12 Top English Phrases Used in Human Resources Today

In the modern working world, it’s important that you learn the basic language of HR (Human Resources).

This is true whether you’re an HR professional, planning to become one, looking for employment or a current employee who needs to deal with a company’s HR department to get your paid time off.

Today I’ll introduce you to vocabulary that you must know for HR, and a few online courses you might be interested in taking to learn business English for human resources.


Human Resources Phrases

First, let me point out that when we talk about vacancies, openings, offers, interviews and contracts in the field of human resources, we’re referring to them in the context of jobs.

While the word “job” may not always be included in the phrases below, the phrases are related to the topic of jobs and employment. For instance, “vacancies” refers to job vacancies, and “contracts” refers to job or employment contracts, etc.

(1) Apply for a job

To apply for a job involves putting in or submitting an application for an available job position.

More people seem to apply for the jobs that we advertise online.

(2) Fill a vacancy

The phrase to fill a vacancy simply means to hire or employ someone for an available job position.

Our finance executive will be leaving next month, so we really need to fill that vacancy quickly.

(3) Take up/accept an offer

If a candidate (person applying for a job) agrees to take up or accept an offer, it means they accept the job that your company is offering them.

I hope he takes up our offer. He seems to have the qualifications and experience we’re looking for.

(4) Turn down/decline an offer

If, however, the candidate decides not to accept the job that your company is offering them, they can decline or turn down the offer.

I’m disappointed that he has turned down our offer. He would have been such a good fit for our team.

(5) Set up an interview

After shortlisting (selecting) a few suitable candidates from the pool of job applicants, HR would then set up an interview with each of them. Setting up an interview involves contacting the candidates and arranging a specific time to interview them.

We’ve been trying to set up an interview with him since last week.

(6) Have a promising career

If someone is said to have a promising career, it means they’re showing signs of a successful future in their career (professional life).

She has recently returned from working overseas and now has a promising career on Wall Street.

(7) Resign from a job

If you resign from your job, you’re leaving your current job position and will no longer be working for the company. You may also use a less formal phrase, quit your job, to mean the same thing.

Before you resign from your job, you should consider if you’ll be able to find a better job.

(8) Work from home

These days, many companies offer their employees the option to work from home. To work from home simply means that instead of going into the office to perform your job, you work in your own home during a certain period of time.

Being able to work from home is a real plus for mothers with school-going children.

(9) Take time off

If you take time off, you ask your employer (the company that you work for) for permission not to work for a certain period of time. This may be in order to go on vacation, recover from an illness, etc.

The term time off, which refers to the period of time that you’re not expected to work because of the arrangement you’ve made with your employer, may be used with other verbs. For instance, you may say that you have time off, get time off, receive time off or have been given time off.

He’s been traveling so much at his new job that he couldn’t even take time off to attend his best friend’s wedding.

(10) Renew (someone’s) contract

To renew your contract means to extend the period of your employment contract with your company. In this situation, your company is also renewing your contract by agreeing to continue employing you.

My worries are over. I get to keep my job. I’ve just been told my company intends to renew my contract.

(11) Terminate (someone’s) contract

The opposite of renewing your contract would be to terminate your contract, which basically means to end the employment contract you have with your company. Again, this is something that can be done either by an employee or an employer.

If sales don’t pick up (improve), the company may be forced to terminate their contracts.

(12) Give notice

If you give notice to your employer, you’re informing them officially of your intention to resign or leave the company. If, on the other hand, your company gives you notice, then they’re informing you officially that they’re terminating your employment.

The owners have decided to close down the restaurant and will soon give notice to the staff.

Top Courses for Learning English for Human Resources

Business English Pod – Business English for HR Lessons

On this site, you’ll find a large collection of business English podcast lessons discussing the language commonly used for HR purposes, such as vocabulary for job interviews, staffing and training, salaries, etc.

At the end of each podcast, there are listening questions and quizzes to test your knowledge and understanding of what you’ve just learned. Only members are able to access the content on this site, but you can sign up for a free trial to try it out.

Communicaid – English for HR Professionals

This is a paid course with options for online, virtual or face-to-face training, and short intensive courses for busy learners. You may request for your course to be tailored to suit your learning style and schedule.

The course focuses not only on the use of HR vocabulary but also the development of your writing, listening and fluency skills. To learn and improve more quickly, you may access published materials as well as online learning resources made available to you.

Oxford University Press – “Express Series English for Human Resources”

For busy people who want to master business English for HR within the shortest period of time, this intensive coursebook is the answer. It comes with real-life listening and interactive practice material and is designed to be completed within a short period of 25-30 hours.

Bonus: FluentU

Although it’s not specifically an HR course, you can learn a lot about business English vocabulary and way of speaking from FluentU.

Because it focuses on conversational English (its lessons are video-based), you’ll learn how to speak naturally and politely—but without excessive formality.

This can be important if you’re working in HR, you’re probably going to meet people who are already nervous. Knowing how to have a relaxed and friendly conversation can put them at ease right away.


I hope that in addition to the online resources I’ve listed above, you’ll find these phrases useful as you set off on the path to mastering English for human resources.

Remember that practice makes perfect.

So aim to use these and other related phrases that you come across in your daily communication, and you’ll find yourself improving quickly. Good luck!

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