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The Hunt For The Purple Squirrel

Is the Purple Squirrel driving you nuts?

The Hunt For The Purple Squirrel

Like me you may never have heard of the Purple Squirrel until today, but it is found in New Zealand.

And as I write this I can say I think the Purple Squirrel is alive and well in Manawatu, but rest assured you won't find them harvesting local nuts and storing them in hollow crooks and crannies in Kauri, Totara and Rimu trees.

Read on to find out where they are found...

A quick google search on "what is a purple squirrel?" and I get to this link:


A purple squirrel is a metaphor used by recruiters and human relationship managers to describe the perfect job candidate. Because squirrels in the real world are not often purple, the implication is that finding the perfect job candidate with exactly the right qualifications, education and salary expectations can be a daunting – if not impossible -- task.  

In a nutshell (no pun intended) when hiring managers focus on hiring an absolutely perfect person in the absence of understanding/acknowledging the local labour supply changes daily then they are hunting Purple Squirrels.


In regional areas - like Manawatu, Horowhenua, Tararua, Wairarapa and Rangitikei - job seekers tell us they are often very flexible in the roles they can take and are capable of. We have seen employees who have been in different industries are often intelligent, observant and inquisitive helping them easily get cross-trained or upskilled.


When recruiting in regional locations success often comes when you hire employees with good aptitude and attitudes, then upskill them in your industry/organisation to retain them for the long term.

Difference is good

When one of your loyal long-term team members moves on, retires or gets promoted remember that at one stage they were new to your organisation. Someone (like you) employed them and over time they learnt, grew and developed into the valuable experienced employee they are now.

If you try to replace them with an exact clone and ask for the same experience, education and qualifications you will have over-looked up-and-coming employees who are able and willing to grow into your ideal. By recruiting a "fresher" version of this wonderful former employee you get fresh ideas, often with modern technical orientation and high motivation a.k.a enthusiasm.

Alternatively, if you are presented with a wiser employee who has skill and experience above that of the wonderful former employee - do you instinctively reject them for fear they are "over-qualified", "won't stay" or "worth more than you can pay"?


Recent history tells us that New Zealand employees are generally willing and able to work longer (and retire later). Also that more senior/experienced employees offer perspective, intuition and first-hand experience that "more junior" employees benefit from.

Reflect on some past recruitment drives where you struggled to get the right person. Try asking yourself what are/were:

  1. Essential requirements?
  2. Desirable requirements?
  3. Possible bonuses of "over-qualified" applicants?
  4. Areas you could have been more flexible?

Is it possible your difficult recruitment drive would have ended more quickly if you had worked with a more flexible hiring choice?

By being pragmatic, open-minded and flexible when hiring you'll often avoid becoming a "Purple Squirrel Hunter", and save yourself stress, time and money along the way. Additionally your organisation will enjoy the many benefits of a capable diverse workforce in the long term. This may ultimately help you become an employer of choice - the ones highly skilled employees look for.


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PO Box 594, Palmerston North 4440


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