Job Hunters: Consider Branding Yourself as a ‘Purple Squirrel’

Personal Branding

Do you have the “Sunday night blues”? You know, that growing sense of unease, that creeping feeling of dread, at the prospect of having to return on Monday morning to begin yet another week in a job you’ve come to loathe. Or, maybe, your feeling of dread is fueled by the fact that you’re still without a job and will have to start “beating the bushes” all over again on Monday looking for a new job. Well, let me tell you, you’ve certainly got a lot of company!

In addition to the 14 million unemployed people still looking for a new job, somewhere between 40% to 70% of the currently employed are also seeking new jobs because they have become so dissatisfied with their current ones. Depending upon which set of data you read and believe, that means that about 80 million people want a new job! The question then becomes: If you find yourself among these 80 million people, how is the best way for you to go about actually finding a new job? Why not consider the potential benefits of becoming a “purple squirrel” candidate? Let me explain what I mean by this term.

In “headhunting” circles we use the term “purple squirrel” to define a candidate who must meet a very narrowly defined set of criteria to be considered for a hiring company’s job opening. In fact, the criteria established by the hiring company is usually so narrowly defined that it’s nearly impossible to find a candidate who actually meets the job criteria! To be sure, one of the major challenges we “headhunters” face when dealing with a hiring company is to try and educate them on the realities of their job search criteria. Still, many companies continue their quest for the elusive “purple squirrel” candidate, i.e., a candidate who is an aggressively-sought-after candidate!

How do you go about learning how to brand yourself as a “purple squirrel” candidate? A good place to start is by picking up a copy of the recently published Purple Squirrel by Michael B. Junge, currently on Google’s executive recruiting team and formerly a very successful third-party and corporate recruiter. During his illustrious career, Mike has read thousands of résumés, interviewed hundreds and hundreds of people and has dissected what separates the top 25% of the talent pool from all of the rest.

“Most job seekers spend (countless) hours hunting for work and are lucky to receive even a handful of responses from interested employers,” Mike explains in his book. “Others update a few online profiles and magically the phone starts ringing.”

“Have you ever wondered why a given résumé compels instant interview requests, while others produce almost no response at all?” he asks. “Or why some people consistently convert interviews into job offers?”

About half of Purple Squirrel addresses the tactics for finding a job now. The book contains a plethora of proven executables and deliverables that, if implemented properly, will not only allow you to “up your game,” it will also enable you to stand out from the crowd, land interviews and get hired far more quickly than most.  The remaining half of the book is for those of you who may be suffering the “Sunday night blues” and want to explore other career opportunities. Mike literally walks you, the reader, through the process of what it takes to become what he calls an “opportunity magnet.”

“The real purpose of this book,” he says, “is to guide you to the point where you can stop being a job seeker and start being a sought-after resource.”

In other words, Mike shows you how to position yourself as the elusive “purple squirrel,” how to brand yourself as someone within the talent pool who is—or can become!—a highly-sought-after, quite rare species.

As a “headhunter” myself, someone who is in the job market each and every business day dealing with both candidates and hiring companies, I know what it takes for a candidate to succeed in today’s extremely competitive job market. It’s obvious from reading Mike Junge’s Purple Squirrel that he also knows what it takes to succeed in today’s job market, how a job seeker can go about successfully landing his or her dream job.

In addition to my own job hunting book, “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever!, I consistently recommend that serious job seekers have at least  these four excellent job hunting reference books in their libraries: What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles; Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters by Jay Conrad Levinson and David Perry; Snap Selling by Jill Konrath; and ME by Dan Schawbel. Today, I am recommending that they add a fifth “must-have” book: Purple Squirrel by Michael Junge.


Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.