The Urban Dictionary defines the term “Purple Squirrel” as a recruiter’s metaphor for the elusive candidate, the applicant who possesses the ideal combination of qualifications and experience, perfectly matching a company’s job posting.  The term is synonymous with the phrase “ideal candidate”.

Recruiters are typically very determined by nature and we thrive on competition; so, the challenge of finding a candidate for a position that no other recruiter has been able to fill can be very exhilarating to us.  We are essentially driven by such a challenge, and there are few experiences that come close to the thrill of identifying the ideal candidate, or a “Purple Squirrel”, for a position that has been very grueling to fill.   Driven by the thrill of the hunt, we believe that there is no such thing as a difficult to fill position, but rather, it is about identifying individuals with hard to find skill sets.

Incomparable sourcing skills and persistence are the keys to identifying the elusive “purple squirrel.”  However, it is also imperative that recruiters possess relevant competitive intelligence and market knowledge to help their hiring managers understand how to evaluate candidates.

To be successful, a recruiter must possess certain attributes and skills that help enable them to be successful at identifying candidates for their more challenging positions.   Here are a few of the most critical that a recruiter must possess:

Tenacity and single mindedness are probably the most important attributes that a good recruiter or Sourcer must possess.  Recruiting for a hard to fill position can be difficult and it can be disheartening when our efforts do not yield results.  It is very easy for us to set aside our more difficult to fill positions and only work on the easier ones; however, a tenacious recruiter will continue the search and make use of innovative approaches to identify their elusive candidate.

Top notch research skills are critical for a recruiter to be successful.  They are critical when devising a solid sourcing strategy.  Staying abreast of new search engines, employing custom search engines, building and refining search (Boolean) strings, continuously identifying new resources and employing advanced internet sourcing techniques are fundamental skills for a recruiter.

The ability to see the “Big Picture”.  The ability to envision how a candidate will fit into an organization requires a unique understanding of the position and how it impacts the company.  They must possess the ability to identify the essence of what is required for a role and then match it to the best candidate.

Possess the ability to think outside of the box and utilize creative and innovative methods to identify qualified candidates.  Attending a recruiting event like Source Con event is essential because a recruiter will be exposed to the latest and greatest in sourcing technology.  In addition, it gives recruiters/sourcers an opportunity to network with others to share new ideas and methods to think outside of the box when sourcing for a purple squirrel candidate.

Excellent relationship building and networking skills.   It is essential for a recruiter to continuously build a pipe line of candidates for their key or difficult to fill positions even when they don’t have openings for those roles.  Creating “bench strength” will enable the recruiter to fill a company’s key positions in a timely manner and thus will establish trust with their hiring managers.

The ability to adapt and embrace new technologies.  As Technology changes, so must a recruiter.  Their ability to adapt to new ways of approaching a search, employing new technologies, and always being receptive to new recruiting methods is essential to a recruiter’s endurance.   As soon as a recruiter stops learning, they can become obsolete.

Approachability.  A recruiter must be personable and easy to talk to.  They must project a friendly and affable image to build rapport and engage a variety of individuals.  They must possess the ability to seamlessly engage various types and levels of candidates from different industries. Coming across as having a “salesman type” of personality will not engage most candidates, recruiters must demonstrate sincerity and genuine interest if they want to engage a candidate.

Recruiters are acutely aware of the fact that a company’s success or failure is dependent upon the individuals that comprise that company and consequently our efforts can potentially have a significant impact upon the success of a company or department. Recruiters are, by nature, competitive and results-driven individuals.  Finding that right ‘fit’ is always a challenge and it requires a tremendous amount of effort and fortitude; however, when we identify our “purple squirrel”, and that match is made, everybody wins.