How to Find a Unicorn for your Business

Unicorns are amazing. Lisa Frank built an entire industry on that premise.

In business, the term unicorn is applied to something so specific, so niche, so unbelievable that it might as well be fictional. For instance, when the US Federal Reserve hinted at raising rates, many speculated that it mean the end for unicorn start-up funding.

Interpro specialises in finding candidates with a particular, often narrow, set of skills. Need someone who’s up on the latest with SAP 4/HANA? Done. How about someone who can massage a 15-year-old database in to a modern system. We know people.

Someone with that narrow skillset can be hard to find and, often, harder to coax out of their existing position. What can you do, then, to find this rare person?

  1. Look for people with related skills

Just because you need someone who knows how to update a WordPress website doesn’t mean that their experience should solely be in that technology. A great PHP developer is not going to have trouble picking apart that code.

We’re not saying hire someone with completely unrelated skills, but finding the right person can be a matter of stretching someone in to a new technology.

  1. Review your job requirements

I’d love to be able to deliver you a unicorn with seven zebra stripes that run perfectly perpendicular to the ground, however sometimes it’s just not possible. Having no tolerance for variation is generally going to lead to disappointment.

Be prepared to be flexible about requirements that aren’t mission-critical. If you’re looking for a business marketer who specialises in brand and content marketing, don’t immediately turn them away if their technical skills aren’t up to snuff. Some patience and training can go a long way with an otherwise ideal candidate.

  1. Talk with people about their specialty

In addition to finding someone who is great at their job, you should find someone who is passionate about it as well. That passion can help you turn a borderline candidate into one with more potential because they’re willing and able to learn.

The more time you spend with your candidates, the better you’ll be able to judge their skills and fit. Your time is valuable, however, so sifting through a mountain of applications and bringing in 40 people for a chat is not feasible. Use social media to expand on the bullet points in a CV, and balance that with the details on paper.

  1. Use behavioral and cognitive tests to define the best fits

There’s a lot of discussion around the importance of a cultural fit in your office. What’s great to know, however, is how people will react to specific scenarios. Have a lot of routine, mind-numbing work? Test to see how a person will perform. Anyone can write in their cover letter about how they are a self-starter. Use science to find out the truth.

  1. Use 2 people to do 1 person’s job

Looking for a unicorn is difficult because they’re the confluence of a very particular set of skills. Finding one person to fill that role may be difficult. Finding a team, however, can be easier. Don’t be afraid to find people who can tick many boxes and cover many roles. It’s about applying enterprise and start-up mentalities to help keep your business agile. Sure, headcount can get in the way but that’s a great reason to bring in specialised recruiters to find contractors to firm up a project. Once it’s off the ground, you may be able to find someone to help manage it that doesn’t require as much of an investment.

In all, unicorns are mythical for a reason. Finding the perfect person on paper doesn’t mean that you’ll find the perfect person for your workforce.

Have you had any luck finding a unicorn in your business? What tips and tricks can you offer? Let us know in the comments below.

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