Recruitment and search have become increasingly more difficult for independent recruiters. Independents are the NPAworldwide constituency; that is my motivation for examining this subject. Let’s take a look…
Employers have taken back the massive quantities of simple-to-fill positions that they shared with recruiters in the early 2000s. These have gone in-house or they have gone to online and AI-based services that can bang out the 15 new sales reps needed in every city across North America or wherever they are needed worldwide. Client companies have taken to job boards (their own and industry applications), low-cost agencies, hourly recruitment, list builders, employee referrals and even off-shore RPO to fill other slightly more difficult roles. What that leaves is the truly unique and especially difficult roles to be shared with independent search consultants. Headhunters are called in to fill these challenging and specialize positions.
Independent recruiters refer to these searches as searches for “purple squirrels” or sometimes “unicorns.” We know there are squirrels, so there must be purple ones…even if no one has seen ever seen one. The assignment is to find candidates that may not even exist. The search, qualification, interview and hiring process can be painfully slow. Adding to the difficultly is the unwavering list of must-have requirements insisted on by unrealistic hiring managers.
The winners of this war for talent will not be those employers that best define their purple squirrels and hold out for the perfect fit candidate. The winners will be the hiring managers that focus on recalibration of the qualifications to allow for a realistically achievable solution. Employers will need to consider all options, including teams of employees, contingent workers with unique skills, former or retired employees given the time to address specific challenges, or heaven forbid, the investment in training and grooming someone to take on the unique challenges that need to be addressed. The result will be more realistic and affordable solutions to previously nearly impossible and highly expensive hires. I am proposing a solution rather than a wait for a potential solution that may or may not happen depending on the discovery of imaginary talent.
The search for purple squirrels has its place, but should be limited to very short duration contingent searches, or better yet, a never ending retained search. In other words, have a recruiter always on the look out for these unique talents. Do not allow the business to become dependent on what is a highly unlikely discovery to fill a specific position. Be willing to make a position for this talent if and when it is found and if the candidate can be convinced to join the employer organization. While the retained search continues, for many months, perhaps years, smart employers will view all options to deliver the results desired. They will consider gig workers, contractors, part-time, remote, external service providers, and especially training of in-house employees as a way to solve for positions once designated for purple squirrels. Get realistic, make a hire that is close and let the candidate be groomed to the perfect fit. Hire grey squirrels and help them evolve to the squirrel desired!