Forget purple squirrels—here’s how to hire the best talent

Purple squirrel

Finding and hiring top talent for any role is not always easy. 70% of companies take anywhere between 1—4 months to process a new hire, which is often because the perfect candidate is elusive. It can be difficult to find the right fit that some recruiters even use the phrase ‘purple squirrel’ when referring to certain candidates.

But do purple squirrels exist? If so, it would be nice to have a way to find them. Here’s all you need to know about purple squirrels and how to make the right hires.

What is a purple squirrel and do they exist?

In the recruitment world, recruiters use the phrase ‘purple squirrels’ frequently. The term refers to those super special candidates who are, in every way, perfect for the job.

The phrase has been in use since the year 2000 and was featured in a 2010 article published by CBS in which they state, “companies are trying to do more with fewer workers, so they want people who are able to take on a wide range of duties…or a ‘purple squirrel.’”

The term alludes to the challenges associated with finding the rare, perfect candidate.

Are you deterring purple squirrels?

The hiring process is dependent on a good job description. Being incredibly specific when writing a job description seems logical as it lays out exactly what you expect from your candidates.

But recruiters that write overly specific job descriptions to search for purple squirrels paradoxically find that candidates think it is off-putting. Although you might want to draw in the perfect match for your vacancy, an overly specific job description can repel candidates.

Although tens of millions of talented and motivated workers – particularly new and recent graduates – struggle with underemployment, there are nearly 6.5 million unfilled jobs in the U.S. This imbalance between live vacancies and the level of underemployment reflects the paradox of writing specific job descriptions to hunt purple squirrels.

If you write overly specific job descriptions as a recruiter, consider that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications. Still, women only apply for roles if they meet 100% of the qualifications required.

So you are less likely to attract female candidates who might feel alienated by the sheer number of qualifications listed on a job description. It’s a counterproductive approach to finding any good candidates, let alone a purple squirrel.

In any case, there are many reasons why relentlessly pursuing a purple squirrel can impede your recruitment efforts.

The dangers of pursuing “perfection”

Diversity in a team is important. A diverse team is more productive, forward-thinking, and capable of putting forward more creative ideas. Companies with higher gender, racial, and ethnic diversity are more likely to have higher returns above their national industry medians.

Recruiters search for purple squirrels to make their teams more productive and help them reach their targets. But by pursuing purple squirrels, you may be hindering the level of diversity in your team, and this approach can lead to a lack of fresh perspectives.

As you hunt for purple squirrels to enhance your team, the opposite can often occur. You find fewer top candidates because of bias in your recruitment process. This can happen because you are constantly comparing your candidates to your ideals, and your perception of each candidate is therefore skewed.

The paradox of looking for purple squirrels to perfect your team is that biases stand in the way of diversity. Confirmation bias, gender bias, or biases that make you lean towards candidates similar to you can:

  • Stand in the way of creating a diverse team
  • Affect your candidate and employee experience, and
  • Prevent your organization from increasing its profits

This directly prevents you from creating a productive team and has many other negative consequences for your organization.

How else does pursuing purple squirrels impact on recruitment?

Focusing entirely on purple squirrels can get in the way of an efficient recruitment process in various ways. As mentioned, it includes an element of bias that can limit your candidate pool and make recruitment more difficult. It can also:

  • Reflect badly on your organization for future hires
  • Lead to an increase in your time to hire, and
  • Cause you to make the wrong hire for the role

Even though your candidate might seem perfect on paper, they might not be the best choice for your team. In addition to lacking the required soft skills or people skills, they might not be the best fit for your organization’s culture.

By hunting purple squirrels and searching for the perfect candidate, your time to hire increases. This is because the ‘pickier’ you are, the more challenging it becomes to find a good candidate. As your pursuit is likely to become an ongoing search, your recruitment costs are also likely to increase.

Chasing elusive purple squirrels leads to a long recruitment process. The longer the recruitment process, the longer your position remains unfilled because the less attractive the vacancy begins to seem to potential candidates.

Added to this, just when you think you might have discovered the perfect squirrel, you might also find out that your candidate has not told the truth. Approximately 56% of hiring managers have discovered that a candidate has bent the truth or fabricated information on their CV, and there is a significant chance your perfect candidate is one of them.

So, if resume screening is an ineffective method of finding top candidates, what is the ideal approach? Skills testing is one strategy. It can benefit your recruitment approach in many ways. Continue reading to the end to find out how.

5 factors to consider when pursuing the elusive purple squirrel

If you are still determined to find a purple squirrel, keep the following questions in mind.

purple squirrels

1.  What is your ideal time to hire?

How long are you prepared to wait if you are searching for the ‘perfect’ candidate? Not only can a long time to hire be detrimental to the recruitment process, it can also put pressure on existing employees in terms of their workloads. Is searching for purple squirrels conducive to reducing your time to hire?

2.  What are your target recruitment costs?

How much can your business afford to spend on searching for the perfect candidate throughout the recruitment process? If your recruitment process is long, you can expect to spend more when trying to find a purple squirrel. Can your company afford it? Would streamlining the recruitment process in other ways help reduce recruitment costs?

3.  Is there a lack of diversity in your team?

How will you deal with a lack of diversity in your organization caused by recruiting purple squirrels? As mentioned, a lack of diversity hinders your team’s productivity and ability to innovate. Are you prepared to forgo the benefits of a productive and diverse team when chasing a candidate who is identical to your existing employees?

4.  How will you avoid bias and create a positive reputation for your business?

Can your organization afford to pursue purple squirrels despite recruitment biases? Are you willing to reduce the size of your candidate pool when chasing a purple squirrel? How will you deal with a potential negative reputation caused by biases in your recruitment process?

 5.  How does training fit into your hiring process?

Is it better for you to choose a candidate that fits better within the organization’s culture, shares its values, and shows potential to grow with training opportunities than search for a more elusive candidate? Will you save time and end up with a more suitable employee by offering them the relevant training instead of chasing a purple squirrel?

Chasing purple squirrels vs. skills testing

Pursuing purple squirrels isn’t always the answer – particularly with all of the complex problems that can stand in your way. But getting the right candidate is more than possible with a few shrewd strategies. You can streamline your recruitment process in various ways by:

Skills testing is one of the best approaches to screening candidates as it has a huge number of benefits. It helps you avoid the pitfalls of chasing a purple squirrel and puts you on the path to finding great candidates.

It also enables you to compare your candidates’ aptitudes with all of your applicants and base your decisions on data, instead of a hunch or ‘gut feeling’.

And as skills testing platforms such as TestGorilla give accurate results, you can be sure that you are making the right decision. You can avoid bias by using your candidates’ accurate data and analyzing their aptitudes within the context of the vacancy.

Skills testing: a professional and dependable approach to making the best hires

Although looking for candidates who are perfect in every way might seem like a good approach, you will encounter many problems when searching for purple squirrels. Instead, by using skills testing to assess your candidates, you can:

  • Reduce your time to hire
  • Reduce your recruitment costs
  • Increase your candidate pool
  • Increase the diversity of your team
  • Make sound recruitment decisions, and
  • Avoid bias in your recruitment process

Enhance and streamline your hiring process today and discover just how using skills testing can benefit your recruitment team with a free trial of TestGorilla.

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