Hiring the right people is critical to building a strong and stable workforce. But is there such a thing as the perfect candidate for a job? Liz Folpp, Senior Consultant in Marketing and Digital at GWG, steps us through how you can find the best fit for your next hire and when it’s worth committing extra resources to catch a unicorn.

As a hiring manager, it’s likely that you’ve experienced the occasional long and disappointing search for the ‘perfect’ candidate. You know the one – the candidate that ticks every single box on your (long) wish list of skills, qualifications, and experience and blows you away at interview? It’s the candidate with a ‘can do’ attitude and a great work ethic, who is high-performing and brings out the best in others in the team. The candidate who is dedicated, efficient, asks great questions, and has the kind of interpersonal skills that has them seamlessly fitting into your working culture the moment they walk in the door. In the recruiting world, we refer to these candidates as ‘unicorns’; because whether they exist or not (and if they do, they’re very rare!), the idea of spotting, enticing and securing one is tantalising.

Fact or fiction – is there such a thing as a unicorn?

Finding the perfect fit all depends on how you define ‘perfect’! So whether or not there is a unicorn to fit your role depends on how you define the essential criteria in a given position description. More often than not, you’ll be much better off focusing on finding your recruitment ‘sweet spot’ than chasing unicorns. For example, if you’re hiring for a digital marketing specialist in the consumer packaged goods industry, you might look for someone with strong skills in online lead generation and digital activation, but maybe you also want someone who has experience in marketing baby products specifically, and holds a masters degree, and has 6 or more years experience in the sector. The likelihood of finding a single candidate who meets every single criterion on your list, is a good cultural fit, and is currently in the job market is…next to zero. So let’s redefine ‘perfect’: does our candidate really need direct experience in baby products, or could experience in another consumer packaged goods subsector (or even another industry, like retail) be equally transferable? Does our candidate need a masters degree, or is that just a desirable ‘nice to have’ that might help you distinguish between two equally experienced candidates? Find your recruitment sweet spot: break your position description down into what is actually essential to the role, understand how competitive the market is for the skillset you’re looking for, be open to opportunities for candidates with transferable skills and experience to upskill on the job, and don’t ignore the importance of finding a good cultural fit.

It takes a unicorn to find a unicorn

Of course there will be occasions – for example, when hiring for a senior, highly complex or specialised role – when it feels like you really do need to find that unicorn. In our experience, potential candidates for these roles – whose skills are in high demand – are already likely to be in secure employment. They will often be motivated by more than just money; and while offering a competitive salary will be important (given the demand for their skills), quite often it’s other benefits like opportunities to continually grow and develop, pursue a passion project, or explore emerging trends that are likely to attract them to pastures-new. They are unlikely to be browsing job sites for vacancies, and may be hard to reach without specialist knowledge, so partnering with a recruitment agency with experience in recruiting for the kind of role you’re considering is a smart first step to positioning yourself as the ‘unicorn employer’ your potential candidate would be willing to leave their current role for. A good agency will use their knowledge and networks to help you target specific industries, organisations and individuals, and will be well placed to advise you on how to spot and secure your unicorn with an enticing offer. They will also be well placed to put candidates forward that you might not otherwise have considered on paper (in our experience, unicorns often cannot be identified from a CV alone!).

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If you’re looking to secure a unicorn for your next hire, or think you might be one, reach out to Liz Folpp today on 0402 767 365 or email liz.folpp@gwg.com.au.