Chase That Purple Squirrel Too Long and You Might Wind Up With None

purple squirrelA “purple squirrel” is a metaphor in the recruiting business for that impossibly hard to find “perfect” candidate that our client asks for.

The request is preceded by comments like, “We just can’t make a mistake!” ”We need to find the perfect candidate!” And what can be more damaging to your business than a bad hire? Not much, but the failure to make a critical hire in a timely manner is at least a close second. Productivity is lost, precious momentum is squandered, and increasingly hard-to-find candidates slip away.

Based on our experience here at Babich, we often see perfect become the enemy of “great” when our clients focus on searches for purple squirrels. We suggest that even if perfect candidates exist, they are nearly impossible to find.

While many companies are busy chasing purple squirrels, their competitors hire perfectly acceptable great candidates who quickly contribute to their bottom line.

What are the real costs of unfilled jobs? Deadlines and sales quotas are not met, new product releases fall behind schedule, unhappy customers are lost to competitors, overtime costs skyrocket, and frazzled employees leave in search of a better quality of life, to name just a few.

Just last week, one of our clients who had been searching for a staff member, after one of his left, had a great surprise. We had provided some excellent candidates. He even admitted it, saying, “There are two really great ones there, but I haven’t seen anyone who knocks my socks off. I’ll keep looking. Who else you got?” The vacancy was going into its fourth week and one of the other staff members, whose work had increased because of the vacancy, resigned, complaining they were being taken advantage of. Now there are two openings.

So what can you do?

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First: analyze the job market realistically so you can focus on finding competent, capable talent.

Second: honestly evaluate your company’s needs so you can prioritize impact positions, create more realistic candidate expectations, and plan for successful talent acquisition outcomes.

Third: throw cost-of-hire concerns out the window as the goal is to produce high-performing hires.

While only you can decide if you can live with less than 10 out of 10 boxes checked on your ideal candidate search form, you just might have a “keeper” if you can satisfy the following concerns:

  1.  Can the candidate do the job?
  2. Does anything in his/her background make him/her an unacceptable risk?
  3. Can we work the money out?
  4. Do I like the candidate, and will he/she fit in?

Since 1973, Tony Beshara has placed more than 7,000 people on a one-on-one basis, in more than 100 different job categories. His candidates have accepted positions earning minimum wage and salaries up to more than a million dollars a year. Tony has directly worked with more than 24,000 hiring authorities, at 21,000 different hiring organizations. The system he has developed has helped more than 100,000 people find jobs. Tony's first book, The Job Search Solution, was one of the top ten best sellers in 2005 in its category and its success led to the creation of, a web-based training program believed to be the first of its kind for people going through the job search process. His second book, Acing the Interview, was released in January 2008 and has received very positive reviews from critics. He is president of Babich and Associates.