If I Were Running A Company…The Purple Squirrel

You know about the purple squirrel. It’s the story recruiters love telling because it involves finding the perfect candidate. Imagine it as a fairy tale recruiters love to tell. Here’s the thing: the purple squirrel tale works to tell folklore, but not necessarily in real life.

The purple squirrel only details the qualifications of the candidate that the recruiter is looking for. They have the skills, the right amount of experience in relevant sectors, plus bonus stuff that intrigues a recruiter like volunteerism or publications they were in.

However, finding the perfect candidate is just only the start. This perfect squirrel must also learn to adapt to a new environment, be judicial on which works best, must be cohesive from the start, and other traits. This basically goes beyond recruiting; it also involves a set of questions and luck.

Although this was not a workplace story, but let’s imagine the Before… trilogy story as an example of how the perfect squirrel works. A couple (Jesse and Celine) in a train find each other and hit it off immediately from their conversation. They spend the night together in Vienna, Austria and had a great time. Basically, the greatest one-night stand ever. Sadly, the timing wasn’t right for Jesse and Celine to be together and went their separate ways.

Nine years later, Jesse and Celine meet again for the first time since Vienna and hit it off again. This time, Jesse decided to miss his flight and wanted to be with Celine.

Nine years after that, we see Jesse and Celine together with their daughters in Greece and think they were the perfect couple. However, we discover the couple had resentment on a few issues and held their feelings until the hotel room and let’s just say “boom goes the dynamite.”

The first two sequences are stories recruiters would want to tell. The third is the recruiters don’t want to tell, but it’s necessary. The purple squirrel is more a marketing ploy to believe that you’re a great candidate. In reality, there are going to be hardship and contention in your business. The key is what is the result after the fighting and the work it takes to be “successful.”

If you ask me, I do not want a magical purple squirrel appear in my business, although that would be nice. I would want someone give me a squirrel and I’ll paint it purple. That’s the real purple squirrel: a person who earns his/her colors.

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  • I believe the “purple squirrel” mythology refers to the impossible to fill hiring requirements that – if left unchallenged – result in quixotic search efforts. When a well-intentioned but unaware hiring manager requests a combination of skills and experience that does not exist in the wild – at least not within one individual person – that’s what we call a request for a “purple squirrel”. When the hiring manager isn’t so well-intentioned or otherwise unworthy of such a kind characterization, we refer to the request as one for a “left-handed screwdriver operator”.

    • I agree with that John, but I go beyond that and saying skills and qualifications is only step one. The real purple squirrel only exist if the supervisor is willing to give lessons to the hire to earn their “purple squirrel” status. The recruiter shouldn’t stop with just sourcing and searching for resumes. We should act as business advisors to the hiring manager.

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