Unicorn sitting at desk

Unicorns don’t exist.1 So, why are companies wasting their time hunting for them?

Maybe you’ve seen the growing recruitment trend on LinkedIn of “Unicorn Hunters” looking for “Unicorn Employees”. The self-proclaimed Unicorn Hunter being the talented recruiter in search of a prospective hire that possesses all the skills and characteristics you could possibly ever want— a unicorn— that will surpass all expectations and take their business to the next level.

Don’t get us wrong, we LOVE a good trend— as marketers, how could we not? But not this one. Here’s why: it’s toxic for both the employee and the employer.

Of course, we understand the unicorn search isn’t real. We’re copywriters. We get it. The recruiter is trying to be aspirational and stand out. But when it comes to the workplace, we prefer to leave the fantasy outside the office door where it belongs.

Unicorn hunting promotes fluffy resumes and vanity metrics. It promotes unhealthy expectations and a culture of perfection.

It suggests that prospective hires are primed and ready to go before they’ve even been hired. It’s an unfair ask for any position. Before asking new employees to shatter expectations, shouldn’t we first hire, train, help them develop and grow into their role so they can at least meet expectations?

We think Unicorn Hunters are jumping the gun a little. #SorryNotSorry

So, why do we care so much?

Enter another recruitment trend we’re seeing. Spoiler alert: we don’t like this one either. That is, increasingly unrealistic marketing job descriptions. You know, the ones that ask prospective hires to have a specialized degree; work experience in brand, website, design, paid media, PR, content creation, Google Analytics, project management; and can obviously make you go viral on TikTok all with only 3+ years of experience.

As a marketing agency specializing in strategy, creative, and performance, we find it baffling that this level of capability is even an expectation for a single full-time marketing hire. It’s quite comical actually, given how quickly the landscape for effective marketing changes and the continuous professional development required to stay up to date.

Even if this marketer did exist, “Unicorns are difficult to find. Harder to catch.” Will they get paid the competitive salary they’re capable of landing for having such an extensive and unique skill set? Unicorns are high achievers. They may fill the gaps of an organization, but is the organization fulfilling them? Will there be space for them to grow into their role? Will they be supported and challenged enough that they’ll stay? Or will unrealistic expectations leave them feeling overworked and burnt out?

A lot of questions, we know. But the odds seem stacked against the unicorn as a real solution for brands. The unicorn— if they existed— is a flight risk.

Employers asking new employees to alter the trajectory of their business, take it to the next level, and be happy doing it— because apparently optimism is an expectation of the unicorn— before even getting hired sounds like a lot of pressure and building a business around suspected unicorns is inherently dangerous if not irresponsible.

Instead of wasting time looking for the perfect full-time marketer (who doesn’t likely exist) to handle every aspect of your marketing efforts, doesn’t it make more sense to search for a practical solution? Perhaps access to a team of marketing experts with decades of experience and a collective skill set that offers far more value than any individual could. There are very real benefits to hiring an agency to amplify your marketing efforts and support your business needs.

Shameless self-promotion? Of course, a little… can you blame us? But it’s more than that. We’re advocating for reasonable expectations for marketing teams. Everyone deserves achievable standards. Everyone deserves to be given support, the time to learn, and the tools to succeed. And quite frankly, everyone deserves to have a life outside of work.

But it’s not just about the employee. It’s also in the best interest of the employer. Far too often marketers are asked to wear too many hats. It leads to poor performance, burnout, and retention problems. From projections to performance, your marketing efforts will go further when rooted in reasonable expectations of your employees.

So, do you really want a marketing unicorn on your team? One that may decide to leave. One that may get burnt out by unrealistic expectations. One that likely doesn’t exist. Or do you want a practical long-term solution that delivers the strategic, creative and performance results you’re after?

Contact us if it’s the latter because we want to work with humans, not fantastical creatures, who are of a similar mind.

Article by David Cliche, President & CEO


1 Sorry Scotland. You have to make do with bagpipes and castles. We’ll save Nessie for another day.