Taylor Goucher is urgently looking to hire accountants and customer support technicians to work for Connext Global Solutions, the relocation consultancy where he leads customer services.
But these are not the only job offers published by the company. They also have five additional entries, for engineers and a vice president, which he plans to leave indefinitely.
“For the really tough openings, the right people only show up so often, so we have to leave them open and kind of wait and hope that at some point a good candidate comes along,” said Goucher, who has said he adopted the strategy 18 months ago after working to fill a role for nine months to no avail.
Some economists suspect Goucher may be one of a growing number of employers posting so-called purple squirrel vacancies to be left indefinitely in hopes of finding the kind of perfect candidate who is as rare as woodland creatures to pastel fur. If true, it could help explain why job posting numbers remain high.
“These are purple squirrel vacancies,” Federal Reserve Governor Christopher Waller told reporters after a speech at the Monetary and Financial Stability Institute in Frankfurt. “They’re not real.”
For Waller, such vacancies strengthen the US central bank’s case for tighter financial conditions. If long-term job listings inflate job posting numbers, labor might not be as in demand as it seems. This could make it possible to reduce the number of job vacancies published by companies without significantly modifying the unemployment rate. The Fed is raising rates to curb inflation, but fears persist that large increases could cripple the job market or trigger a recession.
U.S. employers added 390,000 jobs in May, the Labor Department reported Friday.
Most of the 11.4 million job openings reported in April are not waiting for the “purple squirrels”. Analysis by Goldman Sachs found that two-thirds of current listings were published in the last 90 days, a higher share than before the coronavirus pandemic. Still, the number of vacancies that employers are filling each month hit an all-time low in March.
“It’s not because companies are getting more demanding,” said Julia Pollak, chief economist at job site ZipRecruiter. “On the contrary, many are lowering the experience and education requirements.
“That’s because, despite the reduction in requirements, employers are still not finding enough interested and qualified people per vacancy,” Pollak added. “Many employers make offers to multiple candidates and see them all reject offers for other opportunities because they are outbid.”
Some frustrated job seekers share Waller’s suspicions. Julia Laico searched for a job for months after graduating from Emory University in Atlanta in May. She said she expected the process to be quick due to a shortage of workers, but instead spent hours sorting through inactive job postings. Eventually, she landed a two-month fellowship at a nonprofit educational organization.
“I expected more professionalism from many employers,” Laico said. “There was a lot of insensitivity, even after the interviews. And I completely understand that companies cannot respond to all applicants due to high volume. »
New York executive recruiter Patricia Lenkov said employers are becoming more selective about who they hire after a year of experimenting with less-qualified candidates due to a labor shortage, which could explain slower and more frustrating hiring processes.
Other companies have yet to “clean up” their job postings after spending months struggling to replace employees who quit during the pandemic, said Cathi Canfield of industry recruiting group EmployBridge.
This is the case of OSP International, a Tuscan company that produces training for project managers.
“We understand that it’s impossible to find a candidate who has all the skills you need, but we’re keeping these positions open in case we get lucky,” said Cornelius Fichtner, president of OSP. “We don’t get lucky too often though.”
Recruiters and economists agree that job seekers still have the upper hand in today’s job market. Joe Mullings, managing director of talent acquisition at The Mullings Group, warns that it’s harder than ever for employers to attract ‘purple squirrels’.
“Frankly, the best people aren’t usually looking for jobs, and they don’t blindly respond to job postings or send their resumes to HR,” Mullings said.
Goucher said his “purple squirrel” vacancies helped him hire skilled engineers he might have otherwise missed.
“It’s a different strategy,” Goucher said. “Instead of hunting, you can fish.”
Additional reporting by Joe Rennison