Talent Acquisition

Recruiting for Development: Why We Shouldn’t Look for the Purple Squirrel

We all look at the opportunity of finding the purple squirrel when recruiting. This is obviously an ideal outcome for any employer, recruiter, and hiring manager. However, what if there was greater value in hiring for development?

In this current day and age, we know that a business should be flexible, agile and adaptable at all times. They need to have the working environment that is willing to change to align with longer-term goals. Most of all, however, they need to have the working environment that is willing to evolve and learn new skills and new requirements to adapt to this change. Obviously, an ongoing learning and development strategy is imperative to this, however, can hiring the purple squirrel actually be detrimental to achieving this longer-term goal?

What is a purple squirrel?

Ultimately, the purple squirrel is the perfect fit. They have the right education, years of experience, skill set and industry certifications to meet the needs. The purple squirrel is rare, something that for many exists only in folklore or stories of past. If a purple squirrel is identified, generally a business will do a lot to actually engage that purple squirrel as soon as possible.

What value can a purple squirrel bring?

The purple squirrel can bring immediate traction to a business. It is expected they will be able to immediately undertake their role with minimal transitional issues. That they will be able to pretty quickly deliver a return on investment, and most of all, be an asset to the business.

Why shouldn’t I wait for the purple squirrel?

We are all well aware that waiting for the perfect fit will take time. During that time, we wait. We may even expand our resources and from there bring in additional costs. We may spend more time, more resources, and more money, in the hope that we can find that purple squirrel. All of this will add ultimately to the overall return on investment a placement can bring. We run a risk that the person we looked over because of that not so perfect fit will not be available even when we identify that our purple squirrel is just that, a folklore.

What value would not hiring a purple squirrel to bring?

Innovation and diversity are fundamentally what we need to talk about for businesses moving into the new world of work. A new perspective, a new approach and a different degree of experience will greatly influence an innovative environment; because the way of doing things differently may be extremely beneficial to a changing business. Additionally, bringing in someone who has development needs but a strong passion and desire for your brand, your product, and your customers is the foundation for a very successful and dedicated employee.

How can I influence this with a client or with the reporting manager?

The greatest challenge when hiring is being able to ensure that there is great value in being flexible in the hiring process. Teaching someone to look beyond what a person’s role title has been, or product experience is, can be challenging in an environment with very stringent delivery targets. The first step is to work as an advisor. Change the approach of your conversation to focus on the value of other perspectives, different experience and how this aligns with the organization’s future direction. Sometimes there is also great value in bringing in some examples of where this may have worked in your experience previously.

We all appreciate that this is a big shift in the mindset of many managers, businesses and reporting line managers. Our roles in HR are to take them on a new journey of recruitment and hiring to align with the expected changes in the future. We can achieve this by starting to create our own stories and not ones that may be reliant on something that may not exist.

By Rebecca Fraser

Rebecca Fraser is a Leader of learning and development for organisations and individuals. She is highly recognised for her contribution to the industry and for her work in the media providing information on modern day job search strategies. She is the author of ‘How to get a job in the 21st century’, her newest release on job search and resumes.