Why your unicorn job candidate should stay a mythological creature
Hiring 4 minute read

Why your unicorn job candidate should stay a mythological creature

Megan Orr | July 7, 2022

Once upon a time, in a land far far away, every job vacancy ever was filled by the perfect person for the role. Sounds magical, right? You have to ask yourself: Do unicorn job candidates actually exist?

It’s strange how often mythology makes its way into modern vernacular. Unicorn companies are companies valued at over $1 billion dollars. Centaurs are a relatively new concept, and they’re the companies that have over $100 million in annual recurring revenue. We also have the non-magical ponies: companies valued at over $10 million. 

But there’s another unicorn in the work world—the ideal job candidate. 

Like the unicorn, the perfect job candidate is a myth. However, that doesn’t stop managers from continuing their search for the unicorn job candidate, even at the expense of filling the role. 

While it may seem reasonable to want to fill vacancies with the perfect employees, you may actually be discouraging strong candidates from applying. Candidate engagement company ConveyIQ writes that “unicorn job descriptions often include overly-specific skill sets or unclear job requirements that can exclude or discourage perfectly qualified applicants”.

We’ve all likely seen posts about bad job descriptions with unmeetable standards, such as asking for 5 years of experience in a software that’s only been in existence for 3. It’s important that requirements for a role are not only reasonable, but realistic. Recruiters and leaders should also keep in mind that many skills can be taught on the job—whereas soft skills, such as critical thinking and being a team player, can’t be taught. 

If you find yourself trying to find that perfect unicorn job candidate, ask yourself why you’re searching. 

Your answer might be something obvious, such as “We want the perfect candidate to fill this role so we don’t have to complete the search process again in a few months or even years”. If that’s your answer, however, you may have to dig a bit deeper. 

It’s a given that no one wants to hire and train someone only for them to be a mismatch or end up leaving after only a short period of time, but if that’s happening consistently at your organization, you may need to evaluate why. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do our job descriptions and interview processes accurately reflect the roles we are hiring for?
  • Do our job descriptions and interview processes accurately reflect our organization as a whole?
  • Is our onboarding and training process setting employees up for success?
  • Do we offer fair compensation for the role?
  • Are there opportunities for growth within the role and within our organization?

Answering no to any of the above questions may indicate that employees are leaving your organization due to the work environment itself and/or in favour of a better opportunity elsewhere—not because they’re not the perfect fit for the role. 

Figure out what a job candidate must have in order to be successful in a role and work backwards from there. 

If you find yourself and/or your team getting bogged down in what the perfect unicorn job candidate looks like, you’re likely losing sight of the actual job description. Knowing how to write a job description that is succinct and accurately represents the role and your company is integral to ensuring that you attract quality candidates. 

Sit down with the reporting manager for the role and go over specific duties to gain a clearer understanding of the scope of the job. If they say that the role will include researching and writing at least two blog posts a week, that may translate to experience in “Writing and researching on a diverse range of topics and working around tight deadlines”. These skills, which directly relate to the role and work itself, are realistic and attainable for applicants.

It’s important to know what your unicorn job candidate looks like. It’s also equally important to know that it may be a feat of mythological proportion to actually find them. Set realistic expectations, invest in thorough onboarding and training, and work on creating a company culture that supports employees throughout their entire employee journey.

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