Letting Go of the Purple Squirrel


E78 Staff

E78 Staff

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Every industry has its buzzwords, and in ours everyone knows exactly what a “purple squirrel” is. That elusive “perfect” candidate, the one who checks all the boxes, has precisely the right education, qualifications, experience, the one we’re all dying to find.  But wait, should we even be looking?

Before we go too far, let’s review your job description. If the one you’re working with can only be matched with a purple squirrel, then you might want to rethink your approach.  More specifically, you likely have a far-too-specific list of criteria that few job seekers can come close to meeting. As a result, not only will your process be mired in frustration, but a slew of job applicants will be alienated in the process. You will almost certainly overlook great candidates who, while they might lack some of your ideal qualifications, could actually offer more in the long-term due to their talent and potential.

Use your job description to focus on and prioritize the most critical skills, experiences or traits that will lead to success in the role. Remember, when everything is important, NOTHING is important and when you prioritize everything, you actually prioritize NOTHING.  

Of course, addressing the job description is the first step of letting go of the purple squirrel obsession. Opening your mind to seeing the beauty in all squirrels is the next step. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

You may be missing out on the “next best squirrel”.

Companies often miss out on great hires when they reject a candidate for lacking a single skill or experience which may appear to be a “must have”.  Maybe they haven’t worked in the “right” industry or utilized the right “systems”.  A candidate’s ability to learn and adapt their unique skills is key – and may be just what you’re looking for. In addition, maybe their experience will add new ideas or a fresh point of view.

Consider “culture adds” for the role.

Rather than searching for a candidate who has your exact “desired” experience, consider someone who might bring a new perspective to the team. The idea of a “culture add” can be incredibly beneficial to the success of a business. True innovation comes from a diverse and inclusive environment, and could be the missing piece for you.

Pursue candidates who encompass your company values.

New hires should absolutely believe and be able to buy into your organization’s mission and goals. Having a desire to drive toward the same goal is instrumental in connecting them to your culture and creating a long term and successful employee.  It can’t be taught and shouldn’t be valued above the need for training.

Prioritize grit.

Grit can be best defined as the combination of passion and perseverance over an extended period of time. Does it really matter if this candidate has specific software experience? Or is it more important that they’ve demonstrated grit and passion over the course of their career? Candidates who are unusually resilient and hard-working are often the most successful.

Have a strong development plan in place.

Companies with a strong onboarding strategy invariably have better retention rates. Investing in training and developing new hires also allows new hires to develop and grow.  When you take these simple and impactful steps, you create loyal employees who have the potential to become the purple squirrels you were once searching for.  

Being more flexible and open in the hiring process doesn’t mean you have to abandon your ideals, only that you need to be less rigid about them. It’s HOW you’ll get where you want to be – delivering exciting results with real game changers leading the way. This is where we can help. Let us identify and land your “next best squirrel” by focusing on the things that really matter.

At E78, we find Accounting & Finance Game Changers.

E78 Partners is your trusted resource for interim, project and direct-hire game changers that maximize the capabilities and capacity of your accounting and finance department through challenges and change. 


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