I bet you’ve already noticed how much harder it has gotten in the last year or two. The economy is improving, so everyone’s willing to look for a new job, so your hiring managers assume it must be the time to start looking for purple squirrels – those crazy-good candidates with such strange combinations of skills or rare quality levels that they come at a premium.
Assuming you can even find them, that is.
Your ads are increasing overall awareness and are solid at driving people who are already looking for a job. The same can be said for job boards. But your purple squirrels don’t click ads, and they don’t look on job boards.
Start your purple squirrel hunt by having the right bait.
The Hunt Begins: How To Feed A Purple Squirrel.
So, demand is going up while supply stays flat, and you see the outcome: it takes longer to find purple squirrels, and longer to induce them to apply.
You can’t ignore purple squirrels because they have the potential to make deep impacts to your business’s goals. The proficient writer is useful, but a proficient writer with experience in the financial sector who can make complicated ideas clear is a purple squirrel because they make wonky subjects available to whole new audiences.
So if ads and job boards don’t work, what’s left? How do you hunt the majestic purple squirrel?
If it were me, I’d start my hunt by having the right bait.
You might think of purple squirrel bait in the usual terms: high salaries, perks, great office space, ability to work from home, a brand that connotes excellence, etc. And those work, obviously. The problem is that very little of that bait is under a recruiter’s control. Maybe you can work for a few weeks to show that getting that particular purple squirrel will require a salary adjustment, but that’s not your call to make.
But there is purple squirrel food that you can make yourself. You can start building recruiting content. More to the point, you can start collecting stories.
Once Upon A Talent Time: Purple Squirrels & Recruitment Storytelling.
As a recruiter, you have dozens of stories about the company in your back pocket.
You talk about the time the company had to come together across three offices and pull an all-nighter to complete a complex project the client was amazed by. Or about the recent publications by your staff.
Or how the last person in this position was promoted to oversee a huge new project. Or the patents this team has been granted. Or the annual corporate retreat. Or that the manager of this job was named “boss of the year.”
Or that you have a volunteer program that paints and repairs local schools once a year. Or that people in this job never leave because people love the company and the mission. You don’t create the stories, but you collect them. The issue is that you know exactly how useful they are in compelling action, so you hoard them.
If something works as well as your stories, stop hiding them and put them front and center in your search for talent. Because those stories are purple squirrel food.
Purple squirrels became that way because they fell in love with something, either a separate skill set, or a job or an industry or process or something.
They fell in love with it to the point of near-obsession, and now they are an expert. They didn’t become an expert because there was a raise in it, but because they discovered a passion in themselves for it. Ask a writer or an editor: they are in love with words. If they became an expert in the financial industry or health care, it’s because they also fell in love with that, too.
So don’t try and think money will draw their passion. Passion attracts passion, so tell stories that show off that passion. The real mission of the company, the department or the people who will surround them is what’s going to draw them close enough to pitch. Stories and content are the only way to illustrate that passion.
Gotta Keep ‘Em Compensated: Why Recruiting Content Is Currency.
At the same time, content has a viral quality. Unlike a job description, an interesting story gets shared to people you might never know (or who aren’t obsessively polishing their LinkedIn profile).
Finally, content doesn’t draw people to you – it enables better hunting. Turning those stories into content helps close the deal on a purple squirrel.
When a recruiter pitches me, I know we’re in “first date” land and everything is happy and shiny. To that end, I take everything said with a grain of salt. The same story I discount when a recruiter tells it to me over the phone takes far more authenticity when it’s been “published” online.
Recruiters can leverage that authenticity by sending the same story to the prospect rather than telling it, putting them in the position of selling an idea or story that purple squirrels can envision themselves in.
Yes, building content can be a slow process. But it is an investment in landing purple squirrels over the long run. Which is ultimately an investment in you.
By James Ellis
It's very possible that the rumors are true and that James Ellis was a mild-mannered digital marketer who was bitten by a radioactive recruiter six years ago and now has strange new powers. But what we do know is that James is a leading voice in employer branding, developing and activating dozens of brands of every size, running The Talent Cast podcast for more than three years, writing the Employer Brand Headlines newsletter and writing for a number of industry publications. His mission is to evolve the conversation around recruiting and hiring. He is currently the Director of Employer Brand at Universum. He lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter.
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