Stop Hunting Unicorns

by | Sep 27, 2023

No more unicorns!

Recruiters, for the sake of your sanity, stop it! If you keep looking for unicorns instead of actual candidates…

  1. You will get super frustrated and hate your job.
  2. You could start doubting your capabilities.
  3. If you do get close, and your HM still rejects them… see step 1.
  4. You may even make a voodoo doll of your unrealistic HM (joke, maybe).
  5. You are wasting your irreplaceable time and the company’s money.

You get the idea, right?

There is no reason to damage your mental health because your hiring manager is being daft. You don’t need to send yourself down a path of self-doubt because they won’t listen to you! It is completely unnecessary.


Instead of hunting for unicorns…

1. Enter the meeting prepared

This is detailed in Chapter 5 of The Robot-Proof Recruiter – go in with market data, competitor intel, an idea of candidate data, and possible internal candidates. Be ready to discover the urgency of the role and the associated pain if it is not filled, which can be used to chase them. And get the HM’s commitment on timescales and communication preferences.

Plus, know your own stats. Nothing is more confidence-boosting than being able to quote an example of when another manager gave you a respectful brief and process and saved themselves a bucket load of time, money and stress.

2. During the briefing call, run a search

Type in everything they say right there and then, and hit search. Then show them the unicorns! Show them how few people exist that can do what they are asking.

Ask, ‘These people have their choice of jobs. What can we offer that would entice these [number] people to come and work for us?’ and patiently wait for the reply. Silence is key.

Then, ‘Shall we try removing some of these must-haves? What could they learn on the job?’ Run the search, and show them how much bigger the pool is.

And repeat.

3. Make Hiring Managers look forward

Ask questions that help your HM articulate what they actually need. Most ask for unicorns because they’ve not spent enough time on it (and because most hate hiring), so they list everything (to fob you off/cover too many bases).

  • As Steve Levy shares in my book, ‘What problem are they coming in to solve?’

  • My fave, ‘How will you know at the end of 12 months that you have hired the right person?’

These answers are unlikely to reflect what’s on the unicorns job description. Not only will it stop you from wasting time looking for a stupid number of must-haves, you will also hear about crucial “soft” skills. This will mean better outreach, fewer interviews, and overall, save time and reduce hassle.

And importantly, you will get your HMs thinking with these questions. When people surprise us by making us think, we start to respect them. Get that respect, and it will be far easier to push back in the future.

Empathise with new managers

Countless managers have been promoted into the role with next to no training and can suffer from imposter syndrome. Hiring someone for their team is a big step, and those who seek unicorns are scared they’ll get it wrong, so become the safe talent acquisition partner they can rely on to make them look good. Oops, I mean help them get it right, deliver the project, secure their bonus, etc.

Educate stubborn managers

Often the stubborn ones haven’t changed jobs in a long time, right? So show them how to job search in 2023. Show them how much data 5 billion people create. Let them see all the other jobs, reviews, brands and so on. This will also help if they’re being slow in the process. Create urgency by opening their eyes.

If after this your managers won’t play ball – get in touch. I love nothing more than getting managers and talent acquisition on the same page!


P.S. Who am I to write about hunting unicorns?

You may think, ‘Well, it’s easy for you!’ and dismiss my opinion, but I have come a long way. In my memoir, The Damage of Words, I detail the journey I have made from utter self-hatred to self-love. I went from someone who didn’t believe in myself to someone who believes I can do anything I set my mind to (within reason!). I gained the self-assuredness to push back for the greater good.

In the past, I have accepted a ridiculous list of must-haves from HMs, which led to feelings of doubt and frustration when I couldn’t find the unicorns. But unpacking what makes you connect job success and self-worth is liberating. Keeping your self-worth high gives you the confidence to calmly educate HMs on the reality of their requirements and the market, and avoid anxiety and frustration.


Image of the book Reboot Hiring with its bright yellow cover

Pre-order for your managers and leaders now to receive freebies!