Hunting the Purple Squirrels

Purple Squirrels, like the unicorns, are magical creatures that we rarely see in the flesh. This seems to be the same case in the corporate world, where perfect job recruits are so hard to find they stopped pursuing them.

Metaphorically speaking, the term ‘Purple Squirrels’ are used by hiring personnel to identify the unrealistic expectations of a client company. Wikipedia defines Purple Squirrel as a “job candidate with precisely the right education, experience, and qualifications that perfectly fits a job’s multi-faceted requirements.”

Writer Dr. John Sullivan from ERE.net noted that “the most stunning, however, about Purple Squirrel recruiting is the fact that there is literally a zero chance that these valuable game-changers and pioneers can be recruited using the existing recruiting process at 99.5 percent of the world’s major corporations.” Sullivan cited Apple Incorporated’s co-founder, chairman, and chief executive officer Steven Paul Jobs as a best example of a Purple Squirrel. The tremendous success of Apple proved that continuous market-leading innovations has a higher economic impact that the more traditional HR goal of increasing workforce productivity. The fact remains, however, that he has experienced rejection by the recruiting process at HP due to his lack of college degree. Other early-career pioneers considered as Purple Squirrels include the likes of Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Larry Page (Google), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), and Tony Hsieh (Zappos).

While Purple Squirrels are hard to find, some companies still believe that they are worth pursuing. As a matter of fact, one Purple Squirrel alone can do the job of all other hires combined during a single year. In addition, it cannot be denied that every firm in every industry today maintains superiority in technology and many Purple Squirrels are technologists who can provide that technical superiority. Purple Squirrels in a workforce likewise instantly improves the employer brand image and the likelihood of attractive other top talent. One of the many benefits of pursuing Purple Squirrels is the fact that these people requires little to none corporate investment in terms of training. Thus, they employ strategic ideas that involves thinking outside the box. Something that is out of their ordinary recruitment parameters.

One of the best ways to catch Purple Squirrels is to ask current employees for referrals. In a Daily Kos article that cites the case of Ernst & Young, which “has set an internal goal to increase the number of hires from internal referrals to 50 percent. Currently, E&Y now hires 45 percent of its non-entry-level participants from employee recommendations. That is up from 28 percent in 2010. Many employers feel that this is the best way to find their Purple Squirrels someone who is like those who are currently successful in their company.”

Although Purple Squirrels are considered rare individuals, identifying them can be quite easy if you know where to start. Like having their track record of high impact work. These people are likely to be achievers, speakers at conferences, and/or award-winners. Furthermore, these people have a good job and are highly valued in their current jobs. Thus, they are not easily impressed with perks of even more money when offered by another company.

Dr. Sullivan, in his ERE. net article, further suggested to look for Purple Squirrels before even having a criterion for employment. He emphasized to “develop a talent community – this approach was pioneered by Microsoft, and its basic premise is that the only way to have conversations and build relationships with Purple Squirrels is through non-recruiting topics. That means building online social media based talent communities containing hundreds of participants that are based 100 percent on learning and best practice sharing.”

These Purple Squirrels are truly precious gems for a company. They can be the key to your market domination. One that would bring your company success not only through their original ideas but also in successfully implementing them.

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