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Finding the Ideal Candidate

Have you ever seen a purple squirrel? We haven’t either, but chances are good that if you work in human resources, you’ve been asked to hire one. In a world full of gray squirrels who faithfully go about their business looking pretty much the same as all the other squirrels on the block, purple squirrels stand out as unusual, attractive, and highly sought after.

What the Heck is a Purple Squirrel?

A purple squirrel is the ideal candidate for any given job. He or she possesses all the skills, degrees, certifications, experience, and specialized knowledge that you consider essential or beneficial to the position. Throw in the right interpersonal skills and the ability to integrate seamlessly into your company culture, and you have just discovered a purple squirrel with green spots. If you find such a person, training will be a simple matter, and your purple squirrel will hit the ground running.

The bad news is that purple squirrel candidates are just about as rare as their furry purple counterparts.

Are You Hunting the Elusive Purple Squirrel?

Managers don’t always recognize when they want to hire a purple squirrel. Individual job requirements may seem reasonable, but when taken together, they may describe someone who doesn’t exist or is very, very rare. How do you know whether the perfect candidate for the job description you have written qualifies as a purple squirrel?

  • People with years of experience in the field don’t qualify for the position.
  • You aren’t willing to hire an up-and-comer.
  • All qualifications and traits seem equally important.
  • You want a candidate who can jump on board with little or no training.
  • You expect the candidate to fill multiple roles.

If you have a purple squirrel in your sights, it may be that you really do need someone with an unusual skill or level of expertise in order to get the job done. But how do you convince that rare, highly sought-after candidate to come work for you?

What Entices a Purple Squirrel?

The marketplace is currently experiencing an acute war for talent in which highly skilled workers, particularly in sectors like IT, engineering, and healthcare, will have their pick of attractive job offers. The candidate you have in mind may already be working elsewhere, which means that if you want to entice him or her to your team, you will have to sweeten the deal. How should you approach recruiting that elusive purple squirrel?

  • Market yourself well. Create compelling reasons for the candidate to consider your position. In addition to the nuts and bolts of the offer, craft a story that helps the candidate envision better opportunities for success or professional development as a member of your team.
  • Reevaluate your compensation package. If you are still offering the same salary and benefits you were during the height of the recession, it’s time to reconsider. Many companies now offer signing bonuses, better benefits, or larger salaries to attract the best and brightest. In order to remain competitive, you should offer at least fair market value for the position, if not something a little better.
  • Offer flex time or work-from-home arrangements. Flexible hours and remote work opportunities appeal to many workers, especially those of the millennial generation. Moms and dads may also appreciate a more flexible working arrangement that allows them to take time off to accommodate school schedules.

It’s okay to have an ideal candidate in mind—and you might even find a person who fits the bill—but because purple squirrels are so rare, you may need to take a step back and consider whether the person you are looking for even exists. If he or she does exist, there are both pros and cons to finding and hiring that person. Stay tuned for Part II of this series, in which we’ll discuss whether or not you really want to hire the purple squirrel with green spots after all.New call-to-action