Skip to main content

News & Events

Hunting Unicorns… Asking for a Friend…

People are important. Both in general and in so many ways for a small business. While recruiting and building teams, there are some things we can see on paper and some things we can just kind of feel (like a storm coming in your bones). The biggest factor in finding great people to join a great team is to treat them like talented people, not mythical creatures. 
Just this week I got a request to send a job opening out to my network that went something like this: 
We’re looking for someone for a role that we’re developing (title and job description still in the works) who can answer all of our software questions, specializes in financial what-if analysis, makes blue ribbon-worthy banana bread, and doesn’t mind running the occasional errand for the boss. Also, this person needs superb interpersonal skills, 7 years or equivalent degree in advanced stochastic modeling, and the ability to do minor office maintenance. Salary range: TBD after 3 interviews.
I’m (mostly) kidding, but recruiting for an incredibly specific set of requirements is far too often the norm. We think we can find a unicorn (reminder: they are mythical creatures) to fill in all our gaps AND that it’s the right way to hire new people (hint: it’s not…unless you’re willing to wait 5 years for a 70% fit). This is too much variance in skillset, responsibility, and ridiculousness to expect from one talented person. If you want a unicorn - read a fairy tale.

Instead of relying on your network (or fate) to find the perfect person, there is a better way to build a supportive and highly effective team. Instead of a unicorn, look for a narwhal. They seem fantastical (like unicorns), but they actually exist. Your narwhal is going to be someone who can think and work as part of a holistic team - doing, managing, and building with excellence - while not setting your organization up for future problems. Like when your unicorn vanishes into the wind, or you find out they were just a horse wearing a party hat on their forehead.
So, how do you know what strengths your current people have? As in, the useful kind. Can they take a project and break it down into tasks and prioritize how to get it done in a timely fashion? How do they manage work? Do they think linearly, or conceptually, or only with lots of context? Do they distract themselves or others easily? Is what you’re asking of them leaning into their strengths? And how do you, as a leader, identify which ones your team could benefit from adding? 

Plot twist: mythical creature hunting is how most approach software, technology, and data, too, putting way too many expectations on one system or tool… and often blaming the system for things that are actually people and process issues. So commit to look for narwhals, not unicorns, in your people first, then your processes, and then let’s talk about the rest.
For more information on Blue Tree Data Consulting, LLC, visit their website at