🐿️ How to be a Successful Technical Recruiter in a Crazy Demanding World - Part 2

🐿️ How to be a Successful Technical Recruiter in a Crazy Demanding World - Part 2
Post Author: Bukola Stewart | Image by eluxirphoto from Pixabay
Date published: December 07, 2019

Part 2: The Elusive Purple Squirrel.

If your first thought upon seeing the phrase "chasing the purple squirrel" is "what sweet nonsense is this?" then I completely understand; but believe me, it's worth sticking around and reading about.

The "purple squirrel" is simply an analogy for describing the "right" candidate for the job. It's a creative way of saying that the ideal hire for your job is out there, but not easy to find. However, unlike a "white whale", your squirrel isn't something you should endlessly chase to no avail. In fact, the entire point of this section is to tell you that you should stop chasing this talent so hard.

It's so easy to get swallowed up by the idea of the perfect candidate sending you their golden, box-ticking résumé a few hours after posting the job advertisement that you seem to forget it's a fantasy. This realistically isn't going to just happen, but you shouldn't pursue a hard chase either. This may sound like conflicting advice, but hear me out; there's a promising grey area in the middle here that's comprised of four simple points.

A - Turn the Purple Squirrel into a Brown Squirrel

The idea or process is to turn that “purple squirrel” into a brown squirrel. By that I mean something that is actually real. You do that by narrowing down your list of potential candidates by looking at what you really need and comparing that with what the CV of this person is offering. For example, does your business desperately require someone to manage and keep on top of finances? Look for somebody who's strong in numbers and statistics. It may be hard to rule out some candidates due to other promising qualities and experience, but you need to be honest about what you require and if this person can really deliver it.

B - Perfect is the Enemy of Good

In a similar vein, if you're thinking that this one hire will be the multitalented secret weapon that reinvigorates your company… perhaps think again. Instead of looking for a mix of incompatible skills that don't really match well with your company in the one person, try looking inward and utilising the skills of your current team to accomplish what you're looking for. Remember, recruitment doesn't need to be about constantly searching for that one new hire that will be the saviour of your company time after time; sometimes it's perfectly acceptable to just use the tools you already have, but instead incorporate different strategies to motivate and bring these qualities out in them.

C - Focus on the Essential

You may be desperately clinging to your desirable purple squirrel wish list of qualities, but you'd be better off valuing what you need instead of the idea of what you think you need. For example, before you begin, identify the essential qualities and performance duties that your company absolutely needs. If this prospective new hire has them, then hire them. It doesn't matter if they don't tick every box on your magic wish list. If they have something you just can't do without, then they're for you. Don't lose out on a fantastic hire because you're focused on unrealistic ideas of total perfection!

D - Ask the Hiring Manager

Your actual hiring managers should be flexible and well aware of what skills and attributes your company is in need of. What's essential in a candidate? What skills can be taught, and what skills do they just need to naturally be good at? If it's a case of "nature versus nurture", you should assess how much time and resources you can afford to spend on a new hire to bring them up to task with the rest of your workforce. There's nothing wrong with candidates looking to gain some experience on the job, and that should be encouraged; however, you sometimes need to be harsh in looking at how this newcomer will fit in with the rest of your pre-existing team.


After reading through that you are hopefully more enlightened in regards to the whole "purple squirrel" situation. Don't let yourself become one of those recruiters that gets hung up on a mythical or impossible to find candidate. The more you overthink it, the less likely you are to realise that the ideal candidate was staring you in the face for a long time.

📋 Previously: How to be a Successful Technical Recruiter in a Crazy Demanding World - Part 1

🔨 Next up: How to be a Successful Technical Recruiter in a Crazy Demanding World - Part 3

Want updates?

Want new posts about tech topics emailed to you? Sign up to the list below 👇

Also, if you are interested in learning technical topics through a video course specifically created for recruiters, don't forget to check out the courses I offer.

The main course "How to Speak Software Engineering Jargon for Recruiters" is specifically designed to help tech recruiters get up to speed fast on technical topics.

Written By Bukola Stewart

Executive Recruiter, Sales Guy and Social Media Hack with 15 years of industry experience. I grew up around tech, my father had a big influence on me because of his background as the Director of Technology for companies like GE and Fidelity. He would always say "that programming is where the future is headed. Be a developer because almost everything will be digitally automated in the future." So, I didn't quite live up to my Dad's aspiration of being a programmer (too much math 😁). However, I have been told by other programmers that I'm pretty knowledgeable compared to other technical recruiters/sales pros that they've met it the past. However, I think my biggest "value add" is my ability to help companies grow by finding that elusive hire which helps my client/company get to the "next level" that everyone strives to reach