by Sharon Florentine

Why building candidate personas helps you hire the right talent

Mar 23, 2017
CareersIT JobsIT Skills

Learn how using candidate personas can improve the diversity of your candidate pool when sourcing and recruiting.

If you’re trying to improve your ability to attract top talent without sacrificing your commitment to diversity and inclusion, consider using a “candidate persona” strategy.

The concept is similar to creating “buyer personas” in marketing, says Maren Hogan, CEO of Red Branch Media, in a session at SourceCon, last week in Anaheim, Calif.

“A candidate persona is a fictionalized representation of your ideal hire for a specific role. This should mostly be based on data, but it also requires a bit of intuition and even some guesswork. Think about who you are looking for; who is this person? What do they do with their days? What are their primary concerns, inside and outside of work? What hobbies and activities are important to them? What’s keeping them up at night?” Hogan says.

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First, investigate

Start by gathering all the data you can on your candidate persona from all available information sources. Professional sites like LinkedIn, Behance, social media sites, publicly available data. The more data points you have, the better your candidate persona will be, she says. Check out profiles that are similar to the type of candidate you’re looking for and then develop your sourcing and recruiting strategy based on that information, she says.

“Every single aspect of this has to be candidate-focused. You need to have this person figuratively in front of you whenever you’re working on this; when you’re writing the job description, when you’re sending emails, when you’re making that social media post. Everything that hits their eyeballs has to appeal to something about them,” Hogan says.

Once you have all your data, you can start to analyze it and figure out what makes your ideal candidate tick, she says. That includes knowing what sort of personal issues and family issues are intertwined with their professional skills, experience and history, she says.

“You’re looking for the answers to questions like, ‘What do they value? Are they stuck in a dead-end job? How old are they? Who do they report to? Are they bored at work? How much do they make? What’s the cost of living in their area? What groups do they belong to? What causes are important to them? What are their hobbies? What professional organizations do they belong to? How long do they stay in a job, typically? What kinds of companies are they working for now? What kind of media do they listen to, watch, stream?’ These are all valuable pieces of your candidate persona’s personality,” Hogan says.

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Identify barriers

You also should consider elements of their lives that may be barriers to employment, Hogan says. What sort of personal issues are brought up? What would make it harder for them to take your job, and how can you eliminate those barriers? Are they parents? Are they single or married? Do they seem to stay in a certain geographic area? Are they bored at work? Are they underpaid and due for a raise or a promotion? Hogan says.

Once you sketch that out, you can start working on how to target your dream candidate in ways that will reach and appeal to them; that can be through traditional job postings, through social media posts, through radio and television advertisements or any other means to get your message in front of them, she says.

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Build in diversity

How does all this impact diversity? “A Glassdoor survey showed that 67 percent of active and passive jobseekers say a diverse workforce is important to them when evaluating your company. If you don’t build diversity into the front end of the process, then it will not happen,” Hogan says.

Building diversity into your candidate persona can help you target candidates from underrepresented groups right from the start, and help you discover the best places to search, Hogan says. Of course, this also requires you take a hard look at your candidate-facing materials and assess — or reassess — your employer brand.

“It comes down to asking yourself if your messages and your outreach only appeal to talent groups you’re already familiar with; if they don’t, you have to try and represent what an ideal workplace would look like for those outside those groups and create mini-outreach plans for each group that’s traditionally been underrepresented,” she says.

Check that the photos on your site are as diverse as possible, use tools like Textio to analyze the language you’re using in job descriptions and on your careers page and explore channels outside of Facebook and LinkedIn are all ways to help improve diversity, Hogan says, since not everyone uses the same social media outlets. Using technology tools to help source and recruit diverse candidates can also help in partnership with your ‘candidate persona;’ some examples are Entelo, Jopwell, HackerRank, Restless Bandit and HiringSolved.

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