Smart recruiters know that candidates are consumers in today’s competitive talent market. To fill job openings with top talent, recruiters need to sell those positions and the associated companies to jobseekers. Still, too many recruiters and hiring managers continue to try to sell blind. Good salespeople and marketers draft buyer personas to understand who will buy their product. This allows them to design their outreach and marketing efforts appropriately, as well as pitch the sale more effectively.

Just like salespeople and marketers need buyer personas, recruiters and hiring managers need candidate personas. “The greatest benefit of utilizing personas is this: if you know your audience, the likelihood of creating programs and producing content that will engage it increases exponentially” says Sedef Buyukataman, lead consultant at Proactive Talent Strategies.

Candidate personas will ideally be tailored to each individual job opening, but at the last need to provide distinct character outlines for different types of jobs. For example, a job opening for a developer needs to have a different candidate persona than a job opening for a pharmaceutical sales representative. Even among developers, an effective recruiting strategy to find a front end developer will be very different from the strategy to find a full stack developer. “Using talent personas to supplement your approach helps you better understand your audience and increase your ability to be relevant in the right places, mitigate risks and improve engagement with your target candidates” says Buyukataman. It’s worth the effort.

How to Create Candidate Personas

Don’t Procrastinate.

Create your candidate personas right at the beginning, before you even begin sourcing your first candidates for the open position in question, to optimize the benefit you derive from them. “You create these personas before producing any recruitment content, developing job descriptions, writing social media updates, or even conducting your candidate sourcing” says Tamer Rafla, founder and CEO of Klujo. “A well-defined persona can help you tailor your messaging to the exact individual you’re trying to reach.”

Be specific.

While there will certainly be some traits that you will hope to find in all of your employees, such as ones that relate to fitting in with your corporate culture, you should make specific candidate personas for specific positions or types of positions. “Define a persona for each team and segment that you want to attract,” says Lane Sutton, employer branding and recruitment specialist at TripAdvisor. “When defining personas, you want to have an idea of the location, background, level, function, education history, interests, and companies that they might work for.”

Observe Your Target.

Unless you are recruiting someone for a job opening in your own field, you can definitely stand to learn more about the type of people you are targeting. “Attend meetups, join talks and organizations that you normally don’t attend, and ask a person who fits your ideal persona to lunch,” says Paula Gean, former director of marketing at Dialexa. “It’s always important to get to know the person you’re trying to target.” Even if you are a recruiter hiring another recruiter, observing top recruiters can help you identify what your ideal candidate is like.

Think About Qualities, Not Qualifications.

A candidate persona is not a laundry list of requirements and prerequisites that make up the candidate of your dreams. A candidate persona is more about the type of person you are looking for and, in order to promote an improved long-term success of hire, should focus on qualities that will develop well over time and translate into a successful career hire.

Look at your most successful people already in that position and look for what makes them so successful. “Instead of dwelling on experiences, identify the attributes that the person leveraged to create their successes” says Kevin Buckby, partner at Riviera Partners. Whether that’s a developer who never stops learning and works well with minimal direction or if it’s a sales representative with an endearing sense of humor and an always sunny disposition, those qualities matter more in the long-run than whether the candidate had four years of related experience or only three.

Create a Career Story for your Candidate Persona.

Top talent typically isn’t looking for just another job. They’re looking for the next step on their career ladder. To appeal to the ambitious potential candidates who can take your company to the next level, you need to be able to tell them, or better show them, how working for you can take them to the next level professionally. “Map out the career context in which this candidate is placed, as well as how this individual makes decisions,” says Mitchell Camp, vice president of communications at Divergence Academy. “Look at their values and motivations. Tell this story from the beginning of this person’s journey to the end.”

Once you have put together a candidate person, Rafla recommends creating specialized workflows to nurture candidates of each specific persona. As part of that, Rafla suggests creating unique content to target what specific personas see on your careers website to the content that will be most relevant for them.

While personas are helpful for filling positions of all types, they are most useful for the positions where the investment will likely have high returns. “Personas are especially important for tough-to-fill roles that require particular unique skillsets, strong leadership qualities, and confident personalities” says Rafla. “These key hires will likely be in high demand and require personalized communication to get them engaged.” Especially if you are looking for  hard to find tech talent or trying to fill C-level roles, taking the time to create persona profiles for your candidate is an investment that you can’t afford not to make.

Want help optimizing your recruiting strategy?  Try Happie! 


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