One Order of Squirrel Please - and hold the cheap... Purple SquirrelIt's been an interesting few days for calls from the past. Within the last 9 days I've received a call from a former co-worker looking for a job, a frustrated friend trying to get "that interview," an Army buddy interested in a career change, and a fellow recruiter wanting to talk about unrealistic time lines.

My fellow recruiter was reaching out to see if I would validate his frustration with his latest client. His client is on the hunt for that ever elusive purple squirrel. Now if you're a new reader or a rookie recruiter you may not be familiar with our little friend... that we've never met. (If you see one, send me a picture, eh?)

To quickly catch us all up - a purple squirrel is that perfect PERFECT candidate that the client demands must possess a PhD in Physics, 5 years of sales experience, a laundry list of professional certifications, is fluent in at least 3 languages, has the ability to travel 101% of the time, 10 years of industry specific background, and the willingness to relocate to CITY HERE at their own expense understanding that they may need to move to CITY HERE within 2 months. (or just insert any other number of requirements that when put together make the candidate unrealistic) While finding someone with a combination of any of might be possible - a client's unrealistic "ideal candidate" such as this is known in the industry as, you guessed it - a purple squirrel. Truth be told, recruiters are prone to some exaggeration so we do sometimes use the term for it's dramatic effect. Not me, of course... just other recruiters.

So back to Derrick, my friend that was looking for some validation...
Not only was his new client looking for a purple squirrel but she was looking for Derrick to provide that squirrel to her quickly and on the cheap. So he called me in part to ask how he might tell his client to take a hike and in part on the long shot that I'd perhaps seen said squirrel.
In summary:
We have an employer searching for a recruiting strategy for a new title or initiative and they want that quality hire to be good and they want it fast and they want it cheap. My response? You only get to pick two. Sorry - in an instance like this It's my experience that you typically just can't have all three.

  • A quick and inexpensive recruiting strategy could be implemented - but chances are it won't return the best shade of purple on that squirrel.
  • A solid recruitment strategy could be rolled out and produce the purplest of squirrels for this rather demanding title but the expense could be considerable.
  • A less expensive... okay, you get the idea.

Now there are of course exceptions to every rule - but when creating a solid recruiting strategy from scratch for a demanding title or for volume you want to ensure it's done right. I would estimate a solid strategy to take a minimum of a week to be well thought out and ready for presentation to a client. Market research, competitive information, channel options, calculated return, etc.

This doesn't mean that it would take a week to get started - there are of course basics that can be done to kick off the initiative such as various boards or tried/true contacts or channels. And yeah, sometimes us recruiter types get lucky and one of these furry little buggers fall right into our lap - usually because the requirements were actually the description of someone a client already had in mind or that we happen to have on standby.. but I digress.

In hanging up with Derrick I told him I'd keep an eye out for anyone meeting the description he was on the hunt for, and he told me he felt better about responding to his client that there are some things to be considered when looking for someone with this extreme of a skill set. Of course, my favorite part of our lengthy conversation was that he suspected months ago that this opportunity might head his way - but he didn't rope off any time to sink just a few hours a month into networking within various circles where he would most likely find a lead or two. Fifteen minutes of looking together and we'd found 3 niche sites, a handful of blogs, and a social network that seemed (at a glance) to contain a few decent leads.

So here Derrick is... on the hunt for a purple squirrel, ready to educate our client on fair and reasonable expectations, and learning to be proactive when he smells a new initiative down the road. I'm honestly looking forward to hearing back from him to find out if he fills this job, how close a match the hire is to that deep shade of purple, and where he finds the candidate. Something like this - my money is on a referral or a (social) network contact.

also posted here for comment...

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