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HR Glossary | What is a Purple Squirrel?


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What is a purple squirrel?

You may have heard the term “unicorn” to describe a company with unique and desirable attributes that cause it to stand out from other organizations. Recruiters often use a similar term to refer to job candidates who have these unique attributes: purple squirrel.

A purple squirrel is a candidate who represents a perfect fit for a position. As you might imagine, purple squirrels can be hard to find.

People analytics and purple squirrels

Finding that exactly right combination of knowledge, skills, and abilities for an open position can be extremely challenging. Technology can help. By using people analytics to identify the traits and attributes held by high-performing candidates in a position, and then using those attributes to screen new candidates for the position, organizations can narrow the field of candidates to get closer to finding the elusive purple squirrel.

Organizations can use data both to determine where to look, and to determine what to look for when searching for purple squirrels. A data-driven talent acquisition function can drive better results.

Enabling a data-driven talent acquisition strategy

There are many benefits in using a data-driven talent acquisition strategy in recruitment. Not only will such a strategy boost the odds of finding purple squirrel candidates, but relying on data to help make recruitment and hiring decisions can also take bias out of the mix to build a more diverse workforce. To do this effectively:

  • Broaden your people analytics teams. Putting relevant data into the hands of more people across the organization can yield new and more innovative insights.
  • Assign the right team to analyze talent acquisition data. This team will include HR representatives, of course, but casting a wider net to include others such as IT professionals and leaders in hard-to-recruit areas can provide new insights.
  • Make analytics part of everyday workflows. Changing the traditional recruitment process to move beyond insights based on experience and opinions, to insights based on relevant data can make the process more efficient and effective.

The purple squirrels are out there. Savvy, data-driven organizations are finding them. You can too. Strengthening your talent acquisition process using relevant people analytics can help you find, onboard, train, and retain purple squirrels. 

About the author: Linda Pophal

Linda Pophal, MA, PCM, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is the founder and owner of Strategic Communications, LLC, and a marketing and communication strategist with expertise in HR and employee relations. With a background as a business journalist, her writing has appeared in the HR Daily Advisor, Human Resource Executive, and SHRM. She is a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire.

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