Purple Squirrels: Terms Only Recruiters Would Know

April 28, 2023

purple squirrels terms only recruiters would know

Every business has its own buzzwords, key phrases that are only known by those in the industry - and recruitment is no different.

If you are new to recruitment or newly in charge of hiring at a company, it is important that you get a grasp on some of the more common terms in use - especially those that could have a direct effect on the success of your recruitment campaigns.

To give you a headstart, here are some of the terms that only recruiters would know - and they are not all about randomly colored rodents.

Purple Squirrel

Firstly, the purple squirrel. This is a term used to describe a candidate who fits every single requirement of a posted job role; from experience to qualifications and including competencies and skills. It is called a purple squirrel because they just don't exist in real life.

Blind Screening

Blind screening is a process that is used to reduce the possibility of bias in hiring. A blind screening is the evaluation of an application or resumes without any identifying information, such as a name or possibly gender.


Ninja is a term that has been overused in recruitment since the late 2000s - it basically describes a top performer, in a vague and quite unhelpful way. Sales ninjas, marketing ninjas, and all sorts of other ninjas can still be found on job listings.

Boomerang Employee

A boomerang employee is a candidate who used to work in a company and then comes back to work for the same company - they went away and then came back again (like a boomerang).

Red Circle Candidate

A red-circle candidate is the recruitment version of a red-circle employee - a candidate who is looking to be paid above the salary range for the role. They might be negotiating at a rate far above the maximum that is allocated to that grade or level.

Job Requisition

A job requisition is a document that outlines all the important information about a role, including things like required skills, education, and experience. A job requisition is used to aid the management in creating the position ready for hiring.


Like the ninja above, the term rockstar is used in job titles. It is a vague and unhelpful descriptor that doesn't actually give a lot of detail - which can make effective sourcing difficult.

Flight Risk

A flight risk is a candidate who is likely to leave a role, either for a position that is better paid or because of problems that they are having (or are likely to have) with the role they have applied for. Hiring to decrease turnover intent is a mindful way to avoid this.

Passive Candidate

A passive candidate is a person that is not actively looking for a new role, but they have the skills, experience, and/or qualifications that the job needs - and they might be tempted to join the recruitment funnel.


Ghosting in recruitment is the same as it is elsewhere - it is a term used to describe the deafening silence when a candidate stops communicating with the recruitment team. In most cases, this is because they have changed their mind about the role, but haven't sent an email or made a phone call to let the hiring team know.

Candidate Pipeline

The candidate pipeline is another term for the talent pool - the place where all the details of potential, qualified applicants are stored. This is usually a database that is both easy to access and simple to search, making the recruitment process faster.


A headhunter is a specialist recruiter, often working in executive search functions. They look for top applicants, usually among passive candidates, and approach them about specific positions that the candidate would be suitable for.


Similar to a headhunter, the sourcer finds good candidates - but usually on a more general scale. A sourcer might be the go-to person when volume hiring for sales roles, for example.

Contingency Recruiter

A contingency recruiter is motivated to find the right person for a role because they do not get paid until the candidate has been hired. Contingency recruiters usually get paid a percentage of the successful candidate's salary.


The unicorn can be used interchangeably with the purple squirrel to mean that perfect-fit candidate. However, it is also used to describe job adverts that are too specific and are asking for too much, making it almost impossible to find the right candidate - and ruling out perfectly competent applicants at the same time.

terms only recruiters would know

Applicant Tracking System

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a piece of software that is designed to make hiring more simple and straightforward, with recruitment funnels and workflows in mind as well as various screening and communication tools.

Close the Loop

Close the loop is often used in 'executive speak' to mean ending a discussion, but in recruitment, it specifically means sharing the outcome of a hiring process with a candidate who was not successful. Closing the loop means communicating to the applicant that they are not going to be hired.

Culture Add

Culture add is a term that is used to describe how a candidate can add to the culture of a workplace, and it is specifically about building diversity through individual contribution.

Silver Medalist

In recruitment, the silver medalist is the second-place candidate that lost out narrowly when the job offer was made. Silver medalists should be kept in the loop because if there is a problem with the first-choice applicant, they can then be offered the job.

Intake Meeting

The intake meeting is an initial meeting between the employer or hiring team and the recruiter, where the details of the job opening are discussed alongside the specific goals of the recruitment process, including key metrics.


Outside of recruitment, poaching is about taking something that isn't yours - and in recruitment, it means hiring a candidate directly from a competitor. This is the equivalent of Dell hiring a developer from Lenovo, for example.

A Boolean search is a specific way of simplifying searches in databases, by narrowing or broadening the results depending on the additional words used. A Boolean search might include the word 'and' to ensure that only candidates who have both parts of the requirement are returned, and it is an effective way to be more inclusive (or exclusive) with search results.

Lateral Hiring

Lateral hiring describes recruiting a candidate to a position in a new company that has the same responsibilities and level of experience, so it is essentially a sideways move rather than a promotion.

Final thoughts

If you are just starting out in recruitment, all these phrases might seem daunting. Getting to know the type of language that is used when describing different facets of recruitment will ensure that you understand what is being described, which will help rescue the possibility of confusion.

This list is not exhaustive, of course - language grows and evolves, and there is still plenty to learn even for experienced recruiters.

Now that you've familiarized yourself with the terms only recruiters would know, it's time to expand your knowledge further. Enhance your understanding of HR terminology and gain valuable insights by reading our article titled "A List of HR Terms Every Team Should Know."