidate’s proficiency, knowledge, or training in a particular field, software, course, industry, or hardware. Read about how to include certifications on a resume.
See: “Reverse-Chronological.”
A resume format for those who want to show off their skills before jumping into their work experience. It’s a top resume format for career changers, high-level professionals, and job seekers with employment gaps. Read more about the combination resume format.
The sum of all remuneration and benefits given to an employee for work rendered. Compensation usually includes a monetary value (wages), but also often includes non-monetary perks and benefits such as paid time off, gym memberships, company vehicles, etc.
Constructive Dismissal
A situation where an employee quits or resigns due to a hostile work environment.
Contact Information
Personal details on a resume and cover letter, including addresses, phone numbers, and other info, which allow the employer or recruiter to reply to the candidate. Read more about how to include contact information on a resume.
Corporate Culture
The collective beliefs and values shared by employees in a given company’s work environment.
Cover Letter
A letter sent with a resume or CV which briefly sums up a candidate’s interest, relevance, and ability to do the job. Read more about how to write a cover letter for a job appliaction.
Cover Letter Builder
See: “Builder.”
Curriculum Vitae
A record of one’s academic and professional achievements. It is Latin for “course of life,” and it is often a longer document that goes into detail where a resume doesn’t. See more on the differences between a CV and a resume.

— E —

The history of institutionalized instruction listed on a resume, such as high school, university, or vocational school. Read about how to put education on a resume here.
Elevator Pitch
Also known as an elevator speech, it is a quick statement one makes to sell their candidacy to an employer.
The readiness, skills, qualifications, and ability a candidate has in relation to employment.
A work position that is paid.
Employment Gap
A period of time between two jobs where an employee has no employment. An employment gap could be due to several reasons, such as a career change, internship, education, illness, child leave, etc.
Employment History
See: “Experience.”
The entirety of a candidate’s past work history, including volunteer work and any knowledge and skills gained as a result of prior training, tasks, and responsibilities. Read more about how to put experience on a resume (or how to write a resume if you have no work experience.)

— F —

A brief note, email, or phone call that reminds the employer that a candidate has submitted a resume or job application and is awaiting a response. Learn how to follow up on a resume or follow up after an interview.
Format (File)
A standard of saving and storing a digitized version of a resume or cover letter. Popular file formats include .DOCX and .PDF. Read more about which file format to use when saving a resume.
Format (Resume)
The layout and structure of the resume. The most common ones are combination, reverse-chronological, and functional. Read more about the common resume formats.
Work that takes up an employee’s regular hours, usually designated as around 40 hours per week. Less than full-time work is considered part-time.
Also referred to as “skills-based,” it is a resume format that focuses on skills but does not link these to any specific achievements. Read more about the functional resume format here.

— G —

The aim of an employee, employer, or company.
Describes jobs requiring technical skills, as a mix of blue- and white-collar work, often referring to such areas as IT engineering and policing. Also describes the workers in a gray-collar line of work.
Describes jobs in environmental sectors, often referring to such work as energy conservation and sustainability. Also describes the workers in a green-collar line of work.
Gross Misconduct
A violation of a company’s rules that is so severe that it warrants immediate dismissal. Gross misconduct is often criminal in nature.

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— H-I —

See: “Human Resources.”
Hard Skills
Specific abilities and know-how, such as knowledge of a particular software program.
Heading Statement
Term used to identify the top-most paragraph of a resume. A heading statement usually is either a resume summary or resume objective.
Hiring Manager
An employee of a company’s management team, often in human resources, who is responsible for the entirety or majority of the hiring process.
An activity a candidate may include on their resume which they do/did for pleasure and enjoyment. Read about how to add hobbies to a resume.
Human Resources
The department of a company that deals with employees and their relationship to the company, including the hiring process, benefits, time off, and more.
An activity a candidate may include on their resume which they find pleasurable and enjoyable. Read about how to add interests to a resume.
A position, often held by students and those new to employment and often without pay, which offers training and real-world experience in a particular company. Learn how to make an internship resume.
A meeting between a candidate and an employer or representative of a prospective company. Once formal and face-to-face, interviews now often are less formal, such as phone interviews and video interviews (Skype interviews). Check our our guides about job interviews.

— J-K —

Someone who is actively seeking employment. This term used to have the more specific meaning of someone who is unemployed seeking employment, but it has now been accepted as proper for anyone looking for work.
Keywords (Resume)
Words and phrases in a job seeker’s resume and cover letter which have a great importance placed on them. Usually, these words are actively sought out by the hiring manager, recruiter, and/or the ATS. Read more about keywords on a resume.

— L —

Lateral Hiring
Recruitment where an employee is hired for the same position and compensation as in their previous job.
A discharge of employees from a company, often temporary and often due to financial reasons or restructuring. Layoffs differ from firing because usually the layoff position was terminated.
See: “Format (Resume).”
Leadership Style
See: “Management Style.”
Letter of Recommendation
A letter which a reference sends to an employer to vouch for one’s work ethic, character, qualifications, employment history, or skills.
A certification by a governing or legal body that certifies the holder has the stated skill, ability, hours, or lessons.

— M-N —

Management Style
An employee’s or prospective candidate’s brand of leadership. When a hiring manager asks “what is your management style?” in an interview, they usually are looking for an example of past behavior and experience in a management position.

— O —

Objective (Resume)
A short, targeted statement at the beginning of a resume that reflects what a candidate has already achieved and how they would be a perfect match for the position that is on offer. Read more about how to write a resume objective.
The process at a company by which newly-hired employees are brought up to speed on the company, the company culture, responsibilities, and job roles.
Online Presence
Collective term for profiles, photos, texts, videos, and other media available publicly via the internet. Employers often do a preliminary search on applicants’ online presence, and any negative image they conclude based on the search results may hurt each applicant's’ chances of getting the interview. Learn how to fix your online presence.
Outline (Resume)
A plan or description of a resume that occurs prior to the first draft which allows for a more accurate and better-structured resume. Read more about how to make a resume outline.
This is the process of hiring another organization to perform a service. An example may include hiring a local cleaning company to perform office maintenance rather than to hire the cleaners themselves.

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— P-Q —

Employment where the work hours per week is less than the generally-accepted full-time hours of work (usually 40 hours per week).
Describes low-level to mid-level jobs in the service industry, usually, often referring to such work as waiting tables, teaching, secretarial duties, etc. Also describes the workers in a pink-collar line of work.
A curated collection of a candidate’s work and project history given alongside a resume and cover letter to highlight samples of past projects in order to obtain a new job.
Power Words
Strong words, such as action verbs, used to make a resume sound more direct and forceful.
An act where one employee gets given a higher rank or position in a company, usually coinciding with an increase in compensation, benefits, and responsibilities. Read about how to list promotions on a resume.
Purple Squirrel
Recruitment slang term referring to a recruit or job candidate that has just the right amount of skills, education, experience, and qualifications needed for a particular job. It comes from the suggestion that such a candidate would be as hard to find as a purple squirrel. An agency or recruiter looking for this kind of candidate is often called a “purple squirrel hunter.”

— R —

See: “Letter of Recommendation.”
A person or company contracted to find hires and employees for another company.
An unofficial term used to describe government work or the workers therein.
On a resume, references are a list of names one adds which will likely provide a positive recommendation for hire. Adding references on a resume is almost always a bad idea.
A resume is a record of one’s academic and professional achievements, skills, and other details meant to briefly and quickly sum up an applicant’s eligibility for a job position. Sometimes it's spelled résumé. It is usually shorter than a C.V. See more on the differences between CV and resume, learn how to write a resume for any job, and check out our sample resumes for different positions.
Resume Builder
See: “Builder.”
Resume Format
See: “Format.”
Resume Keywords
See: “Keywords.”
Resume Objective
See: “Objective.”
Resume Outline
See: “Outline.”
Resume Section
See: “Section.”
Resume Summary
See: “Summary.”
A resume format that highlights job history and allows placement of career peak at the top of the resume. Read more about the reverse-chronological resume format.

— S —

Section (Resume)
The areas and categories that a resume is divided into. These may include contact information, work experience, skills, education history, certifications, and more. Read more about sections on a resume.
Practice where a new employee follows another employee and learns the new job details by observation and trial.
Situational Interview Question
Similar to behavioral interview questions, hiring managers ask these to prospective candidates during interviews about how the candidate might respond in a hypothetical situation.
Abilities a candidate has which are relevant and would be beneficial to the prospective company. Read about how to include skills on a resume.
See: “Functional.”
Soft Skills
Self-developed, life-learned attributes and abilities.
STAR Method
An interview technique used to answer and verify behavioral interview questions. It stands for the Situation, Task, Action, Result Method, and you can read more about the STAR Method here.
Reference to Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, as well as the skills and work in those fields and specialties.
Skills and abilities a candidate may have that are available in greater quantity and quality than other candidates. Interviewers look for strengths that fit their company’s needs and often will ask interviewees, “what are your strengths?” during interviews.
Summary (Resume)
A statement which goes in the heading area of a resume detailing skills and career progress; sometimes referred to as a professional summary. Read about how to create a resume summary.

— T —

To customize resume, cover letter, and other job-related items to match the things which are known about the employer. A useful method of getting a better employer and interview response rate. Read more about tailoring your resume.
A structured layout used to build resumes and cover letters. Check out our 20 professional resume templates.
Thank You Email
An email sent to the prospective employer usually after an interview. Not only is it a nice gesture, but it also serves to remind the employer that the candidate is waiting and is available. Read more on how to send a thank you email after an interview.
Transferable Skills
Skills and abilities a candidate has learned and built from one work environment that can be used in another work environment.

— U-V —

Slang term for a startup company that is valued at over $1 billion (in US dollars).
Volunteer Work
Job experience obtained from work where the tasks and responsibilities have no monetary compensation. Read about how to list volunteer work on your resume.

— W-X —

Skills and abilities a candidate may not have or that are available in smaller quantity and quality than other candidates. Interviewers avoid weaknesses that are important to the company’s needs, and often will ask interviewees, “what is your greatest weakness?” during interviews; an honest answer is better than fabrication.
Describes mid-level to high-level jobs, usually, where workers often work in an office environment at desks or cubicles on computers doing no manual labor. Also describes the workers in a white-collar line of work.
Work Experience
See: “Experience.”
A particular trait, attribute, talent, or skill that sets a candidate apart from all the rest.

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So, what did you think of our recruitment jargon, career terms and phrases, and employment definitions glossary? Got any recruitment phrases or HR terminologies to add to our list? Get at us in the comments below to let us know. Thanks for reading!

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Christian Eilers, CPRW
Christian is a career expert and Certified Professional Resume Writer. His guides cover every aspect of the career spectrum, from job hunting and acing interviews to settling in on the first days of a new career. With Christian's guidance, job seekers can navigate the job market with confidence and make the most of their career opportunities. Linkedin

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