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September 12, 2022

Why a Candidate Persona Is Critical to Your Recruiting Strategy

Recruitment Process Outsourcing

“Bob” is moving on, and you’re tasked with finding just the right person to fill his shoes. So, what kind of information should you know about your candidates to make sure you’ve found the perfect fit to replace Bob? And with all the changes in the talent landscape for people in Bob’s discipline, how do you appeal to candidates who have so many more career options because of them?

If your organization is like most, then to get to know your candidate you rely on assessments during the selection process to identify skills and cultural fit for the role. These assessments are important, but don’t often determine how happy a person is going to be in that role. And if your new hire’s not happy, they’re not going to give their best, and they’re certainly not going to last.

You need to have answers to some very important questions, long before you’ve narrowed down your candidate pool.


Getting to Know More About Who Your “Ideal Candidates” Really Are

Do you know what makes someone in Bob’s role love their work? What makes their job most rewarding? Or what drives them to look for another role?

Knowing what makes your existing employees and your potential candidates “tick” is the key to engagement with your organization. Whether they are engineers or nurses or auditors, the candidates you’re speaking with have specific wants and needs that they share with others in their profession that drive their actions to seek out a new employer or stay at your company.

In the marketing world, when companies are trying to appeal to their customers, it’s common for marketers to identify those types of drivers among audience groups and create “pictures” of the ideal customer to market to, called a candidate persona. Creating these candidate personas improves efficiency and brand connection by helping marketers define their audience (who needs, and is going to be happy with, their product) and speak directly to them.

Can you imagine how impactful this type of information could be to your recruiting strategy?


How Successful Recruiters Get in the Candidate’s Head

I’m going to let you in on a trade secret: the most successful recruiters are those who use what they know about the specific industry and the disciplines that make up that industry they’re hiring for to color all their communications with those audiences. They bring in top talent because they have identified key drivers that make that audience receptive to the company’s offer. Don’t get me wrong; your brand contributes to those efforts, but it is only one of the factors that help attract the right fit.

The best recruiters get to know what drives their candidates’ actions, including:

  • Their habits, including where to find them online and how to connect
  • Their needs, their pain points, their goals — what this audience says they want out of a career
  • Any external influences that may enter into their decision (like student loan debt among a specific discipline or demographic, or the current state of an industry, or their desire for professional development)
  • Any popular perceptions of the job, industry, location or the company that the conversation would need to change



You, Too, Can Build a Candidate Persona. And Should.

Having a well-defined candidate persona will help you build a better sourcing and attraction plan in the long run and help you target your opportunities to the right groups of prospective candidates. It helps you better sell your open position to them. And, at the end of the day, it helps you hire people more likely to be engaged because they value what your position offers. It also helps for your hiring leaders to promote and talk about their industry — and the professions that make up that industry — from their vantage point.

So how do you go about building a candidate persona to fill Bob’s spot? It’s important to consider factors that reach far beyond anything you would see in a job description, a resume or what you are to pick up in an interview, and for that you’ll need to do some investigation:

  • First, talk to Bob, if you can, and ask him the motivation behind his educational track and ultimately the role he chose for his profession. Ask Bob what attracted him to that work, makes his profession so exciting, and what drives (or drove) him to stay in the profession. Ask Bob if working at your company fulfilled his professional expectations and how.
  • Then, conduct research. Survey non-employees from your top talent industries to learn what about the work makes them excited to show up every day. For engineers it may be the chance to innovate; for sales and marketers, it may be centered around their ability to offer and receive creative input from all levels; for finance professionals, it might be their desire for meaningful support of their career development, rather than getting lip-service during their performance review period. Most often companies only survey their existing employees and find that the results didn’t tell them anything that they didn’t already know. I don’t have to tell you the reasons for that! Plus, going outside for information can help you prove to yourself that your culture speaks to what top talent professionals value most.
  • Finally, connect with experts. Understand their forecasts for the potential demand on your top talent by role. This will help you anticipate attrition and what you need to do in order to plan for your ongoing attraction strategies.

Once you have gathered this information just don’t sit on it. Use it to drive your:

  • New marketing approaches: Content marketing once reserved for the company’s product and services is now moving into HR practices. Forward-thinking organizations are now creating stories that help to educate their workforce and potential candidates on job role transformation, especially when it comes to new skills and technologies that are changing how people in that disciplines do their work.
  • Thought leadership: Leaders in every organization should be encouraged to speak more about how the innovations in their industry are helping to create rewarding, purposeful work experiences. For example, if you’ve built programs that promote continuous learning and publish results, not only are you revealing to your audience just how exciting it is to work in such an innovative environment, but that you have a culture of learning and growth, as well.
  • Engagement Strategies: Because most candidate and employment engagement strategies are based only on internal information, they’re often not as successful as we’d like them to be. Ensure your leadership understands the distinction between culture and engagement: culture describes the way things work, while engagement describes how people feel about the way things work. If you’re not basing your strategies on what top talent in your industry values most, you’ll likely see a distinct “gap” in your ability to attract and retain talent.

So What are the Takeaways?

Candidate/Industry personas will help you identify with your audience and better position your recruitment marketing messages to speak to your candidates’ career aspirations. And when you speak to those needs, you win by attracting top talent.

Be sure to include your marketing team, Business Unit HR members and Management leadership when developing these personas as everyone brings a different perspective and different information to the table. Then once you have your candidate personas in place, act on them by using specific messaging in your content and by empathizing with candidates as they go through your talent pipeline.

Validate your personas as your business evolves, company innovations often dictate the need for new types of talent based on new technologies that may be driving that change.

Measure your results. Validate that your candidate experience and engagement levels have improved as a result of your content recruitment marketing efforts. Knowing what impact these efforts have had on these important KPIs will keep you ahead of your competition.

Interested to learn more? Fill out the form to see how Aspirant RPO can help you develop candidate personas for your business.

Executive VP of RPO recruiting, Patty solves client talent acquisition challenges through innovative solutions that enable companies to attract top talent. Her experience includes recruitment marketing strategy, employment branding, HR technology implementations, research, and project management. Patty was the visionary for building a talent attraction platform (ACTIVATE) that leading organizations use to improve the candidate experience by transforming career sites into highly effective search engine optimized sites. 

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