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Career Corner: Purple Unicorns Don’t Exist

This is the only purple unicorn hiring managers are going to find. – Courtesy photo

By Angela Copeland

Dear Hiring Manager,

You’re amazing. You’re the gatekeeper to new jobs, and the person who will later help us to get a promotion that will help our careers. But, we have to talk.

The last eighteen years have been great. Unemployment was high. You’ve been able to be picky. You could create a long wish list for your open jobs, and a perfect candidate would appear. They might even take less money than market value. You didn’t have to bother about relocation. They were so happy to have a job, they’d move themselves. And, forget about signing bonuses or extra vacation days. Those things were so 1999.

Landing a great candidate was easy. People were desperate to find work, and willing to put up with just about anything you could dish out. But, the time to rebalance things has come. After all the good years, we are back down to record low unemployment. It’s below four percent.

The good news is, people are feeling excited again. Jobs are coming open that haven’t been available in a while. Things are going well for everyone. You’re probably happy too. You’re able to hire again. You’ll be able to bring new folks into the organization. It will be a great time for fresh, new ideas!

But, there’s one little change since last time you were hiring. The market has shifted to the favor of the job seeker. This isn’t bad. It means that you’re going to find someone who really wants to work for you. They’re not going to join your organization just to escape their current role. They actually like you, and your open job.

This change comes with a catch. You’re going to have to cut back on that big wish list. I know; it’s hard. You want everything in one person. You want someone who understands sales and marketing and technology and operations. They need ten years of experience. They should’ve worked at an organization just like yours and they should have used all of the same software that you use.

This is where I have to be honest with you. This person does not exist. In the world of hiring, they’re called a Purple Unicorn (no kidding). As long as you keep searching for the unicorn, your jobs are going to remain unfilled. You are frustrating your company’s human resources team with your unrealistic requests. You’re offending great candidates. And, your jobs are staying open for over ninety days.

So, what’s the answer? It’s time to cut your wish list of twenty requirements back to six. It’s time to look for fit and it’s time to look for the person who’s willing to work hard and has the right attitude. That’s the person you want on your team; not just someone who can check a bunch of boxes. The sooner you can understand this, the faster you will find the right people.



Angela Copeland, a career coach and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at

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