Wayne Brophy

Mar 16, 2022

No Purple Unicorn? How To Spot The Perfect Candidate In Your Recruitment Search


When recruiting for a new team member, employers always seem to be looking for that perfect candidate. They seek a person with a specific set of skills, abilities, knowledge, and experience. But finding them isn’t easy.
This begs the question: does the ideal candidate actually exist? Or are you searching for a purple unicorn? It’s like having a picture of a product you want to purchase, but you can’t locate it anywhere. The reality is: the perfect candidate isn’t out there – they’re in your mind.

So, if you can’t find your purple unicorn, what should you be looking for instead? We answer this question below, and advise on how to secure the talent you so desire in your recruitment search.

Consider your real requirements

First off, ask yourself what you actually need. A potentially great candidate may be almost perfect for the role, but perhaps they won’t apply because the list of ‘essential’ criteria is near impossible to meet.

If you’re writing a job ad, consider what’s genuinely crucial and what’s simply desirable – and don’t make either list exhaustive. Get to the gist of the true skills, know-how, experience and abilities you really need and want. Endless bullet points of ‘desirable’ capabilities can be just as off-putting.

Focus on soft skills

Specific experience and qualifications aren’t as vital as they used to be. What’s much more important is soft skills like agility – this proved to be the key attribute to help businesses get through the pandemic. Personality and a positive attitude are what matters in a crisis.

Think about it: what abilities does your current team have? Perhaps some possess relevant qualifications, and of course they have the experience, but they may not align with this ‘perfect candidate’. You want people who have a learning mindset and an attitude for growth. Staff can always be trained up to meet the ‘purple unicorn’ idea, after all. And with 38% embarking on training in the last year, there’s clearly a strong appetite for development.

Maybe you’ve found that almost perfect candidate… but there’s just one thing that you’re not on the same page about. That means you should wait until a candidate comes along who 100% agrees with what you’re offering, right? Wrong.

Not only will that slow down your recruitment search, but you may end up not hiring the best person for the role. If you can flex to the individual’s needs, do. It’s a candidate-short market, remember, so they know they can find a better offer. Make sure you provide the best one by being open. Often, it can be things like career development, extra holiday, or training opportunities that make the difference between a candidate accepting or not.

To prevent this happening in the first place, it’s wise to get a general idea of #WhatCandidatesWant. Our Salary & Benefits Guide 2022 uncovered this. It also advises on a streamlined recruitment search process and the importance of a holistic EVP.

Download our Salary & Benefits Guide 2022

The report takes a closer look at what candidates are satisfied with in their current roles, what would make them look elsewhere, and what they value in an employer offering. Surveying respondents across five specialisms, we gathered their opinions and experiences on the events of the last two years, and much more.


Don’t miss out on the insights – get your copy of the Salary & Benefits Guide 2022.

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