How to Hire a Unicorn & Unleash Your Magical Recruiting Powers
Updated: Apr 10
Have you ever had to find a unicorn, that critical hire that is in short supply?
I have. Some examples from my past include:
A Service Technician for an obsolete machine required to travel 95% of the time;
A team of customer service reps with awesome people skills and the availability to work 1st, 2nd or 3rd shift at a moment’s notice in a rural part of the state
A very difficult CEO who essentially needed a clairvoyant Admin Assistant
An IT expert for a very niche program
A Director of a nonprofit with demanding hours without the salary budget to match
Many organizations are constantly on a never-ending quest to find the perfect… (fill in the blank). Sometimes they’ll catch a unicorn for a moment, only to have it run back into the forest, leaving them with what Gallup estimates as approx $660,000 in lost revenue (for a 50K per year employee) and piles of work.
If DIY recruiting is your style, how do you find that one-in-a-million candidate that, in their own unique way, has the power to drive a business towards its full profit-earning potential?
Resourcefulness: You’ve Got to Love the Hunt
Traditional job boards work sometimes, but they can’t be the only weapon arsenal. You are an expert in your industry and have spent years developing contacts in your field, so why not start by asking around for referrals? Be sure to ask people you know and respect. And even when you don’t have a critical opening, never stop recruiting---keep a list (physical or mental) of people that you would love to work with should an opportunity arise.
Once you have exhausted your personal network, start reaching out to others via LinkedIn, Professional Organizations, and Networking Organizations. I personally love LinkedIn Recruiter---although it’s expensive, you can do searches with almost any keyword.
You need to hunt the unicorn instead of searching for it. This is necessary since unicorns tend to be elusive: they aren’t likely to just “show up” out of the blue.
Perspective: You Do You
Unicorns may come in all kinds of shapes and colors, but one thing that unites them is that they can’t be easily bought. They know that they are in demand, and aren’t going to settle for just any job. They’re not only talented but deeply confident---which is exactly what gives them their “unicorn” status.
A true unicorn is discerning---and rightly so. They are evaluating you and your entire business just as much as you are evaluating them. You have to be extremely self-aware and transparent about your strengths and weaknesses as an organization and a leader. So don’t try to sugarcoat them---tell them the magical stuff and the dark Gargemely stuff, since they are going to find out eventually.
Revising Expectations: Can You Hire a Horse Instead?
When you get really clear about expectations in terms of qualifications, aptitude, experience and fit, you may find that you don’t even need a unicorn.
If you want to know if you are really looking for a unicorn or just have unrealistic expectations, you can start by asking yourself these questions:
Why is this position so difficult to fill?
Why did the previous incumbent really leave?
Do I pay below, at or above market for this position in this region?
Is the education requirement necessary for competency in this role?
Where am I located? Do I offer relocation?
Is it necessary that they have the exact previous experience or could you consider an aptitude to learn as a part of the qualifications list?
Hiring for a single position shouldn’t be your full-time job---you’ve got plenty of other things to think about. So instead of being stuck in a cycle of high turnover and being too overwhelmed to be able to see the forest through the trees—or the unicorn in the forest, as it were—it’s likely time to find a fresh angle.