Are you trying to recruit a Unicorn?

Ange Connor

My role is unique; it requires a bit of a different skill set to the same type of positions in other businesses because we do things a little differently here. Sound familiar?

For example: the job brief (the skills, experience, knowledge and background required) when recruiting for a Production Manager for one company compared to another company could be completely different. Every role is a little unique and one company may have more focus on a particular skill set than what another company would. Many factors come in to play when scoping out a role and identifying the skill set needed to do the job. The challenge can be that when scoping out a role we end up with a wish list of skills, experience and knowledge that is a mile long and before you know it you are trying to recruit for a unicorn.

I often see these unicorn wish lists when recruiting for small businesses but it can happen in any business. It’s even happened to me when recruiting team members for Inspire HQ!

It’s an easy trap to fall in to. As business owners get to emotionally invested in trying to find the perfect employee. The reality is that no one is ever perfect. Our business is our baby and we want the best for our baby but as we start to build our position description and then the job advert, factor in any perceptions and biases based of previous experiences (good or bad) and we now have ourselves a unicorn wish list and in doing so we have just set ourselves up for recruitment failure.

I also see this happen when an employee is recruiting for their own role because they have been promoted into another role. It can be easy to fall into the trap of identifying a long list of skills that you have that you think make you effective in doing the job instead of creating a list of the critical skills needed to do the job.


If you have in the past or feel like you have the potential to fall into the trap of trying to recruit a unicorn, here’s the top 3 tips that I have learnt from being a unicorn recruiter:

  1. Involve others

My number one piece of advice is to not try and do it alone. Involving others will allow your thoughts and opinions to be challenged. Others will see the role differently, I guarantee it. Getting input from team members, who may or may not work directly with the vacant position, can be really valuable and provide different perspectives for you to consider. If you can’t involve your team, you can get advice from external sources. When I was just starting to employee team members I’d talk a lot about the skills I needed to bring in to the business with my business mentor. Recruiters and HR Consultants can also be really helpful in providing advice and feedback and a professional recruiter who knows their market will be able to tell you what your chances are of finding that unicorn.


  1. Take your time

Rushing the scoping of the role and developing the PD and job advert will only lead to disaster. While you might be in a hurry to go to market and recruit the problem with rushing it is that you’ll go to market looking for the wrong skill set or you will go to market looking for that unicorn that you will never find. Start with asking yourself what does success look like in the role, then work backwards from there. What are the tasks they need to perform and what are the skills needed to achieve success and perform those tasks? Review what you draft over even just a few days. Have someone else review the document and get them to challenge your thinking.


  1. Be flexible

As I mentioned earlier there is no such thing as a perfect recruit and chances are that if you think you have found the perfect employee it will be too good to be true. When developing your wish list of skills and expertise, break them down in to Critical and Nice to Have. Then look at what can you teach and what existing skills do you need someone to be able to bring to the table. I often see at the top of these wish lists statements like 5 plus years experience. Do they really need 5 years? What if they only have 3 years? These kinds of criteria in your job advert can deter great people from applying so it’s important to really analyse what will engage and deter potential candidates from applying.


Recruiting for unicorns is hard work and often futile; you are setting yourself up to fail before you have even begun. Before you jump in and start your next recruitment process take a step back and pause to work your way through these top three tips for recruitment success.

About The Author
Ange Connor

Ange is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource (HR) and careers agencies. Ange is an ‘ideas’ person and a ‘big picture’ thinker. She loves to challenge the status quo – in fact, that’s how Inspire HQ began.

Ange has supported hundreds of businesses across Ballarat and regional Victoria to attract, engage, motivate, develop and retain their greatest assets; their people. Ange’s unyielding passion and invaluable knowledge of the recruitment and HR industry ensures she delivers the best solutions for her clients.

Ange has held various board positions and regularly volunteers her time to share her industry and market knowledge. She was recently a Councillor for the Victoria and Tasmania region of the Recruitment Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) of Australia and New Zealand, and she is a current Board Director of the Committee for Ballarat.

For more useful information, follow Ange on LinkedIn.

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