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How to Create Candidate Personas to Optimize the Recruitment Process

Build candidate personas, which are semi-fictional representations of your ideal job candidates, to streamline your hiring process and find employees who will be the perfect fit for your company.
9 Min Read

Table Of Contents

    The average cost of a bad hire is at least 30% of the individual’s first-year expected earnings, says the U.S. Department of Labor. The time and costs associated with onboarding, training, interviewing, and advertising is also money wasted. The impact on team morale, managing poor performance, and drain in productivity is another factor to consider.

    Hiring the perfect candidate is a difficult process even in 2023, but pivotal to the growth and existence of your organization. If you have employees with the right skill sets, then you can build well-known brands. Candidate personas help make this possible by simplifying the talent acquisition process.

    What is a candidate persona?

    A candidate persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal job candidate, your purple squirrel. They significantly increase your chances of hiring someone who is a fit for your company.

    HR professionals can refine their hiring strategies and get the ideal recruit based on candidate personas. Although similar to buyer personas, they are segments that only represent candidate profiles for different jobs.

    Even though personas include the obvious like job experience, educational qualifications, and skills, they also encompass personality traits like interests, soft skills, interpersonal skills, short and long-term goals, etc.

    Not only do you get to refine your recruitment strategy, you can also optimize your branding strategy with them.

    Why are candidate personas a must in the hiring process?

    When personas are a part of the hiring process, they help hiring managers stay focused on who and what they should be ideally looking for in a candidate.

    Successful recruitment must be more than a “let’s mass-email everyone on our mailing list.” Most of these strategies end up attracting a large pool of candidates, many of which are unsuitable (and not the right person for the job).

    By building candidate personas, you can source better candidates that fit with your organization’s core values.

    Benefits of candidate personas

    1. Find the perfect people

    84% of recruiters say that the right cultural fit is an important factor to consider while enlisting. Thankfully, personas let you identify professionals who are good for your organization.

    Once you know their needs and preferences, you can approach them with a streamlined content plan and push them down the recruitment funnel.

    2. Improve the candidate experience

    When you know who you are looking for, you also know how and where to find them.

    Armed with insights gathered from candidate personas, you can formulate the right questions and reduce the time-to-hire and time-to-fill. This allows you to hire high-quality candidates, resulting in more conversions and a better candidate experience.

    3. Offer a better work environment

    With personas, you can personalize talent search in such a way that lets you find candidates with behavior and skills that fit into your existing work environment. You can build a diverse and multicultural workplace while creating an atmosphere of camaraderie.

    Consequently, managing employees who aren’t the right cultural fit for your organization can cause unnecessary friction, giving everyone involved a bad experience.

    4. Track recruitment metrics

    Candidate personas allow you to track every single metric and factor related to the recruitment process. They provide detailed insights into candidate demographics and psychographics. This is important since recruiters end up spending about 13 hours a week sourcing for a single role.

    That said, organizations that have personas mapped out can significantly reduce the time taken for job sourcing. Once you have benchmarked the metrics, you will be able to compare them with future values and see if there is any improvement.

    How to create a candidate persona?

    Just like any other business owner, you must have had your fair share of bad recruits. If you don't want to repeat those mistakes, follow this guide that helps you create your own candidate personas.

    Steps to create candidate personas

    Step 1. Begin with thorough research

    The personas you build for your candidates should be based on relevant data. They must not be a result of assumptions or hearsay. Identify the traits that make them who they are, along with understanding their skills and personality.

    In order to get the most out of your research, you should further consider all relevant stakeholders as a part of the process.

    Here are some of the questions that employer brands can ask to get a clearer picture of their ideal candidate personas.

    For employees:

    • What parts of your work do you find challenging?
    • How did you get to know about our company?
    • What prompted you to apply for your current position here?
    • What are the skills necessary for your role?
    • What are your work goals?

    For stakeholders:

    • What are the different job titles that you should look for in a particular designation?
    • From which companies did you recruit most of your existing employees?
    • What are the skills that you look for in each candidate?
    • What personal traits are you looking for?
    • What level of experience do you expect for each position?

    After coming up with answers for each of the above questions, you will be better placed to visualize what a “Facebook Ads expert persona” looks like.

    Since most of the data that you employed for your research was internal, it would be wise to have a tete-a-tete with the candidates too. It will help you find out why they were interested in your company.

    Step 2. Identify persona attributes

    Collect as much data as possible about each position or job opening. The higher the data points, the more refined and detailed your personas will be.

    That said, these are some of the characteristics of a candidate you should consider:

    • Demographic information: Age, job designation, income, educational and professional background
    • Personality traits: Strengths, weaknesses, preferences, motivations
    • Preferred skills or degrees
    • What kind of career trajectory can they expect at your company?
    • Why would the candidates prefer working at your company for a particular role?
    • What are their job responsibilities?
    • What social media channels do they use frequently?
    • How do they prefer to interact with recruiters?
    • Where do they look online for jobs?
    • Why would they reject an opportunity to work with you?
    • Which platforms do they gather information from?
    • What are their personal and professional goals?
    • What are their must-haves for choosing a company to work with?
    • What are their reasons for quitting their previous job?

    You can extend the list of attributes to increase the volume of insights you can gather. The personas can include all of the above and more to make your process more streamlined.

    Step 3. Draft your candidate persona

    After you have identified persona attributes, the next process involves drafting your personas. You put together the attributes to create a 360-degree view of your candidates.

    Here's an example of a candidate persona:

    Our persona, let's call her Maria, is a senior full-stack marketing executive who looks like a go-getter and the perfect fit for the job. Her freelancing gigs have helped her expedite her learning process. She seems like someone who can take responsibility and be a team player when needed.

    Demographic information: A 28 year old female from Hartford, Connecticut. Married with two kids.

    Experience: Eight years of experience as a full-stack marketer. Additionally worked with some of your closest competitors.

    Skills: Data-driven marketing skills.

    Personal interests: She’s a DIY furniture influencer on social media along with being a marketing consultant for B2B SaaS startups.

    Cultural affiliations: Prefers working with people (in office) and loves learning new technologies.

    Goals: Wants to transition as a performance marketer and include a new service for her clients.

    Interview deal breakers: Lack of clarity about the interview process, poor communication, and a long-drawn interview process.

    Step 4. Incorporate in recruitment efforts

    The final step is to leverage personas into your hiring process. Spread the word by sending highly segmented and targeted emails. Use social media channels as well. Make sure that you don’t deviate from the messaging for the personas.

    Once you go through a number of such drives, you can build a repository of candidate personas for the future that will help you find the right candidates, every time there is an opening. However, remember to keep them updated and relevant.

    How to use personas in recruitment marketing?

    Companies that offer an excellent candidate experience improve the quality of new hires by 70 percent. You can similarly make a large difference in the quality of your hiring process with the help of candidate personas.

    Let’s look at some of the ways they can be used in recruitment marketing.

    How to use candidate personas in recruitment marketing

    Customize job descriptions (JDs)

    A vanilla JD includes a list of skills that are copy-pasted from that of a competitor in a hurry. This is the worst way to hire employees for your organization. For your recruiting to be successful, you must tailor job descriptions based on your candidate personas.

    JDs should reflect specific personas since it is the first contact between the company and a competent candidate. Personas help recruiters reel in the ideal hire right from this starting point.

    Optimize recruitment marketing

    Let’s say your employee personas are interested in having a career that offers a great work-life balance. What should you do? You must create content that is designed to pique the interest of candidates who value the same.

    Position your organization as a place where you have successful employees who also get to spend ample time with their family and friends. On the other hand, if your candidate is looking for a challenging environment with frequent changes in projects, advertise yourself that way.

    Find out where your candidates spend time online. Create recruitment content for job boards that match your personas. The content you create will rake in a lot of applications as it will show them exactly what they want, where they want it.

    Improve recruitment metrics and ROI

    Every pivotal metric, such as application completion, cost per hire, employee retention, quality of hire, first attrition, etc., improves when you have clearly defined personas in place.

    The reason why you will find a huge uptick in all of these metrics is because you reach the right pool of candidates. Knowing the perks that your ideal candidates look for and creating content that aligns with them makes all the difference.

    Reduce employee turnover rate

    Businesses that thrive are the ones that manage to keep their employees happy and satisfied. When you give jobs to candidates who come from a pool of your ideal ones, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see people loving the atmosphere at your organization.

    You can quickly create candidate persona templates to get the right candidates and use this information to improve their overall experience. Candidates who know that they are getting a workplace that respects and values their efforts will rarely look for a different one.

    Ensure diversity and inclusion in the workplace

    One of the best by-products of designing candidate personas is that you look for candidates from a diverse pool of applicants.

    Businesses that have a diverse staff perform 33% better than those whose demographics match the average. For this to happen, you should ensure that you are not appealing only to select groups.

    Here’s a tip that would help improve diversity and inclusion in your organization. Create outreach plans based on multiple personas, especially for groups you think are under-represented traditionally.

    Candidate persona example

    Let’s look at the candidate, a front-end developer, enriched with candidate persona details.

    Requirements for the role:

    Hiring department: Engineering

    Skills required: A strong knowledge of JavaScript, HTML, CSS, Responsive Design, Frameworks, and Libraries.

    Experience: 5-6 years

    Previous companies: Indeed, LinkedIn, and Stripe

    Education: MS in Computer Science

    Issues: Lack of independence in choosing projects. Looking for a rise in pay.

    Location: Works remotely

    Salary: $135k-$150k

    Personal and professional preferences:

    Personal traits: Outgoing, calm, independent, curious

    Environment preferred: Open office, quiet coffee houses

    Motivations: Money, getting things done, working independently

    Goals:: Get into bigger positions of power and responsibility, work in challenging projects

    Communication style: Zoom meetings

    Getting your targeting right:

    Job portal preferences: Monster, Indeed, and developer platforms like GitHub

    Personal interests: Numismatics and building digital products. A regular at coding competitions.

    Preferences for perks/incentives: Remote work, independence to choose projects, and quarterly or half-yearly “workcations.”

    Here’s the above person’s persona story:

    The candidate has five years of work experience at MNCs and has experience in the field of computer science. He will be great for the position of the senior front-end developer. We are confident that his JavaScript skills will be perfect for our needs.

    John is currently looking for more independence in his work and a rise in pay, both of which is possible at our organization.

    Based on his experience and the prevailing market conditions, he will be eligible for a salary of $150k. The candidate will be able to quickly build camaraderie with his team members and be an asset to the organization.

    Using this template, you will be able to develop personas for different job positions with the right set of data. It is imperative that you gather data from different sources to create potent candidate personas.

    Wrapping Up:

    You should be persistent about making your personas detailed, real, and data-driven. Make sure that the candidate personas resonate with your team members as well. Your most important question should be “Where do we find our ideal candidate?”

    If you want to increase the effectiveness and engagement of your recruitment process, creating candidate personas is the ideal path to take.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    What is a candidate persona?

    A candidate persona is a fictional archetype of your ideal job candidate and includes details about their job experience, educational qualifications, personality traits, interests, aspirations, soft skills, interpersonal skills, personal and professional goals, etc.

    How do you create candidate personas?

    You can easily create candidate personas by following these five steps:

    • Conduct thorough market research
    • Lay out employee and stakeholder objectives
    • Identify key persona attributes
    • Draft your candidate personas
    • Incorporate personas in your recruitment efforts
    How do you use a candidate persona?

    HR personnel can use candidate personas to customize job descriptions (JDs), optimize recruitment marketing, improve recruitment metrics and ROI, provide a better work environment, reduce employee churn rate, and ensure diversity in the workplace.

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