The Hunt for the Purple Squirrel (6 min read)


The somewhat cyclical nature of the real estate, title, and settlement industries can present challenges as well as present opportunities for companies previously or currently experiencing rapid expansion and growth. The Covid pandemic and booming real estate environment over the past few years magnified some of the challenges associated with hiring the right talent, training effectively, and accommodating a remote workforce. As both macro and micro economic trends have…inflated…interest rates continue to shift and most title companies are seeing significantly less residential refinance related volume. This type of situation tends to create more opportunity for leaders to reflect on their long-term strategy and thus it can be beneficial for companies to utilize this time to assess their current staff and look at key positions which may require further attention through addition, subtraction, or overhaul.

One important question to ask when looking to adjust an important role on the team is, how long do we want to wait for the perfect candidate or so-called Purple Squirrel to appear on the front porch?

As experienced recruiters, we’ve succeeded in helping our clients find that exceptional fit on more than one occasion. That said, we’ve also been compelled a few times to help clients understand that maybe waiting for that perfect candidate for too long isn’t always the best hiring strategy. Our experience has shown that there are often benefits to tweaking your search for talent to build the most effective team possible.

Know the Talent Market & Competitor Hiring Behaviors
The art of recruiting, especially in a tight-knit industry like title & settlement, is not something that can be mastered overnight. Everyone knows that the best candidates may not be readily available at the exact time of a hiring need, especially when your competitors are also looking. In fact, a Forbes article addressing best practices for recruiting emphasizes the importance in being aware of other hiring in the market and building a talent community. By filling and maintaining a pool of potential candidates before a need opens, companies can prospect for future hiring and know who and where the best talent in the industry exists. A database of title professionals like ALTA registries or a strong LinkedIn network can prove to be invaluable in identifying and contacting the ideal candidates quickly.

It is also important to pay attention to the hiring habits of your competitors. As a part of maintaining a talent pool, employers should be keeping tabs on what types of positions competitors are hiring for and maybe even track their talent searches to get an idea of what to expect when a key need arises. This valuable information can help tailor a communicative approach to maximize the attractiveness of a position. In addition, simply creating a positive candidate experience tends to build positive rapport with others in the market. Whether hired or not, candidates who have a positive interview experience often spread word of mouth to folks in the industry who may jump to apply for future open positions.

Compromise on Criteria, Not Quality
The goal of any talent search is typically to find the best possible candidate based on several important criteria, like specific job qualifications, personality, culture fit, etc. However, it is sometimes the case that quality candidates are passed over and searches last longer than necessary due to rigid requirements and/or unrealistic expectations.

In the recruiting world, it is often said that if a candidate appears to be 60% qualified for a position, then there should be serious consideration given to interview. If the same candidate is 80% or more qualified, then that is probably a great person to hire. The reason for that strategy is simple; the opportunity lost in the extra time it may take to find a candidate who is 95% or more qualified for the position is often too expensive to bear. The candidate with less qualifications can most often be trained up to be an integral part of the team and perhaps an even better fit for the position and your organization.

According to HRMorning, it is important to consider compromising on certain criteria that can be learned through training by focusing on other traits and soft skills that a candidates may already possess. For example, personality, willingness to learn and culture fit are equally, if not more important than the technical skills needed to actually perform in a role. These inherent skills are tougher to identify during the interview process. Employers can benefit by putting more effort into the candidate interview process and develop a deeper relationship with each individual by asking more thoughtful or out-of-the-box questions. It can be a valued recruiting practice to give strong consideration to the “silver” medalists out there, rather than wait too long for the hard-to-find “gold” medalist candidate.

Leverage Existing Talent: Upskilling & Reskilling
In a similar concept, before engaging in a search for the absolute perfect candidate, companies can benefit from taking a closer look at their existing teams when a hiring need opens. There may be a team member who can train to be the perfect fit for an open position. A World Economic Forum study on talent retention refers to a term labeled “reskilling,” which involves training an existing team member for a new role. Current team members may possess additional skills or qualities to be better suited for other positions or leadership roles. Both time and money can be saved by reskilling or “upskilling” team members that already know the system, software & programs, RESPA guidelines, etc.

Another benefit of leveraging existing talent and avoiding the hunt for the purple squirrel is increased employee engagement. Employees may feel valued and more motivated to see that attention is being dedicated to making sure they’re in the best position for success. Experts from HR Exchange Network suggest placing focus on retention, especially as employees return to offices from working remotely. It can also help to build a strong company culture by promoting often from within. The word will spread at industry related events to potential candidates of the positivity within an organization and maybe even help attract people to open positions. Also, this practice will help employers more easily develop a full understanding of their internal talent and what needs to be addressed by making a key outside addition or more.

Are we Nuts?
Does the perfect candidate exist? Sure. But at what cost? There are many benefits to avoiding the sometimes long, arduous search for the purple squirrel. Implementing strategies like focusing on competitor hiring habits, leveraging current talent for bigger roles and compromising when applicable on job requirements and NOT quality may prove to be the better way to grow long term in a healthy manner.  

If your current methods are not optimal, you may also consider partnering with a third party recruiting firm. In this regard, there are many choices in just about every sector though choosing an industry-specific recruiter should help decrease your time to fill and help provide access to a deeper candidate pool.

Whatever your recruiting strategy looks like in the coming months, it’s advisable to be practical and open minded as the candidate market has definitely shifted and being adaptable is considered by many as the number one predictor of future success!

Should you have any questions, please feel free to visit our website or call (866)-688-7199 and one of our team members will be happy to hear your thoughts.

Anderson|Biro is a full-service, Executive Search firm dedicated to the Financial Services sector around the country. We source talent to service all aspects of the Land Title Insurance, Settlement, and Appraisal industries. We offer quality solutions for clients in these primary fields and beyond. Our candidates are screened for specific industry experience, outstanding track records, and values that complement your mission and culture. We have also built successful partnerships with leading Homebuilders, iBuyers, Fintech, Servicers, Law Firms, Real Estate Brokerages, and Lenders with direct or indirect stakes around the real estate closing table.