14 palabras esenciales de recursos humanos en inglés

Nov 23, 2022

1. ENTREVISTA DE SELECCIÓN

Tipos de entrevistas — Have you ever applied for a job, had a first interview, and then get called up for a selection interview?

In Spanish, this is known as “entrevista de selección” and is easy to remember because of its direct translation.

A “selection interview” usually takes place with the selection process is at a more advanced stage. It is also quite possibly the penultimate or final interview the company has with candidates before a decision is made. That means that this is usually done with people who have a direct say in the hiring process who are likely to be your future bosses or supervisors.

That said, selection interviews, unlike the first or second round of interviews, are often held in person instead of over the phone.

On that note, “entrevista de seguimiento” is called a follow-up interview. It often refers to the next step in the interview process, and you’ll likely meet with people you didn’t already speak to in the first interview that are part of the selection process.

2. ESPECIALISTA: Persona experta en una materia determinada.

I’m confident most of you know what “especialista” is in English. Its similarity with its English equivalent means it’s certainly not a hard word to remember.

A specialist is someone who is very skilled in a particular area of work.

The main problem many of my students encounter with this word is its pronunciation. As with most English words starting with ‘s’ (eg. school, ski, etc), many native Spanish speakers tend to pronounce it with a ghost ‘e’ at the start of the word → “especialist”

It can be a hard habit to kick, especially since their Spanish equivalents all begin with ‘e’ → escuela, esquiar, especialista…

If you prefer, you can opt for these synonyms of specialist: expert, professional, master, etc. In non-formal contexts, you could also describe this person as a pro, whiz, or even a ninja!

And since I’m on the topic, I’ve often been asked about the difference between “speciality” and “specialty”. It’s the same as “specialize” and “specialise”: One’s more commonly used in British English and the other in American English.

→ Specialise (UK) vs Specialize (US)
→ Speciality (UK) vs Specialty (US)

3. HUELGA

In most of Europe, workers have a right to suspend work as a means of pressuring their company for better working conditions.

This is certainly something we’ve seen not once, twice, but on multiple occasions from Ryanair:

Huelga de los pilotos de Ryanair en septiembre”
Los pilotos de Ryanair en España convocan huelga”

Its English equivalent sounds nothing like ‘huelga’: strike. It can be used both as a verb and a noun but is more commonly used as a noun.

Verb: Escalating South African Airways Strike to Test Ramaphosa (Bloomberg)
Noun: Thousands of Canadian National Railway workers go on strike (Reuters)

Note the usage of ‘go on strike’, which is a very commonly used structure when using ‘strike’ as a noun.

You may also have come across labour/labor strike, which is essentially the same thing.

A hunger strike, however, is different. The underlying idea is the same: to cease an action in hopes of gaining something. But in the case of a hunger strike, the person is refusing to eat instead of refusing to work.


4. INDEMNIZACIÓN POR DESPIDO

A friend of mine has just been offered a job across the world in Singapore and was all excited about taking it, until he found out that, in his own words:

En Singapur las empresas no son como las españolas, ¡no existe indemnización por despido!”

He’d always wanted to work in Asia and this was an extremely attractive offer for him. But it looks like he may have just found the deal-breaker.

In English, this is called ‘severance pay’, or ‘dismissal compensation’. It’s the monetary compensation the company offers the employee for terminating his or her position.


💡 ‘severance’ comes from ‘sever’, which means to break or cut (cortar)
💡 ‘dismissal’ comes from ‘dismiss’, which means to fire/sack (despedir a alguien)


In this regard, labour laws are, thankfully, particularly strong in the European Union, and it’s common for European companies to provide severance pay when letting workers go.

But this practice seems to be pretty different in Singapore, where employers need only to provide official notice to their employees within the stipulated period set out in their contract (which can be anywhere from two weeks to six months, or more).

What do you guys think? Would you accept a job that does not offer severance pay? 

5. JUBILACIÓN

I caught up with a friend of mine the other day and as he gave me a quick update about his parents, he said,

“My parents are well. My dad is waiting for his jubilation because after that he wants to go on a holiday to Peru for one month.”

It’s tempting to translate “jubilación” to “jubilation” because it sounds like a legitimate English word — and it is, just not quite right in this context.

“Jubilación” in English is actually “retirement.” On that note, “jubilarse” isn’t “jubilate” but “retire.”

“Jubilation” actually means a great sense of happiness, which circumstances permitting, some people feel upon retirement! So, in a way, it is pretty similar to retirement so one can be partly forgiven for a slight misuse!

Here’s how you would use it in a sentence:

😀 A sense of jubilation swept over Maria as her boyfriend of five years knelt down on one knee and asked for her hand in marriage.


6. PREGUNTAS ABIERTAS/CERRADAS

“So, do you have experience leading a marketing team?”
“Yes.”

-Silence-

“Can you elaborate?”
“Oh, sure. I headed the product team for four years when I was working at…”

During an interview, it’s common to encounter questions like the above, also known as closed questions (preguntas cerradas). These are questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”

Open questions (preguntas abiertas), on the other hand, are questions that begin with “how,” “why,” and “what,” and usually leave room for more details and a chance to elaborate.

For example:
🔹 How would you describe your experience at [company]?
🔹 What are your biggest strengths?
🔹 Why did you decide to leave [company]?

Though closed questions require only single-word answers, that doesn’t mean you cannot elaborate. In fact, interview questions usually beg for much longer answers than just a “yes” or “no,” so always try and provide more details. If you don’t, you might just be prompted to, anyway, by the interviewer.

7. TRABAJO A TURNOS

Do you have a job that turns? — One of the most commonly asked questions I get from my students who work in HR is how to express recurring and continuing work that require employees to do the same job in rotating periods and/or schedules.

In other words, trabajo a turnos. Or in English: shift work (Note: it’s not “turn work”!)

Shift work, of which not everyone’s a fan, is part and parcel of certain occupations such as doctors, nurses, journalists, police, transportation drivers, etc.

These professions require working hours that are beyond the traditional 9h to 17h and even go into the night or early morning.

If you’re talking about the hours worked, the word to use would simply be “shift”. For example:

🔹 Sandra’s a nurse and her shift hours change from week to week.
🔹 His shift starts at 8pm and ends at 3am.
🔹 My brother’s job as a journalist requires him to work the night shift from time to time.

8. TRABAJADOR/A TEMPORAL

My friend (let’s call him Antonio) has been running his own business over the past couple of years and is doing pretty well as an entrepreneur.

I met up with him a few nights ago and he was fretting about having to find someone to replace his office manager, who’s about to go on maternity leave for a few months.

“I need to hire a temporal worker or if not the office will be completely lost.”

Technically speaking, that’s not an incorrect sentence. But it’s probably not what Antonio was trying to say.

As tempting as it is to translate “trabajador(a) temporal” to “temporal worker”, “temporal” in English doesn’t actually quite mean the same thing it does in Spanish.

What Antonio should have said was “temporary worker” or simply “temp”. These are workers who are hired on a short-term basis and are not signed on as a permanent employee. Their role is usually to cover or substitute someone who will be taking time off from work.

9. BRAINSTORMING

¿Alguna vez ha pasado una tormenta por tu cerebro? — I find that one of my students’ favourite English words to use when discussing teamwork is “brainstorm”.


I struggle to think of a Spanish equivalent, which I’m guessing why most Spaniards love to use the word. “Tormenta de ideas” is the closest I can come up with.


“Brainstorm” doesn’t actually have anything to do with the climate. It simply means a group of people getting together to bounce ideas off each other with the objective of solving a problem. It’s a case of the more the merrier and two heads are better than one.

The word “brainstorm” can be used as a noun, which means an idea, eg:

🧠 After hours of trying to think of the best birthday present for my husband, I suddenly got a brainstorm.

Or a verb:

🧠 My boss wants us to get together and brainstorm creative ways to reach the new group of demographics we’re targeting.

10. CURRICULUM VITAE

¿Cómo se dice ‘currículo’ en inglés? — If you’re hoping to land a job in English one day, one of the first words you’ll need to know is the English equivalent of “currículo/currículum”.

Yes, the word “curriculum” does exist in English.
No, it does not mean the same thing it does in Spanish.

“Curriculum” is a noun that refers to the academic subjects taught in school. For example:

🤓 Physical education, art, and music, are all part of Joshua’s school curriculum.

“Currículo/currículum” in English is simply referred to as a CV, which is Latin for “Curriculum Vitae”, meaning “course of life.”

Alternatively, you could also say “resume”, which (ojo!) doesn’t have anything to do with resumen! It’s originally a French word and should be pronounced syllable by syllable — “re-su-me” — instead of simply “resume”, which means continuar/seguir.

While, strictly speaking, the French word carries two accents, ”résumé”, the non-accented version is widely accepted when used in English.

11. DESEMPLEO

When the economy slows down, it’s common for companies to have cutbacks. That often means having to let employees go and as a result, more people are left without jobs.

In Spanish, this is known as “desempleo”. As right as “disemployment” sounds, “desempleo” is actually “unemployment” in English.

Here’s how you’d use it in a sentence:

👔 Pedro has yet to find another job since getting let go last year. Despite going to interviews nearly every week, he has really been struggling with unemployment.

When a person is without a job, or “desempleado/a”, he/she is described as “unemployed”.

You could also say he/she is:

— jobless
— out of work/a job
— on the dole (UK)

And when you’re unemployed and fulfil certain criteria, you may receive unemployment benefits, also known as “el paro” or “prestación por desempleo”.

12. LIDERAZGO

A student of mine came to class all frustrated today because he’d been passed over for a promotion to the head of the department. According to him, the job was given to an inept colleague instead, who, in his own words, “has no leader skills.”

The word he should have used stems from the same root word: lead. But what he should have said was “leadership skills” (habilidades de liderazgo).

A leader (líder) is only the person, and the skill he/she possesses is called “leadership” (liderazgo).

“Leadership” aside, “liderazgo” can also mean “lead” in English. The difference being “lead” is a margin of advantage.

Here’s how you’d use “leadership” and “lead”:

→ Carlos is a great worker but his lack of leadership qualities means he’s unlikely to be promoted.
→ Thanks to three goals in the past 20 minutes, Arsenal has recovered from their sloppy start and now has a two-goal lead over Liverpool.

13. PRUEBA DE APTITUD

Aptitude or attitude? — It’s common for interview processes to include tests to measure the abilities of candidates to gauge how well they will carry out certain tasks that will be required for the job.

In Spanish, this is known as “pruebas de aptitud” — aptitude tests.

These tests are usually set out to determine your skills in math, logical reasoning, judgment, creativity, or even personality!

It sounds like “attitude” and can often be mispronounced, given that in general we probably encounter the word “attitude” a lot more. But just like their Spanish equivalents (actitud vs aptitud), the difference between the two are the same.

Attitude refers to a person’s character and moral values. For example, if a person reacts badly to criticism and begins to get on the defensive, that’s his attitude at play.

Aptitude, on the other hand, determines a candidate’s competency to do the job well. If you’re able to spot patterns quickly, you may have an aptitude for logic and reasoning.

14. STAFF

¿Qué tiene que ver Gandalf con los recursos humanos? — I often receive calls from human resources managers looking to organise business English classes for company employees.

And one of the most common mistakes I hear from them has to do with a particularly tricky word in English: staff.

Here’s what they usually say:

— I would like to know if you can provide English classes once or twice a week for our staffs.

“Staff” has three meanings in English — and they are VERY different.

In its singular form, staff can either mean:

🔸 (Verb) To provide a business with workers → Amy’s role in this non-profit is to staff events with volunteers.
🔸 (Noun 1) People who work in a company/business (empleados/personal). Because this is mostly used as a collective noun, it should be used in the singular form → The company staff is on strike today.
🔸 (Noun 2) A stick that aids walking (bastón).

So be careful with using “staffs” to refer to employees as it may lead people to think about stacks of walking sticks or even Gandalf from Lord of the Rings (el señor de los anillos)!

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