Source | www.abhijitbhaduri.com | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist
A “Purple Squirrel” is that person who fits the role, the culture of the new organization to the T. And can straight away start performing at peak requirement. Do they exist? How do we find them?
In practice I have never seen such an animal. But then I have never seen a unicorn either.
HRKatha.com is a website that has a tagline “Human Resources Simplified”. I suppose this is as good a question to start the simplification process. So here is how the conversation went.
HRKatha.com: How does the term ‘Purple Squirrel’ fit into the hiring process of Indian companies. Is it a popular practice in India or still at a nascent stage?
Abhijit Bhaduri: A “Purple Squirrel” is as mythical as finding a partner who matches every spec possible. But there can be shades of purple and even if the animal is not a squirrel, and as long as it is a rodent, many employers will settle for it.
In some cases the employer may have a candidate in mind. They ask the head hunter or search firm to help them hire the purple squirrel. Some employers define the purple squirrel in terms of qualifications and previous experience. In reality, it is not the competencies that matter in hiring but the new hire’s personality fit with the role and the organization’s culture also determines success in a very big way.
HRKatha.com: How does one identify a Purple Squirrel while hiring?
Abhijit Bhaduri: The fit has to be at two levels – with the role and with the firm’s culture. If the biggest success factor of the role is innovation then that is what the ideal candidate should look for. But the real challenge is to find a fit between the person and the culture of the organization. Some company cultures view a multitasker as someone who is disorganized. In some cultures a multitasker is a role model.
Abhijit Bhaduri: At senior levels the need to find the right fit is even more critical because the work itself is very loosely defined. The person has a great role in interpreting the contours of the role. For instance the person may have great ability to craft a strategy but may not be able to run a team. To make the most of such a person, the organization may support the person with a team member whose skills complement what the new hire brings to the table.
HRKatha.com: What does one need to be careful about while hiring a purple squirrel? Is there any chance of backfire?
Abhijit Bhaduri: Every new hire runs the risk of being rejected by the employees who have had much longer tenure. So after all the effort, if the onboarding is not doing right, the chances of failure are high. An employer may make one of the two mistakes. They may hire the wrong candidate or reject the correct one. After all Amitabh Bachchan was rejected by All India Radio for not having a voice good enough to be an announcer. Several college dropouts (think, Bill Gates) have gone on to build multi-billion empires. There are equal number of people who have degrees and have succeeded or failed at work. For every rule there can be many exceptions.
HRKatha.com: Do you see any disadvantage in hiring a purple squirrel?
Abhijit Bhaduri: Hiring the right person is the best sign of success of the hiring process.
HRKatha.com: Are there any real experiences of hiring a purple squirrel from India or your company like Tony Fadel?
Abhijit Bhaduri: Any new hire who adapts himself or herself to the new employer’s culture and does his or her job well is a purple squirrel. I have never seen anyone doing everything right on day one.