Job Interview Tips: How to Prove You’re a Purple Squirrel

by EdgeLink on July 26, 2016 in Candidate Job Search

Purple SquirrelThere’s a term that IT recruiters use to describe the otherworldly technical talent needed to fit the extravagant job descriptions some companies create: purple squirrel. These candidates have the exact background, skills and education that fit a position’s many complex requirements. And in reality, these fantastical animals don’t exist and neither do those 100% flawless dream candidates.

However, there are ways to convince employers you are the best answer to their mythic purple squirrel and get them to ask for you by name.


Understand There Is No Perfect Candidate.

The first step is to understand that there is no “perfect candidate.” Any job description is going to be an imagining of the type of ideal person for the role. Often, the type of person businesses are looking for at the beginning of the hiring process is not the same person they want by the end.

For example, a startup might believe that an incoming employee needs to have a strong understanding of UX design, a mastery of QA automation, and practical knowledge of the latest big data tools. Though the company may need all of those skills, they might be better off split between two technical professionals.

Or even if their perfect fit exists out there, the company still would be better suited with a technical candidate that doesn’t 100% mirror their ideal. Instead, a candidate that has 70% of the criteria mastered, but needs to learn 30% of the role on the job will be more engaged in daily work because it’ll actually be a challenge. So even if you don’t 100% fit the qualifications, don’t let that deter your search. You could very possibly be the best solution the client doesn’t even know they want.

Identify the Thorn in an Employer’s Side

A purple squirrel, when companies imagine one, is supposed to be the cure-all to a company’s prevailing challenges. He or she sees what’s wrong and gets proactive about reaching a solution. Though they might not have every answer, a candidate committed to impressing organizations will address their pain points.

Most companies will not come out and vent their greatest challenges in writing (or even in-person). A candidate that wants to appear to be a purple squirrel has to dig for answers and plant the seeds of confidence in his or her ability to come up with solutions.

First step is identify their worst pains. How does a tech professional do that? Serious research. What does the company focus on in their communication with clients and potential employees? The answers are in their website copy, press releases, blogs, and social media posts.

  • Are they expanding? If so, which divisions?
  • Are they releasing a new product line or service? If so, how do your skills apply to that growth?
  • Are they starting a new division? Where would you fit in with that team?

Once a candidate identifies pain points, he or she needs to craft answers in advance. Let’s say that a business is planning to release new features in their ecommerce application. If they went with an MVP, as most companies in any highly competitive market will do these days, you can expect some level of on-the-fly troubleshooting being necessary to fix user facing problems.

Strategic candidates will in turn plan responses that show their involvement in a similar launch and demonstrate the tangible results they achieved. Include a few examples like this in your own interview preparations and it might be difficult to differentiate you from a purple squirrel.

Be Able to Talk about Cultural Fit

A purple squirrel, in addition to being a technical wizard, will also integrate into the team as if he or she was custom-made for the job. Surveys find that at least 59% of employers reject candidates due to a lack of cultural fit. In essence, they want a candidate who will be an obvious cultural fit from the moment he or she walks in the door. To be seen as that exceptional fit, candidates need to be vocal about the ways they fit with the culture.

At first, you might imagine it’s tough to achieve. Company culture is one of those intangible things that has a different criteria for different companies. Often, getting a good sense of it requires job seekers to combine findings from the following sources:

  • About Us pages
  • Mission statement pages
  • Community Involvement pages
  • Why Work for Us pages
  • Awards pages
  • Social media posts (Team Events, Join Our Team Ads, etc.)

Whichever cultural concepts overlap across sources are the ones you really want to emphasize. Once again, the major talking points will vary from company to company, so it’s important to evaluate in advance.

How does a purple squirrel differentiate from an ordinary job seeker? That preparation is the biggest differentiator. Plenty of job seekers go into interviews expecting to use most of their allotted questions asking about the culture and getting to know what a company values.

Though there’s nothing wrong with learning new things during the job interview, companies that see a candidate reflecting their own values in each response and who knows what’s important to them is going to seem more like that unbelievable candidate they’ve been waiting for to come along.

How to Get Hot Job Interview Tips and More

One way essential way to appear like a purple squirrel is to be able to adjust on the fly with the latest changes to an open position. Unless candidates have inside contacts at the companies where they are applying, they may be just as blind to the evolving role as the rest of the herd. Strategic adaptability is much easier when job seekers use IT staffing professionals to keep them informed.

Our team of expert recruiters have built relationships with our business clients and can quickly update candidates with the latest insight and advice. Plus, we can build up your reputation so that when employers actually meet you, it’s hard not to imagine you as the perfect person for them. Apply with us today!