By Marc Basil | January 23, 2018


Purple squirrel. Pink Unicorn. The list goes on and on. Anyone who has spent time in the search i.e. permanent, direct-hire arena has heard these terms to describe a professional with an incredibly specific set of attributes that a hiring organization is looking for concerning an open position. Often times, an individual bringing the required skillset at the correct salary point etc., simply does not exist.

A colleague and I recently met the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of a publicly-traded organization who recently joined the company. His management team was also part of our meeting as the CFO is looking to significantly change his accounting and finance organization and needs our firm’s assistance in doing so. As we detailed out specific accountabilities, ideal backgrounds etc., the CFO stopped the meeting and provided an incredibly enlightened point: “I don’t care if the candidate has a CPA, MBA, or all the right experience, if the candidate is not passionate about what we are trying to do here, the candidate is not a right fit for us.”

The world of search is an interesting one, as our industry sits between hiring organizations and candidates with the ultimate goal of bringing two parties together. After a long career in this space, I continue to be amazed with how this is both incredibly simple and incredibly difficult at the same time. Hiring organizations, understandably so, do not want to make a poor hire, so the overwhelming focus is on experience, pedigree and education—this certainly should be a focus, but not the only focus.

What is lost in this day and age of “keywords on resumes” are the softer skills such as presence, communication, potential, fit, chemistry, upside, grit—and the list goes on and on. Often times, these qualities are not included on a person’s resume.

In fact, a vicious circle exists for both candidates and hiring companies because of this—the candidate cannot get a meeting because the resume does not “check every box” and the hiring company becomes frustrated that the “perfect candidate” never surfaces. This results in the position remaining open for a significant amount of time.

If a hiring company used the time on training an otherwise qualified candidate on whatever technical attribute may have been lacking instead of hunting for a purple squirrel, many of these open positions would since have been filled.

Recruiting and hiring are both an art and a science and neither will ever be perfect, but more focus on the soft skills is certainly a good place to start.

What are your thoughts on soft skills in the workplace? Share in the comments below!


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