Making Sense of Hiring Lingo Staffing Firms Use in Job Descriptions

Understanding the vernacular that recruiters often use to describe the job opportunities that they are representing for their clients can be confusing for professionals without knowledge of these terms. If you come across vernacular you’re unsure about the easiest way to get an answer is to Google it. We’ve listed the most common terms used by staffing firms below to save you time–so you’re informed about the job itself before you apply to the opening.

Common Recruiting Terminology in Job Postings


These positions are for full-time employment opportunities. Direct hire positions are not ‘temporary’ in nature and do not offer interested candidates the opportunity to work first as a contractor and “test” the job out to see if employer/client of the recruiter is a place they would enjoy working long term. These jobs may or may not come with an employment agreement or contract (but it’s always best to ask).

Direct hire positions typically offer benefits to the candidate. It is recommended you ask to see the complete job offer, including the description of the job and duties/responsibilities along with the salary package. In most cases, you will have room to negotiate terms for your employment. If you are working with a recruiter, they will serve as the mediator for negotiations.


Contract-to-hire and contract-right-to-hire jobs are positions that are contractual in nature and usually come with an employment agreement/contract with the employer or consulting firm that is representing you. These contracts are for a specified period of time, and offer the candidate the opportunity to be hired on/convert to being a full-time employee after a specified amount of time, usually called the “term”.

Contract-to-hire and contract-right-to-hire roles afford candidates the opportunity to work with the employer before making a commitment to working directly for the employer or client of the recruiter. These positions may or may not offer benefits to the candidate. Some staffing firms may offer benefits, depending on the engagement, it’s always best to ask what may be available to you. An important thing to keep in mind: during this “term” they are evaluating you just as much as you are evaluating them. Make sure you understand all the terms associated with your contract, and as always, ask if you have any questions.


Short term, pre-defined engagements are usually associated with contract jobs. Most contract jobs are open to cover for immediate business needs, such as a project or covering for the leave of an employee. Contract positions do offer a candidate the opportunity to work for the employer/client of the Recruiter before working there as a regular employee, however, it is important to note that contract opportunities may NOT lead to an offer of full-time employment. You’ll want to clarify with the recruiter or hiring manager if this position will eventually lead to a regular job, and if not, when the end date will be. In some cases, contract jobs can lead to offers of employment. If the client you’re working with wishes to hire you on, ask for them to make you an offer in writing.

If you are working with a Recruiter, make them aware of their client’s expressed interest in hiring you. They will work with the client to get an offer presented to you. Do not circumnavigate the recruiter during this process. Doing so can damage your relationship with the recruiter and put you in an awkward position with the client. Clients are informed that they are to keep their staffing partners aware of interest and desire to hire any of their contract staff.


  1. Know what classification the position you are applying for is. Is it direct hire, contract-to-hire/contract-right-to-hire, or contract? If you are working with a recruiter make sure to have this clarified.
  2. Get it in writing. Most employment arrangements come with a contract or agreement that specifies all of the terms of the engagement that you will have. If the hiring manager or recruiter doesn’t present you with one, ask. Do not rely on verbal commitments. People change jobs and business situations may change, having something in writing is the key to protecting your interests.
  3. If you are working with a recruiter, let them know if the client expresses an interest in hiring you if you are on any contractual assignments. Your recruiter is your representative and the representative of the client. They serve as the mediator in the negotiations to make sure that both parties are happy with the final terms.
  4. As with any job, always put your best foot forward! The employer is evaluating you just as much as you are evaluating them.
  5. Ask questions. If you are ever unsure of terms in your contract/employment agreement, or have any other questions before you make a commitment, ask. When it comes to your employment and career, you have to be your own advocate.