This is such an important topic that I am going to go outside my mandatory color scheme of 4 shades of blue and 4 shades of grey. This post requires a rainbow. A unicorn puking a rainbow.
I define the perfect digital job candidate as a digital unicorn. They are so elusive that you may never have crossed paths with one. But if you are lucky enough to find one, hire him/her and don’t look back. A single digital unicorn can deliver impact equal to twenty digital ponies.
In one sentence, a digital unicorn is a well-rounded, curious learner with a singular and passionate focus on creating cool shit that delights people using innovative technologies. Okay… let’s unpack that a bit (note to self: box checked on use of one business cliché per post).
“a well-rounded”: Unicorns know enough to be dangerous in many areas: content, digital platforms, IT, SEO, digital analytics, customer behavior and insights, testing and optimization, and social media.
“curious learner”: Unicorns evolve rapidly. They are constantly reading the latest blogs, chatting with other experts, building side projects, and expanding their knowledge base to keep current.
“with a singular and passionate focus”: Unicorns are driven and focused. They will grab on to a challenge and not let go (or sleep) until it is solved.
“on creating cool shit”: Unicorns are motivated primarily by the work. They want to create beautiful things that change the world.
“that delights people”: Unicorns have a unique empathy with customers and work to solve pain points and delight (make things easier, quicker, cheaper, etc).
“using innovative technologies”: Unicorns are comfortable with technology and are often early adopters. They are able to think through how technologies can be used to drive an integrated customer experience.
Some other indicators that you are in the presence of a digital unicorn include:
- They have an undeniable energy and enthusiasm
- They are open to feedback and see change as an opportunity
- They respect others based on merit/knowledge, not title/hierarchy
- They don’t play the office politics game
- They despise using paper and will avoid it at all costs
- They are interested in a lot of things and often have an atypical education or career path
- They are often award winners, speakers at conferences, adjunct professors, or patent holders
- They only wear black turtlenecks (just kidding on this one)
Okay… so you were lucky enough to identify, recruit and hire your very own unicorn! Now what? Here are some guidelines to help you keep your unicorn happy:
- Ensure they have an avenue to work on innovation and create new things (can be new to the world, new to the company, or new to them)
- Do not place an unnecessary amount of bureaucracy, process, or politics on them, let them focus on creation
- Give them a lot of autonomy; tell them what you want to accomplish, but let them decide how to get it done
- Give them plentiful opportunities to develop and stretch in new areas; encourage them to build an external network and attend events/conferences to stay leading edge
- Do not require or expect them to conform 100% to the culture
PostScript: I have also heard recruiters use the term ‘purple squirrel’ in reference to a business partner’s request for an impossibly perfect job candidate. Someone who checks all of the boxes in a lengthy list of qualifications. Chasing a single person who can solve world hunger within their 90 day plan. I like the term and the visual that pops into my head… but it can be applied to any field/capability, while a digital unicorn is more specific to my chosen field.
And now for the obligatory Powerpoint: