In this episode of Recruitment Technology Founder Stories, we explore the journey of Mitch Gielen, the visionary behind Purple Squirrel Effect, a company that creates employer ‘fan pages’ that subtly guide candidates into the direction of job openings. “I don’t want to be just another marketing company. I want to look for a deeper layer and really help people explore their next dream job.” Listen to the episode via Spotify, Apple Podcasts or the link below.
The hunt for Purple Squirrels
Mitch Gielen, the mind behind Purple Squirrel Effect, introduces his company as a pursuit of the extraordinary. “Purple Squirrel Effect is all about finding those extraordinary candidates, the elusive ‘purple squirrels,’ who not only fit the job but also bring ambition to the table”, he explains, emphasising the quest for the ultimate outperformers.
“Purple Squirrel Effect is all about finding those extraordinary candidates.”
In large part, that’s exactly what the company’s mission is all about. Purple Squirrels are widely used as a metaphor by recruiters to identify the unrealistic expectations of a client company. The happy exception is when a perfect candidate, with exactly the right qualifications and experience, is actually found for a job opening. That person would then be referred to as a Purple Squirrel.
From Experience Republic to the Purple Squirrel Effect
Gielen ventured into the recruitment technology market about eight years ago through Experience Republic. Specialising in custom recruitment solutions with a focus on experiential projects, the company faced a significant setback during the 2019 pandemic. “We started with a team of 12 developers and designers, and we did like 50 events a year. We mainly focused on the Dutch market, but went to companies all over the world.”
“When you face bankruptcy, that’s the point you have to get really creative.”
With Experience Republic, Gielen ended up in countries like Denmark, Saudi Arabia and the United sates — building custom-made escape rooms and virtual reality rollercoasters for companies. Gielen: “Then COVID hit and we went from 50 to 0. We immediately lost all of our business abroad. When you face bankruptcy, that’s the point you have to get really creative.”
Reinventing in the face of adversity
Navigating the challenges of the pandemic, Gielen and his team decided to leverage their expertise in creating digital experiences. By reaching out to existing clients, they crafted a solution that would redefine the recruitment sector. T-Mobile became the first client to jump on board, marking the beginning of the Purple Squirrel Effect’s journey into digital recruitment experiences.
“Now we’re at a point where the Purple Squirrel Effect is booming business, because everybody needs purple squirrels.”
“It ended up costing us more money than we made, but it was an investment in ourselves. Then we started rolling again. And as soon as we showed what we were capable of, more companies jumped on board. Now we’re at a point where the Purple Squirrel Effect is booming business, because everybody needs purple squirrels.”
Tailoring employer branding to the modern era
Gielen sheds light on Purple Squirrel Effect’s approach to enhancing employer branding and storytelling. “We collect all their content, create engaging visuals, and present it in a user-friendly way. The thing we we see with our clients is that they all have employer branding content. But it’s on, like YouTube channels, career pages and LinkedIn company pages. It’s all over the place.”
“It just allows candidates to really decide for themselves what they want to see.”
“The thing we do is collect all the all the content, make three sexy pictures at a location of the client and create hotspots, which candidates can click on and see they see the content they want to see. For instance, if they are looking for information about their potential future colleagues or salary, they can. It just allows candidates to really decide for themselves what they want to see.”
‘The Netflix of employer branding’
As a segue into that sort of candidate behaviour, Gielen envisions Purple Squirrel Effect as the Netflix of employer branding. “Because it’s a candidate market”, Gielen says. “And the thing employers and companies are still doing is sending largely text-based content, saying: this is what we do, this is what we offer, now please apply. What we do is make it all visual, tailoring it to the next generation entering the labour market. Within The Netherlands alone, there is a total of 1.6 million of Gen-Z entering the labour market. That’s a lot of talent, but you have to address them in the way they are used to being addressed.”
“It delves into what sets you apart from other employers and which vacancy best suits your interests. As a result, you get more candidates, better candidates and more insights.”
“The Purple Squirrel Effect is the effect created by a visually immersive and interactive website environment”, Gielen says. “Here the candidate is in control and moves smoothly between videos, photos and interactive questions. During the route, the candidate determines for him or herself what to click on and get a razor-sharp picture and a good feeling about what it would be like to work within your organisation. It delves into what sets you apart from other employers and which vacancy best suits your interests. As a result, you get more candidates, better candidates and more insights.”
‘Not just another marketing company’
As Gielen looks to the future, he decides to keep his mission a simple one. “I’m happy when people find a really cool job. It doesn’t matter to me what kind of solution and software we sell, like the escape rooms or the software, I just like making an impact. And not be just another marketing company, but really look for a deeper layer and really help people explore their next dream job.”