Forget Purple Squirrels – How to Recruit (lots of) Grey Squirrels

Forget Purple Squirrels – How to Recruit (lots of) Grey Squirrels


Get a crowd of top sourcers in a room and they will ultimately start exchanging stories about “purple squirrels” and the techniques they employed to find these elusive candidates. But for many companies it’s not about tracking down a niche individual, it’s about volume recruitment -  finding large numbers of the same type of generic candidate (or grey squirrel) over and over again. Take call centre, assembly-line and customer service roles, for example.

So, what sourcing techniques and methodologies work best in this scenario?

Clearly forecasting your recruitment needs as far ahead as possible will allow you to build out a more robust and sustainable talent pipe-line than the last-minute reactive hiring campaigns we encounter so often. Planning allows you to ask the right questions, discover the typical profile(s) of previous candidates, map out where you are likely to find them, explore other avenues prior to (costly) advertising, build a referral programme and leverage your employer brand.

Before starting to cast the net wide, the priority should be to first examine and utilise the existing  database. Organisations invest big bucks in database software and advertising to build their talent pool, but then frequently overlook this vital asset in favour of starting all over again to attract “active” candidates. The key is in knowing how to mine this data, and in developing an ongoing communications programme to keep potential candidates warm and your knowledge of their availability up-to-date. For volume recruiters this is critical. 

For typically less skilled, comparatively lower paid roles, location is key. You need to look for people within a reasonable commute to the workplace, or with a previous association to the location (through family, university etc). Google maps can help identify other similar local employers that can help build out your keywords for those going down the Boolean search road. Given the required skills for volume roles tend to be more generic, Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to search by company name, so you are less dependant on your candidate using the same keywords in their profile as you have used in your job description.

Having identified how and where to attract your scurry (yes, that’s a thing!) of grey squirrels, how do you then keep them ready and waiting for your call?

In a world where candidate (and often simultaneously customer) experience is increasingly important (see ), it’s paramount the hiring process is carefully considered and joined up to avoid fall out. Speed of turnaround is vital, so ensure any testing (Health and Safety, physical checks, drug testing, referencing etc) takes place within an agreed timescale. Make sure the agency, hiring and line managers are aligned to engender candidate confidence. Then, moving forwards, offer a personal onboarding experience. A positive workplace environment will encourage referrals, and keep people longer.

Finally, remember, it’s not about you, the employer – it’s all about them, the (potential) candidate. Ask how they want to stay in touch – via SMS, newsletters, emails, phone, events, Facebook, Snapchat? Understand where these people are busiest. Hint: it’s unlikely to be your corporate website. Ideally employ a variety of channels, ensuring messages are consistent, engaging and visual. Share videos of what it’s like to work in the role, the environment, the canteen. Keep it real and honest. The gloss won’t work; your squirrels won’t take the bait.

What are your challenges in volume recruiting? What’s worked best for you in filling multiple roles? How do you build your talent pipeline?

For more expert advice on volume recruiting and sourcing please contact Martin Lee, or Stephen Gilbert.