What’s Your Purple Squirrel Recruiting Strategy?

What’s Your Purple Squirrel Recruiting Strategy?

Emily Smykal

purple squirrel recruitingVenture capitalists and startup investors are always on the hunt for unicorns–new companies soaring past a $1 billion valuation. And recruiters have their own metaphor to match. It’s called a purple squirrel, the perfect candidate that fits every requirement for a job. Not surprisingly, purple squirrels, like unicorns, are incredibly hard to find, let alone lock down with a job offer.

Just about every talent acquisition professional is on the hunt for the purple squirrel. But locating, attracting, and engaging the perfect candidate requires a lot of time and effort. And an increasingly competitive job market with a tight supply of skilled workers isn’t helping. In reality, most of the time recruiters come up short, hiring a much less desirable catch.

In this post, we’ll consider that elusive purple squirrel, and how your candidate experience, brand strategy, and talent acquisition techniques can improve your ability to convert the best candidates and make quality hires.

What is a purple squirrel, anyway?

A purple squirrel is a candidate who has the best possible mix of skills, education, and experience for a job. They meet so many of your criteria—and then some. On the weekends they might feed abandoned kittens and knit sweaters for the homeless while teaching themselves a new language (computer or human). Purple squirrels need little to no training.

So among the whole applicant pool and the talent waiting in your pipeline, purple squirrels have the best combination of knowledge, skills, and ability you can source for each requisition. That is to say, purple squirrels are typically found almost exclusively in recruiters’ dreams.

Imagine you need a candidate with 10 years of experience in technology who has managed a large team. Yet, you get one applicant who meets the tech experience requirement but has no management skills, and then a different applicant who has managed a large team but has 8 years of experience in a different industry. Recruiters (unfortunately) can’t cherry pick qualities from the broader talent pool to build a customized quality hire.

And while there are candidates out there who might seem like a perfect fit for your job, they’re most likely passive, and not actively searching for a new role. In fact, they’re more than likely already employed. This makes finding and engaging with a purple squirrel even more of a challenge.

If the majority of candidates recruiters want to attract aren’t setting themselves up to be found, spending all of that time searching starts to feel like a drain on resources. But the cost of missing a purple squirrel can be even higher.

Conversion Optimization and the Purple Squirrel Hunt

So let’s say a purple squirrel happens to visit your career site. Are you ready to convert him or her into an applicant, or at least a contact? This person is most likely a passive candidate who isn’t desperate for a job—more likely just considering options at this point. Here’s where your strong employer brand and candidate experience should come into play.

How did that purple squirrel get to your site in the first place? Do you have a positive social media presence? How the broader market perceives your company is a huge factor when it comes to traffic finding its way to your job postings. If passive candidates notice your unique brand, are impressed by your corporate social responsibility, or even just like the location of your office, they might take that extra minute to visit your corporate site.

And how does your career site greet new visitors? Will they be curious to learn more about your openings and benefits, or will they be turned off by unfriendly interfaces and outdated content? Ideally that purple squirrel will see a possible job opportunity and become a candidate, hitting the ‘Apply Now’ button. However, if your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) isn’t delivering a seamless experience, it may be preventing some candidates from completing the full application process.

A robust career site, on par with the user experiences many consumer sites offer, immediately makes your employment brand stand out. This means having a responsive web design, one that adapts to whichever device the user is interacting with. It also means having things like advanced search, social media connections, talent networks, and more.

But while an awesome candidate experience during the search and apply process is an important part of any talent acquisition strategy, there is another tool recruiters should keep in their arsenal: job alerts. Simply put, job alerts are one of the fastest, most efficient ways HR managers can (organically) build up their talent pipelines, with very little manual effort.

Notifications from apps and websites are already immensely popular. Why wouldn’t passive job seekers also want to hear about your latest relevant job openings? Job alerts are an opt-in system, so if a candidate has expressed interest in your company and signed up for notifications, the odds of them converting to an applicant are significantly higher.

So, what’s your purple squirrel hunting strategy? These candidates might not be ready to apply for a job right now. They might not even have their resume updated, but you’ve got to be prepared to seize the opportunity to capture them. Some might say the best way to catch a purple squirrel is to set the right trap, and clearly that means something different than it did in the past.

Job alerts will help you leap forward in your hunt for the purple squirrel. Check out our new eBook, “The Role of Job Alerts in a Modern Recruitment Marketing Strategy,” to learn more.

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