The Purple Squirrel

Image courtesy of Ingrid Taylor's photostream

Image courtesy of Ingrid Taylor’s photostream

Have you ever heard about or seen a purple squirrel? Most likely you haven’t because they are extremely rare. The purple squirrel is a term used by my fellow employment recruiters to describe a perfectly qualified candidate who meets all of the skills listed in a job posting. In theory, the purple squirrel can immediately handle all the responsibilities and hit the ground running with no training.

I believe in setting the bar high and finding the right candidate for the job. However, too often I see employers wasting their time and losing out on quality candidates while looking for the purple squirrel. If you want the benefits of hiring a staff member, you have to be willing to commit to them through proper training and sound leadership.

It is contradictory for an employer to request someone with industry experience because they do not want to train or manage someone. If you don’t want to train or manage someone, you should not be looking to hire. It is a package deal. It may sound extreme, but I have worked with an employer that was literally willing to invest more money each week on their coffee habit rather than training a team member. That is not an effective ratio.

Hiring someone with prior experience means that no matter what, they will come with set beliefs on how things should be done. Along with their years of experience, they may also have years of bad habits. Inevitably, even with experience, some training will have to be conducted to learn your standard operating procedures.

Instead of looking for the purple squirrel, consider training someone outside of your industry and coach/manage them to greatness! Here are 5 traits to focus on when hiring someone outside of your industry:

1.    Attitude – Have you received an application from the same person on several different occasions? Perhaps it’s time to reconsider that person and interview them. They are exhibiting the great attitude of never giving up.
2.    Intelligence – I’m not talking IQ, but rather a person’s ability to come up with a creative solution to a problem. Ask the candidate to provide examples where they found a solution to a rather difficult situation.
3.    Aptitude – Did they create rapport quickly with you in the interview? How did they handle rejection in the past? Are they willing to follow a proven process? Make them jump through hoops to prove how badly they want the job.
4.    Intensity – Do they strive to be the best at what they do? Employees shouldn’t be coming to work for social hour. In other words, work when you’re at work. Tell the candidate that working for you will be the hardest job they’ve ever had, but also the best. Watch and listen to their reactions and you’ll have a good idea about their intensity.
5.    Integrity – This is a person’s ability to do what they say they will do. In difficult situations, did they pick up the phone or did they hide behind their computer and deliver the news via email? Ask for times when they were honest and showed strong moral principles.

Many people believe the purple squirrel doesn’t exist. I’m here to tell you they do, but are extremely rare. In fact, you may never come across one in your lifetime. Instead of waiting for one to show up at your office; coach, train and manage your staff properly and maybe, just maybe, they’ll become your purple squirrel.

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