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In search of a unicorn

Every search has its ideal candidate. But looking for a development director who knows every major national funder personally, has worked on a winning policital campaign, lives in Kalamazoo, speaks 10 languages, and is willing to work for $45,000 salary? That type of candidate is what we like to call a unicorn.

Whenever possible, define a position that is realistic and an ideal candidate profile that exists in more than a handful of people. Are you looking for a set of skills and competencies that often do not co-exist within one person? Recognize that if you go forward, your search may be challenging and may not lead to a successful hire without concessions being made. Consider recasting the position into something more realistic and test your job description with colleagues and peers to ensure that it is reasonable and clearly communicates the nature of the role.

Giving up the search for a unicorn (or needle in a haystack, if you prefer) doesn’t mean that you are compromising your position requirements or search standards. Rather, the process of defining a position realistically will force your organization to identify and prioritize which skills, responsibilities, and experiences are most important to making a position work. The result will be hiring the right person into the right role.

For more hiring missteps to avoid, and best practices to follow, check out our article Avoiding 10 Common Search Pitfalls.

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