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Bringing Back The Purple Squirrel

Written on February 2, 2012

When you’re in the IT staffing industry, you start to pick up on a unique language of terms and phrases. You might call it “industry-speak” – every industry has their own, and they’re not well known outside of it.

 

One such term in the recruiting industry, though you don’t hear it as much today as in years past, is the “purple squirrel.” I’ve noticed over the past couple years, as it’s fallen out of popularity in the industry, its definitions and connotation have been portrayed differently the times I’ve heard or read it used.

 

In the interest of defending this noble term from obscurity, let’s talk it out. What exactly is a purple squirrel?

 

A purple squirrel, simply put, is the perfect candidate for a job. In the staffing industry there are many facets to the job we do, but the primary directive is this: find the best-qualified person to take this job position. We go about this fundamental task in many ways – research, interviews, networking, testing, evaluating, negotiating.

 

And every now and then, you strike gold immediately. Sometimes the stars align and you find the perfect person for the job – just the right qualifications, with exactly the specific set of skills the position requires. That person is the purple squirrel.

 

One of the places I saw the term used was in this CBS New York blurb (a bit short to call it an article). It ends with “There is a down-side to these new job descriptions.  Even people with years of experience in their chosen field are no longer qualified to work in them.”

 

This is one example of people giving the old term a negative spin. Others describe a purple squirrel as too good to be true; something that doesn’t exist. I can see where they get that, but I’ve always preferred a rosier spin on it.

 

If you ask me, “purple squirrel” is a more optimistic spin on the old standby, “a needle in a haystack.” Where the latter is an impossibly hard thing to find, a purple squirrel to me is when you’ve found a perfect fit for your position.

 

For Morton Consulting, we’ve found the purple squirrel when we’ve found the professional that not only fits all the qualification of a position – the position is the right fit for them.

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