[Updated February 10, 2012: I stand corrected. Apparently, purple squirrels do exist as evidenced in this crazy article that surfaced this week. So, instead of saying they don’t exist, I’ll just go with “super rare.” Special thanks to @recruitmoore and @kayt2ee for bringing this phenomenal discovery to my attention.]

Every 3 seconds, a purple squirrel is born.*

I often get asked what a purple squirrel is. Ever seen a purple squirrel? No? That’s exactly the point – purple squirrels don’t exist.

In the recruiting community, a purple squirrel is a hiring manager’s “dream” candidate, typically comprised of over-the-top and arbitrary “requirements”.

For example:

PhD/MBA/and at least two obscure certifications from a top school with 15+ years of both broad and deep experience in the “holy-crap-that’s-super-technical” field. Speaks and writes both Mandarin and Russian fluently. Is well-respected in the “holy-crap-that’s-super-technical” industry, knows everyone there is to know, and is willing to relocate to Omaha, Nebraska (or some other BFE location not on anyone’s “yeah, I’d like to live there” list.) for below the midpoint of the pay range the HR comp team has assigned to the job. Oh, and this person is also an expert in some other “unrelated-super-technical” field. And we don’t offer any relocation assistance because “companies aren’t doing that anymore.”

Somehow, hiring managers get it in their heads that the above is the only combination of skills, experience, and ability that can get the job done. Thus, a purple squirrel is born.

Unless the recruiting consultant can ground these expectations and have a strategic, challenging conversation to adjust these requirements, this purple squirrel hunt can drag on for months.

Done any purple squirrel hunting lately?

 

*completely made that up

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