Northeast Human Resources Association
Connect. Grow. Thrive.
Join   |   About   |   Contact Us   |   Sign In
Finding the Purple Unicorn
Share |

Finding the Purple Unicorn

By: Jody Robie, Senior Vice President North America for Talent Works International (TWI)


“If I were running a company today, I would have one priority above all others: to acquire as many of the best people as I could [because] the single biggest constraint on the success of my organization is the ability to get and to hang on to enough of the right people."   Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great”


We used to hear about the war for talent – the problem is, talent won. Today, it is harder than ever to find the talent that can help companies grow and succeed. The marketplace is more competitive; candidates are better informed of their choices and more discerning in their selections; and, in sectors such as technology, finance, media and broadcasting, the in-demand skill sets are ever-changing.


The Purple Unicorn used to be how Talent Acquisition leaders described the unique challenges they faced in finding talent. It’s no longer simply the case that talent is rare. More and more companies know how to find those purple unicorns – and many of them are deploying incredibly sophisticated search, tracking and selection systems to get to them first!


So, if it feels harder to hire good people today, that’s because it is! Organizations globally need to adjust their hiring strategy to sustain their advantage. Many are already doing so. As Talent Acquisition becomes a more complex picture, the most forward-thinking employers are looking beyond traditional talent pools. The Rainbow Unicorn? Trust me, there’s Diversity teams out there already searching hard every day.


This shift in the balance of power towards the candidate is supported by record lows in unemployment. Unemployment rates nationally are down towards the 4.4 percent figures last seen a decade ago. In fact, the April data for Massachusetts was even lower - 3.9%. * 


Through the first four months of 2017, Massachusetts has added over twenty thousand jobs, with much of those gains coming from key sectors of the economy like Professional, Business and Scientific Services” reports Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald L. Walker.



Building a proactive talent strategy

The secret is having a realistic understanding around your organization and the postions you need to fill. Competitive insight allows you to understand how you can differentiate your business to the right candidate. By looking at direct competitors and those companies in your zip code, you know how your proposition competes. If you are not paying the best salary, but the culture is amazing, message that first so you can be honest and informed as to what a candidate will gain when they join.


As an active candidate, I may take a quick look on Glassdoor or Indeed. A recent search on Indeed for Program Manager jobs in a 25-mile radius of Waltham, MA gave more than 10,000 results. The same search on Glassdoor delivered 20,000 potential jobs. Not all of these roles are the type of Program Manager role I may be looking for, so how am I going to proceed with my search? I’m going to look for the companies I’ve heard about, check out the convenient locations and potentially network with anyone I know internally to avoid being just another applicant in the ATS (Applicant Tracking System). If I am really serious, I’ll look at salary and management reviews and see if the company has won any “best places to work” awards.


So what can you do to compete?

You need to understand how the candidate/unicorn thinks. Maybe you can’t outbid everyone else for talent – but you can understand what that talent aspires to, what their ambitions are, what their fears and hopes for the future are. Understanding this – what makes candidates feel valued, motivated, secure and rewarded – is just as important as reviewing resumes for the technical requirements listed in the requisition. It helps you to gain insight into where those candidates/unicorns will want to go next. So you can be there ahead of them, to reach out and begin building a relationship with them before they begin their active job search.


There is no guarantee that every candidate will want to join your organization. However, researching and evaluating your talent pipeline creates better clarity for recruiters and a clearer view of the marketplace for hiring managers and leadership. Organizations may not have the internal resources to conduct proactive sourcing, but pipelining for a key role is an easy thing to outsource.


"Never hire someone who knows less than you do about what he's hired to do." 

Malcolm Forbes 


Some steps in the right direction


1.       Role validation

Whether you have a newly created position or not, the right job title is key. As mentioned above, Program Manager/Project Manager titles can range from someone just out of school making $35,000 to a Global Program Director earning 5 times as much. An initial overview of the role, competencies and attributes required helps to determine the right level, the right title and the potential pool in the local market.


Conducting this process prior to even opening a requisition is time well spent. Using this research and insight has helped companies determine whether it makes sense to separate a global function like Marketing and Forecasting, build out a COE or split a role into 2 positions. A few weeks of upfront research to validate the role, confirm the qualifications and build out the available talent pool greatly increases the likelihood of identifying appropriate passive candidates, once the active search begins.


2.       Target the competition

‘Post and pray’ isn’t working anymore. The number of roles is overwhelming.  Candidates can apply with a quick click on their phone, so they don’t read the job description or location carefully. Busy Talent Acquisition teams don’t have the time to sift through the clutter or respond to the best candidates quickly enough.


Sourcing depends on identifying those companies you admire, as well as those you compete with. Once again, it is time well spent. Think beyond your industry, beyond your traditional talent communities, beyond conventional job descriptions and challenge your own idea of what good looks like. If you can avoid limiting yourself, the appeal for top talent to make a move is even greater if a candidate has the chance to transition into another industry and broaden their own knowledge.


3.       Tell your story authentically 

Developing an EVP (Employer Value Proposition) showcasing what it is really like to work for your company is a key step in finding the right people to join your organization. It also helps the right people who just wouldn’t fit into your company culture to de-select themselves out of the process at an earlier stage.


EVP messaging goes beyond promoting what you do as a business and shares what it is really like to join your team and work with your employees. For organizations with multiple disciplines or locations, a strong EVP will enable you to identify the unique selling points for specific recruitment drives. For example, let’s say you are a healthcare or consumer goods company looking to hire multiple IT professionals - roles which are not part of your core business offering. Your overarching Employer Value Proposition might not be compelling enough, unless you add in the ‘WIFM’ - What’s In It For Me – factor.


Understanding ‘What’s In It For Me?’ also means thinking about how best to bring it to life. Words, imagery, video, animation, online presence? These elements work together to elevate the job description to another level. Providing a clear destination to see the message is important and to do that effectively you need a campaign. 


4.       Campaign Solutions

Once a segmented attraction message has been created, it is important to create a destination where individuals can be directed to – where you can share the compelling reasons as to why individuals should want to work for your company.


An engaging story, sophisticated graphics and a digital strategy to reach the target audience are the main components of a successful recruitment campaign. Brand consistency is no longer the mantra. It’s still important, but every campaign needs to deliver relevant content to a specific audience.


This is where companies of all sizes have the opportunity to compete. Investing in the message and serving up that message to the right passive candidates allows your organization to break out from the traditional job board clutter. More importantly, this type of strategy allows for ROI measurement with real-time analytics driving response and engagement.  


Campaigns can be built on job boards, but  programmatic advertising can be more effective. Programmatic offers the opportunity to deliver a deeper story which will result in more brand engagement and appropriate applicants. It will open up opportunities outside of the limited markets accessed through job boards. All channels will work in combination to ensure the audience is reached, captured and engaged, wherever they are, on whatever device they are using.


Your main career site may be the ultimate destination, but often a unique destination campaign landing page or micro-site allows for customized content and unique roles to be updated quickly and efficiently without waiting for internal marketing/web teams to develop content. Interest can be measured to allow for candidates just to have a call and conversation without a full application/ATS process. Sourcing teams can be outsourced to offer support in finding qualified candidates to come over to Talent Acquisition teams ready to recruit.


Examples of successful campaign destination sites can be viewed below:

  •– Allowing Akamai to recruit for a training class in Poland, and to engage diverse candidates without a technical degree.
  • - Landing page to promote marketing careers globally.
  • - Promoting new career opportunities in NY and Boston for wagamama’s US launch.
  • Regardless of the budget, role or timelines it pays to be prepared and informed.  Whether you insource or outsource, knowing what you need and where you think you can find the right talent is key:
    • Research and review with free tools to understand the competitive landscape.
    • Understanding your reputation in the market and that of your competitors will allow for you to be prepared to connect with passive and active candidates.
    • Sourcing and building talent pipelines saves time and money in the future as your business grows.
  • You start building relationships before you need them and ultimately position your organization as an employer of choice for the right talent.


The market is competitive and the outlook can be overwhelming, but knowing the attributes of your business and the places to look will help you find the best talent first.


Jody Robie is the Senior Vice President North America for Talent Works International (TWI). Talent Works International is a global talent communications firm which helps organizations around the world build effective and efficient talent strategies through our research, sourcing and creative teams. With the North American headquarters in Waltham, MA, TWI continues to be a strong supporter of NEHRA. Please contact or for more information.




To learn more, join Jody Robie on Wednesday, July 26 for a webinar in partnership with NEHRA – FREE for NEHRA Members!


Finding the Purple Unicorn: Diversifying your talent strategy in 2017

Registration and more info here


NEHRA's Annual Partners

One Concord Farms
490 Virginia Road, Suite 32
Concord, MA 01742-2747
Phone: 781-235-2900 • Fax: 781-237-8745

Membership Management Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal