Purple squirrel is a term used by employment recruiters to describe a job candidate with precisely the right education, set of experience, and range of qualifications that perfectly fits a job’s requirements. The implication is that over-specification of the requirements makes a perfect candidate as hard to find as a purple squirrel. Recruiters, unfamiliar with best practices for attracting diverse professionals, managers and executives are in search of a purple squirrel with blond hair. Nuts – ( no pun intended ). Diversity.com staffers get questions such as “how many Puerto Ricans males, with 6 years experience in IT networking, visit Diversity.com ? Our staffers are trained to say politely “we do not know – sorry”. We hope our reply causes the caller to presume we are not the career site they need and end the phone call. Most times the call ends cordially. Sometimes the “purple squirrel recruiter” continues on with wanting to know the number of site visits made by college educated Latino / Hispanic American women. A female purple squirrel ? I guess. We respond politely “we don’t know – sorry”. The caller says goodbye convinced they should continue to use Indeed.com’s Short List.
While in theory, a prized “purple squirrel” could immediately handle all the expansive variety of responsibilities of a job description with no training, and would allow businesses to function with fewer workers, it is commonly asserted that the effort seeking them is often wasted and that being more open to candidates that don’t have all the skills, or retraining existing employees, are sensible alternatives to an over-long search.
Origin and History of Purple Squirrel
While it is unclear when exactly the term was coined, it was in use by 2000,and in 2010 CBS published material using the term, writing that “businesses are looking to do more with fewer workers, so they want [purple squirrels] who are able to take on a wide range of duties.”In 2012, Google recruiter Michael B. Junge published a popular job search and career book Purple Squirrel: Stand Out, Land Interviews, and Master the Modern Job Market, which helped popularize the term.
Purple Squirrel Bias
Purple squirrels are not a protected class. Recruiters seeking one are not expressing a bias towards official protected labor groups. IMHO – purple squirrel hunters (recruiters) are expressing fear any person hired ,who doesn’t meet the plethora of detailed qualifications would not succeed. The candidate’s failure would reflect poorly on the recruiter’s judgement. Although, it’s my personal experience and a widespread opinion among African American and Latin/Hispanic candidates your credentials have to far exceed the stated minimum qualifications. Why? The reason is simply a person of color hired to fill a position of high responsibility is under scrutiny for a longer time period.They must prove to everyone they are competent. Imagine the stress. New job having to convince everyone including mail room staff your 8 years of work experience and Ph.d is for real.
If you are a Black or Brown person you know how it is. Btw.. This practice is not likely to improve in the near future.
Check out this article published by The Atlantic in 2015. The author,Gillian B White, did
a magnificent job of telling it – like it is.