Stop Hiring Your Purple Cow!

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Purple Cow

Yes, Purple Cow.

This was a concept popularized by Seth Godin in his bestselling book Purple Cow. The basic concept of the Purple Cow is to stand out and be insanely different from your competitors. According to Godin, the world is full of mediocrity and if you want to be successful in business or in your personal life or in anything that you do, you need to be different – really different – in order to be noticed and to get ahead of your competitors.

The term “Purple Cow??? can also be used in the same way with expressions such as “Purple Squirrel??? or “Purple Elephant??? – all commonly used to describe something that is very different or very rare.

The funny thing is many recruiters and hiring managers are looking for their Purple Cow in their next hire – that one rare hire who meets all of their job specifications spelt out in their job descriptions.

For instance, take this job advertisement I pulled from a career site recently looking for Global IT Helpdesk Specialist:

You will be part of a larger Global IT Operations Centre team consisting of three tiers; Helpdesk, tier 2 support escalation, and the tier 3 Network Operations Centre (NOC) with locations in Singapore, Edinburgh, and Seattle, WA. Additionally, this position will act as the hub for a satellite Chinese Helpdesk located in China. There are advancement opportunities in Singapore to tier 2 and tier 3, in additional to local site support in Singapore and elsewhere in APAC.

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to, troubleshooting and resolving contacts related to Office applications, Exchange email, and SharePoint as well as providing support for Unix and Windows accounts, permissions and network printing.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Support all IT Software in a very fast-paced and demanding environment
  • Contribute to the evaluation of the IT function and its resources
  • Be a main point of contact for individuals reporting or highlighting issues with systems or services
  • Ensure that issues are addressed and SLAs are met
  • Troubleshoot and resolve systems errors and failures to root cause
  • Ensure security procedures are followed and enforced
  • Live and non-real time resolution of customer incidents using chat, phone, and Remedy trouble tickets
  • Provide back-up support to local IT including PC hardware and peripherals

Basic Qualifications

  • Conversationally bi-lingual in English and Chinese to support Chinese speaking internal business people
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills. This includes the ability to explain technical terminology to non-technical end users.
  • Self-motivated and directed
  • Keen attention to detail
  • Knowledge in Microsoft Windows 7 and additionally one or more of the following: Mac OS X, Linux.
  • Knowledge in Microsoft Office Products and client applications required
  • Hardware and software troubleshooting experience

Preferred Qualifications

  • Background with Exchange and Active Directory
  • Former IT experience or training
  • Flexibility, thinking on your feet, and strong problem solving skills.
  • Demonstrable track record dealing well with ambiguity, prioritizing needs, and delivering measurable results in a dynamic environment.

That is a really tall order for an IT Helpdesk Specialist position, which in most organizations is considered a junior level position.

The question is: How many IT Helpdesk Specialists out there in the market would meet ALL of these requirements?

Now, imagine you were looking for a plumber to fix your leaking basin. What would your requirement be for the plumber? Would you list the following as requirements for your plumber?

Plumber needed. Must have eight years’ experience in the maintenance, troubleshooting, testing, installation, and repair of pumps, pipes, fittings, and fixtures, including both cut, threaded, and welded pipes, as well as familiarization with local, regional, and national plumbing, heating, and cooling codes and regulations. Good level of personal hygiene and professional demeanour and attire are required. Must be able to demonstrate effective verbal, presentation, and listening skills as well as operate computerized accounting, spreadsheet, and database programs at a highly proficient level.

In all honesty, how many plumbers do you think would meet this list of requirements?

Or would you try:

Plumber needed. Must be great at fixing leaking sinks and basins. If you have experience in discovering why a sink or basin is leaking and can fix it quickly, you are hired!

Which of the plumber advertisement do you think would be more effective?

Of course, some of you reading this would be thinking: “Hey but how can you compare an IT Helpdesk Specialist position with that of a Plumber????

But that’s not the point.

The point is that if you are looking for a Purple Cow, Purple Squirrel, or a Purple Elephant in your next hire, then you are probably barking up the wrong tree.

Keep your job description short and sharp, and simple to understand. Ask yourself what two or three things that are absolutely critical for the person to be successful in that position – and then highlight these two or three things in your job advertisement or job description.

Clarity is absolutely important when you are writing the job descriptions or the job advertisements. The clearer you are about what is needed for that position to be successful, the more precise and concise you will be with your job description and the job advertisement.

So stop looking for your next Purple Cow or your next Purple Elephant. Ask yourself these three questions before you write your next job description or your next job advertisement:

  • Why are we hiring for this position?
  • What do we need this position to accomplish within the first three months, six months, and twelve months on the job?
  • What are three things this person must have in order to be successful in this position?

Asking these question will help you focus on those things that are most important and would likely result in finding the RIGHT candidate for your organization – because we all know Purple Cows and Purple Squirrels don’t exist.

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June 9, 2015

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