‹ Back

The Elusive Purple Squirrel

I’m going to take a brief break from the series of blog posts on helping you maximize your chances in the recruiting process – for a discussion on the Elusive Purple Squirrel. 

Recruiting is not a profession that is kind and the vast majority of people who start in it – fall out.  Most people are unable to balance the sense of urgency that comes with a requisition load and remembering that people aren’t widgets.   No matter what anyone says – this isn’t just a supply chain – and these aren’t packages of toilet paper that Walmart needs to put on the shelf. 

Candidates are people – with individual hopes and dreams for their futures – that have to be matched up to vacancies/hiring managers/teams properly – or nothing works well.

Recruiting is as much an art as a science – and in some ways it’s more a case of spinning plates while balancing a ball on your nose and attempting to look graceful while doing it.

So – let’s add a level of difficulty beyond the “everyday difficult”.  Beyond the “Perfect Personality Fit” Finance Manager.  Or the “Shiny Happy” HR Manager.

It’s the Elusive Purple Squirrel.  Ancient recruiters (*) recognize the term as an impossible dream, the unicorn, a needle in a haystack, the series of impossible combinations of requirements so ridiculous – we call or text each other after we take the job order to discuss this one.  Either to laugh or cry.  Frequently – both.  It’s a term that was common in recruiting when I first started out.

Sometimes it’s a combination of unusual technical skills found on the East or West coasts – that a Midwestern manager hopes to hire in the middle of the country – for a much discounted rate below market value – because they don’t have a budget.  Or without a relocation.  And as a Midwestern recruiter we know the likelihood of attracting anyone for that is next to nil. 

It might be a wildly common technical skill – but they want the person to pass 4 assessments plus a background check and only pay at the bottom 15 percent of the market rate.  As a result – the conversion rate on candidate contacts will be almost non-existent and HOURS of our time over the next two weeks will be spent calling people who we ultimately find have “no interest.”

It might be that the hiring team is dysfunctional.  Not only does the candidate have to have a moderately unusual skill – but they have to successfully navigate an obstacle course of competing personalities and needs on the interview team to win the prize of a job.

It’s balancing ALL of these things – with the candidate’s needs –  that makes successfully closing a Purple Squirrel search the highlight of any true recruiter’s month.  A real recruiter get’s all of those needs aligned, the offer negotiated, accepted, the candidate and their family inbound from someplace – and there isn’t a better feeling than that.   

If you are a real recruiter’s purple squirrel?  And you just accepted?  Well – when they hang up the phone with you sounding professional?    Odds are good they turned around and did a giant air lay-up.  With a “SWISH – nothing but net!” In their peep toes.  Because in the moment – they KNOW they are a rock star.

Until the next Purple Squirrel req lands on the desk.  And it all starts again.

·         * Ancient Recruiters – I freely define an ancient recruiter as anyone who was recruiting before the tech bubble burst at the end of the 1990’s.  Since I was recruiting when Internet Recruiting started and the Online Career Center (which became Monster) was only 3K for a unlimited user/search/post annual corporate licence (LOL) I am officially – ancient.  If you – like me – survived the tech bubble explosion – and you are still recruiting?  Welcome to the bench of the Ancients.  Pull up a Walker  – just mind your peep toes.   

purple squirrell