My colleagues and I regularly get called upon to help schools and education organizations find the best candidates to fill key positions in their organizations. We are skilled at combing our extensive nationwide networks and researching prospects in similar roles to identify top candidates. Still, hiring managers sometimes struggle to settle on a final candidate, wanting to hold out for the “unicorn” candidate.
Everybody loves a unicorn. Unicorns are those magical, mystical creatures that have all the most desirable characteristics and traits. The unfortunate truth, though, is that unicorns don’t actually exist. Which might be why some observers of the May 2nd boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao were disappointed.
Hype and anticipation accompanied the weeks and months leading up to the title match in Vegas. Fans and the media excitedly looked for this to be the biggest fight in recent memory, harkening back to the “glory days” of boxers like Ali, Frazier, Foreman, and Sugar Ray. Now that it’s over, fans are complaining that it was boring, lacked excitement, wasn’t worth the hype or the money Pay-Per-View viewers and attendees of the live event paid to see it. They’d hoped to see the kind of dramatic moments in boxing that die hard fans never forget, those magical, mystical moments that get replayed for generations to come.
What they got instead were two accomplished boxers who put in exceptional effort and followed the rules. Arguably, Mayweather was victorious because of his precision, consistency, and tenacity. Nothing about either boxer was spectacular, extraordinary, or exceptional, yet both have excelled in their field and won the adoration of legions of fans as a result of what Mayweather would call “hardwork and dedication”. It’s clear they’ve both been successful.
Aren’t these the qualities we all want in a good employee - someone who can be counted on to deliver consistent and dependable results? Is it actually necessary to hold out for someone with almost supernatural talents and abilities rather than hiring the person we can rely on to do their job well and follow the rules? In other words, what really is the allure of the unicorn candidate who seems to have so many strengths that failure seems impossible? We can all agree that our kids need great people leading their schools and the organizations that support them. Yet maybe it’s time for search teams and hiring managers to prioritize consistent, knowledgeable, and dependable talent over the hunt for the seemingly impossible-to-find unicorn candidates. After all, though some might think Floyd Mayweather’s technique lacks dynamism, it has led him to an almost flawless record and recognition as a stand out in his field.