Hen’s teeth! Rare Talent! Needles in Haystacks! Purple Squirrels?

Written by: Steve Playford
Published on: 28 Nov 2015

Purple Squirrels?  Where will it end? What animal, real or imagined, of any hue of the rainbow, will become the next metaphor for the ideal candidate?

“Purple squirrels are passive candidates and are usually comfortable in their current position, however they can still be found and reached on the internet.”  Yes, I read this recently online and apparently ‘Purple Squirrels” are the (relatively) new Hen’s Teeth, Needles in Haystacks or, as the industry prefers, Rare Talent.  In other words, they are the very high quality people – talented, personable, great leaders, etc. - you really want in your business. The term actually dates to 2012, in a book published by Google recruiter Michael B. Junge.  The term ‘ideal candidate’ dates from well before then and, in context, means exactly the same thing.

Leaving on one side the fact that such people have always existed and that most businesses have always wanted to find them, irrespective of whether the latest buzzwords are “purple squirrels’, ‘twelve-legged octupuses’ or even ‘the ideal candidate’, the question still is – “how do we find these ideal candidates and encourage them to join our business?”

In amongst the welter of articles, blogs, seminars, webinars and the rest that purport to tell you how to do this, it’s worth considering that there is no one certain answer.  To be fair, the original author of the Purple Squirrels article mentioned above acknowledges this, stating, “Recruiters need to think more like digital marketers – marketing employer brand and roles. You can draw attention to your job ads through on-site job search, job boards, content marketing, employer branding and more. You can nurture and maintain the purple squirrels interest with email marketing, job alerts, talent networks and more. You can encourage them to apply for roles by implementing a responsive web design, a mobile friendly application, social media integration and more.”

I’d agree wholeheartedly with all this. An integrated recruitment strategy, involving a full media mix, is essential and part of this should include using job-boards.  The research that we at exec-appointments.com carried out earlier this year that was featured in our recent blog series) noted that job-board use by candidates actually increased in importance quite substantially between 2010 and 2012/2015 and overall nearly 50% of our survey will use a job-board to find their next job.  I’m not suggesting that exec-appointments.com is the only means to a job, but certainly, if you’re a purple squirrel either actively seeking a new challenge or just content to see what the market might bring to you, then you have a better chance of doing so if you’re registered on a wide range of job-boards and if you peruse them frequently to see if there is anything to whet your appetite.  Just make sure you start with ours!

Steve Playford, Global Director, FT Career Management