Purple Squirrels: a Spotter’s Guide

Jan 6, 2017 | Market Insights, Trend Based

Is there an actual shortage of talent on the job market or are unrealistic requirements from employers causing a ‘virtual’ shortage? When companies raise the bar, looking to combine skills from different positions and years of experience, what happens instead is that there are no candidates who can fill those hybrid roles.

Recruiters call the few candidates who suit those pie-in-the-sky demands “purple squirrels”: candidates which are so rare and so hard to find but also very profitable when they are found. A ‘purple squirrel’ candidate not only has the required professional skillset but is also eager to accept the salary and conditions proposed.

A variety of explanations are given as to why employers post such demanding adverts, range from lack of experience in hiring to putting out phantom job postings. There are also suggestions that the recession has somehow twisted the job market. Due to budgetary pressures, employees have been given new responsibilities which are not related to their primary job. Therefore, the unique skillsets of those employees are rarely found on the market.

No matter how demanding and unrealistic job requirements are, recruiters still want to get the best deals covered. When it comes to hunting for a unique skillset, perhaps the most appropriate tactic would be to explore the pool of ‘passive candidates’, as they are most probably already employed.

However, spotting the ‘purple squirrel’ will not guarantee that recruiter will fill the desired opening. The recruiting of such candidates will require an above average level of effort, because neither spamming via LinkedIn messages nor cold-targeting via twitter nor boilerplate impersonal mass mailing will engage this type of professional.

Using social media as the main channel for the communication will no longer be enough, recruiters will have to start to act as people do in normal social interaction in life: get to know the person, follow his/her activity and enhance it on social media through retweets and ‘likes’, influence and build of a professional relationship to that bordering on a private one.

Engaging only on the level of internet based connection loses its impact: people are bombarded with vast numbers of emails, adverts and newsletters on a daily basis, and the human, personal approach is, yet again, back in favour.

To sum up, for recruiters that strive for excellence there is a chance to attract the right candidates. However, that requires them to not only maintain their reputation as expert advisors, but also as ‘expert’ listeners with a significant dose of empathy, and to put all of their energy into building relationships rather than winning deals and contracts.

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Author: Valeriia Muzhchyna
Digital Marketing Executive


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