Finding your perfect employee is difficult at the best of times, so having a strategy to help you with the best chance of achieving this is key to any organisation.

Firstly let me explain why a purple squirrel ? Well, a purple squirrel is also a term used in HR and recruiting circles to describe those rare flawless candidates who would be considered absolutely perfect for your role, down to the last minute detail, ticking every possible criteria box the potential employer may have set. The inference being they're probably as rare as finding a purple squirrel!

The 'purple squirrel' candidate will have exactly the right skills and level of experience required, fit perfectly into your organisation’s culture, live in the right area and, crucially, will fit within the salary bracket you identified for the role. It's the person who walks in for interview and you want to offer the job to within the first 30 seconds of meeting them. They are that rare person you just KNOW is right almost from the outset of meeting them in interview!



These candidates do of course come along occasionally, sometimes through luck rather than design it has to be said but either way, all too rarely, to build a one-off  recruitment campaign on with real confidence to guarantee finding you that perfect candidate, particularly as we are in the midst of a major skills shortage presently.

So you as an employer essentially have 2 choices, if we ignore the do nothing/bury your head in the sand option.

The choices are:

1. Wait indefinitely for that "Purple Squirrel"

2. To adopt what we call in our business a "recruit smart" strategy.

If we choose to wait, there are no guarantees. You run the risk of repeated searches and failed Interview processes taking up considerable time, poor morale developing through team members multi tasking to cover unfilled roles as well as a potential reduction in productivity due to reduced numbers in the business. How long you are prepared to run with these type of problems? Only you can decide.

Alternatively, you can adopt a "recruit smart" strategy. We endeavour to coach our clients this so they can effectively plan to find their new recruits and develop a clear forward strategy.

We break our "recruit smart" strategy into 6 areas for you to address in the business from both a short term perspective to a longer term strategy:-


1. Define the Non Negotiable Elements of the Role

Detail the job specification and person requirements.

Decide from this the non negotiable elements of the role, whether they be qualification, software knowledge or skillset led and if they are non negotiable don't drift from this. Of course no one is suggesting an unskilled worker will be able to do the work of a highly skilled worker.

Maybe at this point also consider, dependent on the urgency of filling the role, an interim option and the use of a temporary or contract worker who fits these non negotiable criteria but doesn't possess others you would also prefer, to consider them as a permanent option.

This will buy you time and ensure the impact on the business in the meantime is minimised in the short term by having someone on board.


2. Define the Negotiable Elements of the Role

In the skills short market we currently find ourselves in, we are advising our clients to be open minded about some of the criteria they may have earmarked for their elusive "Purple Squirrel" and to take this decision during the early stages of the process to ensure they get to see a range of candidates who may be suitable for the position.

If the level of experience wanted is something you can be flexible on and can be learnt on the Job consider lowering the parameters for this. Additionally are you able to look at a different related degree or equivalent/similar training and qualifications which many bring similar valued abilities in reasoning, analysis, communications and creativity to the table. When coupled with must-have qualifications, this may describe someone who will learn quickly, bring enthusiasm and passion to the job, and prove to be a valuable addition to the team. It's more often more effective to develop and bring on those who want to succeed and value investment in them by a company. These are growing changes we see with the shift in the age make up of the UK Workforce.

Considering these candidates which may not have met your ideal criteria can add complexity to the candidate screening process. However, it can as mentioned introduce to you a larger pool that includes applicants who can do the job well after orientation and training and will make a long-term contribution to your firm.


3. Get in the Habit of Constantly Recruiting for your Purple Squirrel

Confused, let us explain?

We ask our clients, who we act as trusted advisors for, what is the 'perfect' candidate, who if we find them through our networking, resourcing and discussions we should simply send them straight along to them for an interview regardless of whether there is an active vacancy.

This is the candidate you would find a role for within your organisation as you can guarantee they will add benefit to your business. This way, headcount restrictions permitted, you hopefully lessen the potential shortages of these elusive candidates.


4. Consider the use of  Behavioural Assessment Techniques 

As an organisation we embrace sophisticated behavioural testing for our employees and specifically on our job roles .We identify candidate profiles of successful employees within the job roles they undertake. Its a relatively straightforward and proven process. If someone is successful in a role, why not find someone with similar attributes and characteristics. It works for us and it opens up your recruitment process to candidates who traditional methods don't always identify. This is one of the cornerstones of our new delivery platform, engage, which launches towards the end of Quarter 1 2018.


5. Develop your Existing Employees



Whilst this may not resolve your immediate "Purple Squirrel" issue, the identification of existing employees with development potential for training and opportunities is paramount in your succession planning for the team. This will have the added benefits of raising existing employee morale by allowing them to see and  identify career opportunities and the scope for growth within your organisation.

No greater satisfaction than producing  your perfect employees internally rather  than looking to bring them in from external sources.


6. Become an Employer of Choice

At no time has a company's branding and social media presence been as critical to its development as it is today. Research shows that the change in the generations currently in the workplace is bringing different values to the table. The culture of moving for £500 has long since gone and  finding an employer who shares your values and beliefs and can offer you the work environment and work life balance to suit is critical for an ever growing band of employees. Have your branding and social media set up to continually identify and nurture potential employees and don't just wait until you are desperate to find that "Purple Squirrel."


Want to Know More?

Lucy Walker Recruitment are a Commercial Recruitment Consultancy who operate within the West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester Areas. We specialise in connecting quality Business Support Staff with Growing SME’s, working within the specialisms of PA, Office Support, Sales& Marketing, Graduate, Legal Support, Supply Chain, Procurement and Logistics. Call our Team of Experts on Leeds 0113 367 2880. 


About the Author: Mark Woffenden

Mark Woffenden is a Director at Lucy Walker Recruitment and has an extensive knowledge of the issues and workings of the West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester Commercial markets developed over the last 20 years in the Industry