Overcoming the Purple Squirrel

SquirrelsThe purple squirrel is a term that has been used in the staffing industry often over the years but has been more prominently discussed in 2013 more so than previous years. A purple squirrel is an almost impossible to find candidate for a difficult job order and almost every recruiter has dealt with this recurring issue over the years. That’s a strange observation considering that there are more jobs this year but less hiring seems to be taking place. A recent article in Bloomberg made this more obvious by providing this evidence. Over the past three years, the number of job openings has risen almost 50 percent, but actual hiring has gone up by less than 5 percent.

Companies are advertising a lot more jobs, in other words, but not filling them. There are many reasons for this. One is that with budgets being more stringently critiqued, the sequestrian act/healthcare reform making companies hesitant in upcoming hiring initiatives, the hiring process has become more protracted with companies and managers adding layers to the interview process and still not being happy with the choice of candidates. Another factor that has frustrated recruiters as well as candidates is that job descriptions have become in-depth and almost no one seems to fit all the qualifications that companies have laid out. With many departments shrinking within companies, the common theme has become to do more with less.

PREMIUM CONTENT: Staffing Industry Forecast: Sept 2013 Update

When companies are finally willing to hire someone, managers have to state a case to their superiors for candidates they want to move forward with and often lose that candidate because another company pursuing that same person may be proactive and pull that person out from underneath that manager that desperately needs that resource. Another factor hurting hiring managers is salaries that aren’t competitive in regard to what the market offers or trying to compete with other companies for the same candidate. Larger companies often see this as a regular hurdle because it takes them longer to catch up with the hiring curve and become consistent with other hiring entities due to the wheels within a bigger company moving slower.

To reinforce this reality, most of the largest staffing firms in the country have seen lower revenue in 2013 compared with the same period in 2012. We’ve discussed many of the issues that are presenting problems regarding hiring and working harder with less results. How can companies successfully counteract this theme? For one, staffing professionals can try to be more consultative and educational in terms of presenting these cases similar to clients they’re dealing with. For instance, we can share the lower hiring rate, how salaries have to be more competitive versus their competitors, how companies need to try to induce or entice candidates to want to work for them as opposed to making candidates feel lucky they’re receiving an offer as well as other individual factors that be scenario based as opposed to generalized. If companies take this aggressive approach, I think the term “Purple Squirrel” will become one that is far less used in the near future.

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Michael Barefoot
Michael Barefoot is senior account executive at Red Zone Resources. He can be reached at mikeb (at ) redzoneresources (dot) com.

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