Candidate Personas: Think Like a Marketer, Win As a Recruiter

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Market knowledge is hiring power. Recruiters in 2019 are at war in an ever-more sophisticated and competitive talent market. You need to work smarter to find, attract and hire the people who will help your organisation thrive.

In this complex landscape, intelligence and insight are your allies. Realising this, more and more recruiters are adopting proven marketing tactics to enhance, refine and ignite their hiring efforts. The rise of the candidate persona is a prime example.

What is a candidate persona?

Candidate personas are the recruitment equivalent of a marketer’s buyer persona. The latter is a semi-fictional version of an idealised customer, created from detailed research to focus marketing minds on exactly who they’re reaching out to with their products and advertising.

Likewise, a well-developed candidate persona can focus and steer your recruiting strategy, giving you a definitive image of a real person to latch onto at every stage of your talent acquisition process. No more hazy, ill-defined target audiences. Candidate personas give you a tangible and relatable figure, alive with personality, ideally suited to your role and ready to inspire their real-world counterparts to apply.

They’re a useful tool in any hiring campaign – which is why it’s a good idea to create personas for every key role in your organisation.

What goes into a good candidate persona?

The important thing about any good persona is that it’s real. A composite picture it may be, but your persona has to ring true as a multi-dimensional person. So it should cover far more ground than the work history, skills, qualifications and cursory demographic information that informs most job profiles.

You’re aiming to flesh out a complete human being, with drives, goals, habits, passions, reservations and objections, even a name and a mugshot. We like Maren Hogan’s neat summation of 3 things candidate personas need to focus on to be effective:

  • Who this person is
  • What they do all day
  • What keeps them up at night

Here’s a more in-depth list from Glassdoor:

  • Demographic information: Age, location, current job title, income.
  • Background: Educational and professional history.
  • Personal attributes: Traits, strengths, weaknesses, interests, fears.
  • Qualifications: Any required or preferred skills, certifications etc.
  • Goals: What motivates them? Where are they going?
  • Objections: Why would they not want to work for you? What aspects of your brand, culture or hiring process would cause them to lose interest?
  • Web activity: Where do they spend time online? Where can you start an authentic hiring conversation with them?

And here’s a fully comprehensive cheat sheet, courtesy of TalentLyft:

From research to realism

The other key to keeping it real is rooting your persona in reality. The best examples are informed by the richest research. The good news is that you should have a lot of what you need already in the organisation, in the shape of your successful hires and star performers.

If you’re hiring into sales, interview your top salespeople to see which traits are common to them all, then add the data to your persona. Review successful sales applications from the past and feed the overlaps in. Maybe reach out to the external market too, by setting up a Survey Monkey questionnaire for your professional or personal network.

What does it get you?

We’ll admit that a lot of effort needs to go into creating a candidate persona for it to be of value. But this is undeniably time well spent, certainly for mission-critical roles. One particularly evangelical article lists 14 benefits, ranging from better quality hires and more offers accepted to reduced turnover rates and lower cost-per-hire.

On a less granular level, we’d describe the key benefits as greater foresight, accountability and personalisation in your hiring approach. If you value candidate experience, your persona can inform every stage in your process, from your attraction messaging and where you put it, to how you write your job description and what format assessments take.

If your persona is most interested in career growth, that’s what you should talk to candidates about the most. If they’re more interested in innovation and ideas, show them your entrepreneurial side. If they don’t want to be deskbound, interview them offsite.

Take your hard-won insights and build a tailored process around them. Crucially, make decisions that are guided by logic, evidence and intelligence… three key traits in the idealised persona of any recruiter in 2019!

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