Once upon a time, many years ago, I engaged a recruiting agency that told me their job was to find me the “purple unicorn” of candidates. In other words, they committed to recruiting for the impossible. And if I am being honest, I wanted them to find the impossible. Why? Because I was using a wish list of wants and needs versus a realistic view of the position requirements. I was hitting roadblock after roadblock and could not understand why. Rather than work with me to understand and remove the roadblocks, this agency proceeded to work off the wish list with promises of their unique ability to find the ever evasive “perfect” candidate. I was sold! The problem was solved………until it wasn’t.
You are probably wondering if I ever hired the unicorn? The answer would be no. But through the process I was convinced by the recruiting agency that it was our salary expectations that made the recruit a failure. I should have known purple unicorns were too expensive! And Unicorns do not exist, let alone purple ones.
The problem with some recruiters (be it internal or external) is that they will promptly go to work, blindly following the job details provided to them from the hiring manager. This may be a symptom of them not truly understanding the position (and I am willing to be that is a good part of it), or it may be that there is just a fatal flaw in the hiring process itself. Let’s be clear, the role of recruiting is to not simply enter “search mode” to appease the client/organization. I challenge that the most important aspect of recruiting is to help guide managers to understand what and who they should be recruiting for. I call this the “Realistic Wish List Approach”.
How can we develop a Realistic Wish List?
Look beyond the job description. A lot of times we will find a never-ending laundry list of duties and skills which do not always translate into the best recruiting tool. Instead, seek to understand what the team really needs. Where are the skill gaps? What are the daily challenges and routines? Avoid looking at what the candidate “should” have and focus on what you need. The benefit of this, is that you may end up with much better job descriptions as a result!
Understand why you are looking to fill the position. Has there been high turnover? If the answer to that is “yes” then understanding the why will help you understand the what and who in your recruiting effort. Maybe you have been hiring for “X” when you really need to be hiring for “Y”. Maybe there is another issue that needs to be addressed before you hire? Get real with what is happening so that you are providing solutioned based recruiting and not knee jerk reactions.
Embrace transferrable skills by identifying parallels that other technologies, industries and positions your candidate may have worked with or in that may be beneficial. Too often we put ourselves in a recruiting silo believing a candidate must be from our industry in the same position using the same systems. Do they though? I think you will find there are plenty of cross-over skills which can be extremely beneficial.
When we move away from transactional recruiting and begin to truly partner with our hiring managers, we will find that there is a more in-depth understanding of the position and a more collaborative hiring process in the end. If the purple unicorn does not exist, we have to say that and have a plan to move forward in a more realistic manner. It just makes sense to hire for what is needed and not what is wished for.
One tool I have found particularly successful is implementing a Candidate Profile which is a collective document completed by all parties involved in the hiring process. It truly becomes the foundation of the recruit from job positing to selection.
Simply put this document seeks to extract the following:
Important Skills – spell out your most important requirements, what are the essential skills needed to perform the position
Relevant Experience – what previous work experience best compliments the role
Desired Education/Training – what is required, what is desired, what is acceptable
Characteristics/Traits – what does a candidate need to possess to be successful
Additional Transferrable Skills – skills that cross over from alternative work experiences that may fulfill or enhance the role
Do not overthink this process, otherwise your Realistic Wish List will quickly revert to the unattainable. Think of it as a guide to help you get clear on what you need to see in a candidate and to stay away from the purple unicorn!
If you would like me to send you a copy of this document, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will happily provide you with it!
Author: Tracy Brown
Tracy's background and focus in HR and Recruitment will provide impactful and meaningful insight to improve how organizations approach employee engagement, recruitment and retention.Her passion lies in connecting people processes with operational excellence to create true HR partnerships.
Tracy is also the proud owner of Tart, a recruitment agency located in Ontario, Canada.