A Job Hunter's Guide to Recruiter Code Words

by | March 31, 2009

Recruiters, like many specialized professionals, have pet words and phrases they pull out regularly at work. These code words can speak volumes about what a search executive is thinking about a candidate.

Here is a sampling of terms -- some more common than others -- that search executives say they often rely on when assessing potential hires:

TMI: Short for "too much information," this term refers to candidates who give long-winded answers, according to Jo Bennett, a partner at New York-based Battalia Winston International. "Sometimes candidates talk themselves out of a job," she says. "You want to give the interviewer enough information to make a decision about you, but you don't want to give so much they are able to find something wrong with you." She suggests rehearsing concise answers to interview questions with a friend. [For a list of common interview questions, read the Article: "Don't Let Tough Questions Sabotage Your Interview."]

FD: Torrey Foster writes the initials for "factual discrepancy" on resumes when he finds errors. A managing partner at Chicago-based Heidrick & Struggles International Inc., he says a falsified academic credential is one common example. "Recruiters who see a degree listed on a resume next to a university will presume at face value that you earned it," he says. "When it becomes apparent that you didn't during the course of an interview, you'll have some egg on your face, and your candidacy will be unlikely to advance any further." Mr. Foster says it's acceptable for a resume to note coursework completed toward a degree.

Search virgin: Deborah Sawyer, a partner at Morgan Howard Worldwide in Stamford, Conn., puts this stamp on candidates who don't know how the executive-search business works. A common misconception is the belief that recruiters are responsible for finding them a job, she says. What they sometimes don't know is that recruiters are hired by companies to help them fill positions with qualified talent. Such candidates often voice their disappointment or anger to recruiters, which can derail their chances. "I probably won't ever put them in front of a client," Ms. Sawyer says. [For more on how recruiters work, read the Article: "A Job Hunter's Guide to Executive Recruiters."]

Noncom: This is Craig Silverman's shorthand for job candidates who lack strong communication skills. An executive vice president at staffing firm HireAbility.com LLC, Mr. Silverman says he'll note "noncom" or "NC" at the top of a resume during an interview. "Look the person in the eye, speak in complete thoughts or sentences and be confident in what you're saying," he says.

PP: Chris Soderlund says this code for "poor presentation" sometimes comes to mind before he even shakes a candidate's hand. Mr. Soderlund, placement director for Ajilon Professional Services, a division of staffing firm Adecco SA, says he assesses a job hunter's look and demeanor the moment he or she sets foot in his Woodland Hills, Calif., office. "Many people don't realize that they should be what we call 'on' as soon as they hit the parking lot of an office," he says. Examples of poor presentation include slouching, foot tapping, hair twirling, treating receptionists rudely and gum chewing, he says. "People notice those things," Mr. Soderlund says. "You want to present an air of professionalism."

Sizzle: Evan Scott, president of Evan Scott Group International in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., makes this note when an interviewee lacks energy and passion. (Upbeat, enthusiastic candidates get "sizzle" and an "up" arrow.) Recruiters want to see candidates express excitement when describing their accomplishments and interest in the job, he explains.

Serial networker: Greg Coleman, a senior client partner in New York at Korn/Ferry International, brands job hunters with this term when they're found to be working with several search executives at once. "Through conversations among recruiters, their names come up, and it becomes common knowledge that they're in the marketplace," he says. Professionals broadening their search beyond opportunities that match their expertise sometimes fall into this practice, Mr. Coleman says. "It looks like they are going about their search in a frenzied way."

Mortician: Ms. Sawyer of Morgan Howard bestows this label on candidates whose appearance is dated or drab. "It looks like they dug their suit out from the back of their closet," she says. "It looks like the blood has been sucked out of them." These candidates tend to make a poor first impression on recruiters, she explains. "This basically says to me that your energy level is not what we want."

WD: The abbreviation for "walking description" -- a perfect match for a job, says Mr. Foster of Heidrick & Struggles.

Purple squirrel: This nutty term references the ideal hire (and was the name of a now-defunct trade magazine for the information-technology-staffing industry). Joel Dibble, senior public-relations manager at Robert Half Technology, a division of staffing firm Robert Half International Inc., explains: "They're the dream candidate that doesn't really exist, or if they do, they're very elusive."

Filed Under: Interviewing


Interview Questions: Negotiating Through Letters An Interview with Erin Pettigrew, Manager of Sales Operation

Vault welcomes your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful of other readers. Review our User Guidelines.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Become a Vault Basic Member

Complete your Vault Profile and get seen by top employers