Tips & Tools

Are you hunting for a Purple Squirrel?

It’s a Friday at 4pm, and your best employee just walked into your office, handing in her resignation. This is the last thing you need … but it’s happening. As the beads of sweat start to form on your forehead knowing you need to fill this position quickly, you pick up the phone and call your recruiter. Through the conversation you give the recruiter your list of requirements. “I NEED this person to have not only a, b, and c, skills, but also x, y, and z.” Ok, you are feeling a little bit better except for the fact that the recruiter started to sound a bit tentative when you mentioned the niche skills this person had, and how you MUST have those skills in the next person. But like a professional, the recruiter said she will start making calls right away.

You go about your weekend and on Monday you hear back from the recruiter, who did a search for candidates, and the term “purple squirrel” comes up. Sounds cute, but sadly it’s not. You find out that the skills, attributes, and requirements you are looking for, when taken as a whole, will be as difficult to find as it would be to find a “purple squirrel.” Basically you are narrowing the pool of available candidates to something that may not exist in the current market of active and passive candidates, thus bringing down your chance of filling your job opening. But don’t fear, it may just be a matter of changing your approach and thought process about the best way to fill this job opening, and working with your recruiter to do so.

Things to Consider

3 important points to consider about the elusive “purple squirrel” …

Well, there may not really be any purple squirrels out there! So what is your criteria for filling the job? Did you specify years of experience, education, specific industry experience, specific computer skills, salary range, and of course the list can go on and on. The likelihood of finding ALL of these may be very difficult, if not impossible especially if you are in a niche industry. Furthermore, location is important if you need this person to be onsite at your location. So not only do you need a “purple squirrel” but you need him to live in the right location.
You may be overlooking the perfect candidate. Let’s go with the example of a sales person in the printing industry. Let’s look at your other criteria – computer skills, salary range, education, years of experience. Let’s say you sit down with Joe Salesperson – he has everything you want in a sales person and an exceptional personality to boot. Everything else fits – education, experience, skills, but that printing experience, he just doesn’t have it, so it’s time to turn the page on Joe, right? STOP before you turn please! If Joe has everything you want, if he can make a favorable impression on clients, if he is likeable, has sales experience but just lacks industry specific experience then consider training him in the one area he lacks. Don’t let someone that may be the ideal employee walk out the door. You may regret it later.
That “purple squirrel” may be very set in her ways. If that “purple squirrel” even exists she will know she is a “purple squirrel.” She will know she is in high demand. What will this mean for her ability to be managed? For her loyalty to your company? These are things to consider. It may be best to find the candidate that knows you are going the extra mile to take her into your company and show her the ropes.

So take a moment or two and give it some thought. Your best employee quits. What skills did that person bring to the table that made her the best employee? Chances are likely there are some qualities and skills that are musts and then there are some that are a plus. Go with the musts and then take that candidate you hire and groom that person into the ideal employee, one that has the knowledge, skills and expertise you want. Your new employee will appreciate you and your company, and you will have avoided being involved in the trappings of the elusive “purple squirrel.”

Kind Regards,

Doreen Hyde
Hunter of Purple Squirrels