Purple squirrel is a term used by employment recruiters to describe a job candidate with precisely the right education, experience, and qualifications that perfectly fits a job’s multifaceted requirements. The implication is that the perfect candidate is as rare as a real-life purple squirrel. 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.
Origin and history
A November 13, 2000 PR Newswire article cites the recruiting industry publication "Purple Squirrel," with Senior Talent Acquisition Consultant Richard A. Camilleri stating he knows when the phrase was coined, but not providing dates or the name of the client who said it. 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.
A 2013 article in the Harvard Business Review pointed out that standard recruitment methods at times failed to find the "purple squirrel" companies were seeking, a viewpoint also espoused in other articles. While ComputerWorld suggested retraining existing employees as an alternative, an op-ed in Crain's in April 2013 recommended that companies look to employee referral to speed the recruitment process for purple squirrels. In recent years, several business seeking to supply companies with purple squirrels have come into being. One of the companies, named Purple Squirrel, is an online marketplace that connects job seekers with employees (instead of recruiters) at major companies, allowing candidates to schedule informational interviews and earn employee referrals. Headquartered in San Francisco, California, the company was in private beta as of 2016.
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- "Purple Squirrel Beta". www.purplesquirrel.io. Retrieved 2016-06-11.