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.
While in theory, this 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
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. Elon Musk tweeted in 2012, "Do not search for purple squirrels! Giving them attention only makes them want to be more purple." which is likely also a reference to this term.
- Solman, Paul (August 15, 2012). "Purple Squirrels and the Reserve Army of the Unemployed". PBS. Retrieved 2016-06-10.
- Kramer, Mary (April 7, 2013). "Need to fill jobs? Don't hunt the 'purple squirrel'". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved 2016-06-10.
- "'Purple Squirrels' Now In Demand". CBS. October 11, 2010. Retrieved 2016-06-10.
- "Hiring the purple squirrel - Portland Unemployment". Examiner. July 23, 2009.
- "Finding Retail Talent in Twitter Era Adds to Challenges". Bloomberg. 2012-04-27. Retrieved 2013-11-17.
- Richard Perrin, Real world project management: beyond conventional wisdom, best practices, and project methodologies, John Wiley and Sons, 2008 ISBN 0-470-17079-4 page 215
- Haun, Lance (January 14, 2013). "Don't Hire the Perfect Candidate". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 2016-06-10.
- "Back In The Race: Stop Trying To Hire The Purple Squirrel". Above the Law. September 23, 2015. Retrieved 2016-06-18.
- "Stop searching for that elusive 'purple squirrel'". Computerworld. April 9, 2012. Retrieved 2016-06-18.
- "Sendouts.com Ad Capitalizes on Absentee President; Rodgers Townsend Has A Projected Winner with Its Topical Ad Campaign". PR Newswire. November 13, 2000. Retrieved 2016-06-10.
- Junge, Michael B. "Purple Squirrel". michaelbjunge.com. Retrieved 29 November 2014.
- @elonmusk (10 February 2012). "Do not search for purple squirrels! Giving them attention only makes them want to be more purple" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Tech Companies Want You to Believe America Has a Skills Gap". Bloomberg.com. 4 August 2020.