Shot Of A Beautiful Unicorn Against Against A Dramatic Landscape

When hunting candidates––don’t go chasing unicorns.

If there’s one thing recruiters understand, it’s that there’s no such thing as the unicorn candidate. It doesn’t matter how well you advertise your position, or how great your package is, you have to let go of the idea that there’s one, single, the perfect candidate to fill the role.

Trust me, you will spend months and months of painful––and expensive––searching if you don’t drop this ideal. Don’t get me wrong, there sure are a bunch of qualities specific to your role that will add up to the perfect candidate. And we can find that person, I’m not asking you to lose your faith in the system. But those “elements” aren’t always stacked up in a rigid formula, waiting for the horned beauty to come prancing in on a cloud and settle into. 

Unicorns are something to aspire to, but they are fictional characters, so please don’t bank on them.

You may have a list of requirements for your role, alongside a wishlist for the type of candidate you want to recruit. But for the process to work, this list must be fluid. You must be able to think outside the unicorn-shaped box, because, guess what? No role is a one size fits all.

Even when a highly successful company is recruiting a CEO they stay fluid. Sure, it’s vital you meet requirements with a skill set and necessary experience, but with each new leader comes a new outlook, new personality, new processes––new qualities that help businesses to grow in a healthy way. Honestly, if we were constantly recruiting cookie-cutter versions of each employee before, nothing would change––AND, that means businesses would sit stagnantly. Not a great model for any successful organisation.

However, there is a fine line to being fluid. I’d be remiss if I didn’t recognise there are certain things that aren’t good to compromise on. But there are definitely elements to a role that, when recruiting, can be overlooked or negotiated. It takes an amount of experience to recognise this line and walk it successfully when recruiting talent. But thankfully,  have that experience. So, I’m going to share!

5 tips for successfully ditching the unicorn search:

  1.     Look for transferable skills.

So, they don’t fit the exact mould your last employee has left behind? That doesn’t mean they don’t have the skills required. The candidate you’re looking for may not even already work in the specific area, or even the same industry you’re recruiting in, but you need to break down their skill-set to work out their weight. Do they have experience working with people, but not specifically patients? Have they built strategies in a communication role, but not managed a team––many of these skills are transferable, address the skills more broadly in the interview and you might find they’re there, just packaged differently.

  1.     Values over experience.

It’s no secret that I am an advocate for values-based recruitment. It’s one of the most important considerations in choosing teams that are going to benefit your organisation. In fact, values can sometimes outweigh experience. Imagine you have a recruit that has years of experience in a similar role but has garnered an entirely different set of values and purpose to the ones your organisation has. And in the other corner, you have someone with little or no experience in a similar role, but whose vision and values mirror that of your company. Which one is going to be the better fit? Values. Every time.

  1.     Recognise opportunities to upskill.

Extending beyond 1 & 2, if a candidate doesn’t actually have the skills required for the role advertised, but they are a culture fit, and or have transferable skills that may need refining, weigh up the opportunity to upskill them. It may be a better choice than someone with the right skills and the wrong attitude. You never know, maybe you can grow a unicorn!

  1.     Set a pre-interview task.

Sometimes to look beyond the rigid checklist and find a worthy candidate, you might just have to see the candidate in action. Test their on-the-job skills. If you think the candidate is “missing” an essential element required to do the job, maybe you could test their ability to learn on the job by setting them a task prior to the interview. If it still seems like they are clueless then bye-bye. But if the task shows promise of being a good enough fit, then you can concentrate on other qualities that would benefit your organisation. They may just be a unicorn in horses clothing­!

  1.     Widen the net.

This is about thinking outside the box again. It’s a summary of all the above and a valuable reminder for recruiters and employers looking to fill a role. If you’ve had no luck finding a recruit, think about reviewing and loosening the initial job description to fit the above ideas. It will be quite a project rejigging the requirements and maintaining the quality of the candidate. But a good recruiter can help you with this process. Remember, you can’t catch a big fish, or unicorn, with a small net.

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