What is a “Unicorn” Employee and Are You Wasting Time Searching For One?

It’s normal to envision the perfect person to fill a job vacancy. The position may be brand new, with countless hours put into planning and budgeting to make it happen. Perhaps you need to backfill a position and want to improve upon the results of the previous employee. Regardless of the circumstances, your business has a role to fill, and it can be frustrating as the resumes pour in and you can’t seem to find the perfect candidate.

One applicant has two years of relevant experience when the job description asks for three, and another has the required experience but in a different industry. There’s an applicant who has never worked for a startup, while another has startup experience but the wrong type of degree. You find yourself rejecting more candidates than inviting them to interview and the job position stays open for weeks, then months. These are all telltale signs that you are looking for a Unicorn Employee, which can keep a position vacant in the long term.

What is a “Unicorn” Employee?

A Unicorn Employee is someone who checks all the boxes on a job description. They have the right amount of experience, the perfect industry background, an ideal college degree; they’re exactly who you’re looking for. You visualize this employee as a self starter; jumping right in with little to no training, and melding seamlessly with team members to start achieving results quickly.

Before an open position can be posted, you need to write a job description. Business leaders and hiring managers collaborate to turn the idea of a job into a cogent job description with an alluring edge to encourage candidates to apply. It is during the process of creating the job description that the idea of a Unicorn Employee begins to materialize and the image of the ideal candidate forms in your mind.

Qualities “Unicorn” Employees Typically Possess

Unicorn Employees are hardworking, raise the bar on what “good” looks like, and get along with everyone. These employees tend to wear many hats and work extra hard to get the job done, all with effortless ease. A struggle when searching for one of these employees is that they are extremely rare and hard to find (hence the name “Unicorn”) but once hired, can be even harder to hold on to.

An important part of retaining employees is through keeping them engaged at work by ensuring they are leveraging their strengths while also learning new skills. If an employee is hired because they mirror the job description, that leaves little room for development. This can lead to complacency and a desire for the employee to look for a more challenging opportunity.

Is it Worth the Time Searching for a “Unicorn” Employee?

If you’re determined to find someone who matches your job description one hundred percent, the truth is, you may be searching forever.  Finding a perfect candidate is usually an impossible task. When you become married to the idea that you will only accept a Unicorn Employee, it opens the door for potential bias by eliminating candidates who otherwise could have had the ambition to bring your business to the next level. If you do find a Unicorn Employee, it is possible that other employers have their eye on them as well. This means you may have to pay a premium salary to get them on board, and the probability of them getting swiped away from your organization by a competitor increases.

There are a few key ways to avoid falling into the neverending hunt for that Unicorn Employee. When writing a job description, consider what parts of the position are teachable and which aspects are non-negotiable. If you’re hiring for a position that uses specific software, a potential employee may need to know that to be successful, making it non-negotiable. However, if the position combines the use of that software with a less crucial skill, the latter is something that can be taught during the onboarding process. This increases your candidate pool, allowing you to fill the open position with a qualified (but maybe not perfect) candidate quickly.

Need Help Recruiting the Right People For Your Business?

A seemingly fool-proof process we use to ensure you are hiring the right candidate for your business, regardless of “Unicorn status”, is by combining Behavioral Interviewing with hiring for your company’s core values. When you approach the interview process with your core values at the forefront, you can rest assured that the person you decide to hire will not only contribute to your already existing culture but also possess the skill-set to help your business achieve its long term goals. Integrating Behavioral Interviewing into the recruitment process sheds light on a candidate’s ability to get the job done by discovering how they handled specific situations in the past.

If you have been struggling with finding the right candidate, or tend to have jobs go unfilled for months at a time, Red Clover can help! We offer Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) as a way to find exceptional talent for your business. With our RPO services, we handle the recruitment process from beginning to end.  This includes description development, Behavioral Interviewing training for hiring managers, candidate resume review, conducting interviews, and more. We provide a hands-on approach that doesn’t have the costly recruitment fees associated with a recruitment agency. If you need help finding your next employee, contact us to get the conversation started, we’d love to talk with you.

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Architects and Engineers

We were referred to a successful values-driven architecture firm approaching a 50 person headcount with HR needs. As they approached that employment milestone, they needed to ensure they had the HR structure to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations and were set up for successful growth. We worked to help put the right policies and processes in place to support the scalability of their organization.

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