Thinking of Changing Careers? Remember the Purple Squirrel


If you’ve been following the news of the Great Resignation, you would think it’s a dream market for employees – simple supply and demand economics…or is it?  While some industries such as health care and education are experiencing critical gaps, others are just seeing a lot of movement – all can be quite disruptive to the team, the organization, and the bottom line. The search to fill roles with the right candidates is at an all-time high but that doesn’t mean anything goes.

In my experience, hiring managers still want the best of the best, a candidate/employee who “checks all the boxes.” In the recruiting world we refer to these less-than-realistic candidates as Purple Squirrels.

I’m often contacted by people who are considering the pursuit of a job in a different industry or in a different functional role than their current occupation. I advise candidates that they MUST be able to clearly articulate the experience and the skill sets that they possess that are transferrable and valuable to the role that they are seeking. By definition a Purple Squirrel does not exist but as a candidate, checking more boxes than not is important!

The Give, The Take and The Reality

Even though there is a hiring frenzy, HR professionals don’t want turnover, they don’t love or crave the hiring and resignation process – it’s exhausting and expensive, ergo the Purple Squirrel mentality. They shoot for perfection, someone who is sticky and fits the mold, but they settle for someone who may be missing only 1 or 2 of the coveted box checks.

I counsel hiring managers that there is a give and take when considering the qualifications of a candidate. I ask them to focus on the “must have” and then the “want to have” qualifications that they seek in a prospective candidate. Having managers assess the most important skill sets and experiences allows realistic expectations to be set with regards to the candidates that will be presented to them. Surely you can dream of a Purple Squirrel but know you probably won’t find one and that’s ok. As long as all the “must have” and many of the “want to have” boxes are checked you probably have a great prospective hire!

As a candidate looking for a change, be sure to carefully read the position description, do your homework, and tailor your resume and correspondence to reflect the skills you possess that will address the needs and requirements of the role. Remember, the hiring manager may be seeking a Purple Squirrel, you need to come as close as possible to their ideal candidate profile.

Regardless of the Purple Squirrel side of the fence you sit, I’m happy to help nurture the give and take part of the process. It’s all about finding the right person for the right seat and creating a dynamic work culture that produces results and a great customer experience – isn’t it?