Candidate Personas: All You Need to Know About Them
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Candidate experience is a key recruitment factor for companies seeking to hire capable, well-qualified candidates. A 2021 survey revealed that 58% of job seekers did not accept the job offer due to poor job experience. 

The equation of power in a recruiter-job seeker relationship has turned in favor of the job seeker today. They are smart and have the power to choose their employer. 

If recruiters need to attract the right candidate and stay ahead in the talent search race, they must ensure that the recruitment process is smooth, lean, and as quick as possible. 

For a smooth and well-laid-out recruitment process, recruiters and HR leaders must work on and improve their recruiting and talent acquisition strategy. An integral part of the hiring strategy and framework is defining the candidate persona in sync with the job roles they are seeking talent for. 

It’s no longer sufficient to post generic job postings. Instead, a better approach is to be proactive and develop job candidate personas to hire the right candidate. This article explores what is a candidate persona, its significance, and the steps to create a candidate persona.

What is Candidate Personas? 

A candidate persona refers to a semi-fictional account or description of the ideal candidate suitable for a job. Recruiters and talent acquisition professionals must define the job personas for a particular job role to sync them with the hiring strategy directed toward the candidates the organization seeks to hire. 

The first interaction of a job seeker with the company is through the job description – a written overview of the candidate persona recruiters desire and build for a particular vacancy. Candidate personas are the client personas used by marketing professionals to target buyers.  

A good candidate persona helps direct the recruiting efforts from a generic audience to a more specific target. It helps by identifying the traits desirable in the right candidate, planning a sourcing strategy, and creating the required description and application materials accordingly.

A candidate persona is developed using the following touchpoints:

  • Work history
  • Skills
  • Qualifications
  • Education
  • Personality traits
  • Career goals
  • Soft skills
  • Employment preferences  

How are Candidate Personas used in Recruitment? 

Candidate personas are built on top of data points collected through research on the industry, hiring trends, and anecdotal evidence collected from actual employees in the role. Most recruiters never pen these candidate personas. But documenting them can help in more informed recruiting decisions and indexed descriptions. 

Job personas can be used for several purposes. Some of them include the following:

  • Writing job descriptions
  • Building and promoting company branding 
  • Improving time-to-hire rates
  • Reducing employee turnover rates  
  • Attracting passive candidates 

Significance of creating a Candidate Persona framework

A well-crafted candidate persona signifies the characteristics of an ideal candidate. So, when recruiters use candidate persona to build descriptions and promote the company brand, they know what the actual candidates are looking for and how and from where to source and attract them.

Candidate personas help to 

  • Devise a targeted talent acquisition and recruiting strategy 
  • Have a deep understanding of the requirements of all stakeholders 
  • Create a job description, emails, and other introductory materials 
  • Save valuable time, effort, and resources used in hiring 
  • Reduce employee turnover 
  • Engaging the right talent in time 
  • Meet competition 
  • Channel recruiting efforts toward the relevant hiring platforms and websites  
  • Enhance candidate engagement and experience 
  • Produce customized marketing content   

4 Steps to Create Candidate Personas

Recruiters should generate candidate engagement right from the initial stage to stay ahead of the competitors and secure the best talent.

They should gather insights and understand the requirements before building the ideal candidate persona to achieve this. 

 The steps that recruiters can implement to envision and pen down a candidate persona include –

#1 Source the data 

Before gathering the data, set aside all assumptions and biases and start from scratch. There can be many potential sources to collect data for the candidate persona. However, it is best to interview authentic people and collect anecdotal evidence. This evidence can come from 

  • Interviewing current employees, especially the top performers 
  • Collecting data on successful hires and placements   
  • Studying the resumes of previous hires 
  • Consulting other recruiters and hiring professionals  

The recruiters can ask the professionals, employees, and hiring managers questions and collect as much information as possible. The more the info, the more detailed the candidate persona will be. 

The questions can cover various data points like demographic info, background, qualifications, personal characteristics, etc. On a more personal level, the interviewees can be asked about their career goals, objections, and web activity. 

While collecting info, consider asking relevant questions and documenting the same in your organization’s CRM. Indirectly, recruiters can seek information from the LinkedIn profiles of their employees. 

LinkedIn profiles present bountiful information about career trajectory, qualifications, interest areas, skills, and other related data, such as groups they are part of. Incentivized surveys can also be used to source information. 

Check – Data-Driven Recruitment Strategy

#2 Identify and Analyze Trends  

 When the recruiter has collected data from different sources, they should organize the data into information ready for perusal and use it to analyze trends and traits common and exclusive to multiple stakeholders. 

The personas start to take shape as information is sorted into a list of qualities that will mark the characteristics of the ideal profile.   

Usually, the top-performing employees share a common set of personal attributes and experiences. There should also be some specific traits that are necessary for a particular role. For instance, a marketer needs to have good communication skills. 

More questions can be based on

  • Career goals (Where do you want to see in five years?)
  • Recent job search (How did you find this job opportunity?)
  • Motivation (What motivates you?)
  • Desired work culture (What are your expectations in terms of work culture) 

Check – Top HR Trends in 2023

#3 Collect the Requirements into a Single Persona 

Once the data is sorted and organized, the next step is to bundle the information into separate candidate personas. These personas now constitute the data and insights you found in the research, plus the personal experiences of actual employees in the same roles.  

The candidate persona will be a model profile on which future hiring decisions will be taken. The job description may or may not have all the qualities in the candidate’s persona. These personas should be as close to an actual human as possible to present a realistic set of expectations from the recruiters.

Recruiters often name these personas to add more dimensions and depth to these so-called avatars or archetypes. 

#4 Aligning Candidate Persona with Recruiting Strategy   

With time, as you build a distinct candidate persona for each role, you will have a repository of personas that can be accessed as and when needed. This repository or profile collection will help make the recruiting process efficient, less time-consuming, and more streamlined.  

Besides, personas can be used as guidelines to frame the language of the description and emails and plan the overall talent acquisition strategy. 

Wrap Up 

Recruitment and marketing both have great use cases for customer/candidate personas. They are vital to grabbing insights, planning, organizing, conducting, and controlling the quality of the recruitment process.  

This personalized approach is the need of the hour to tackle the complexity and competitiveness of the current recruiting landscape. The tables have turned, and employees have the upper hand over the employers. Recruiters would have to take the extra nudge and create and use candidate personas to make the recruitment process more effective.    

FAQs on Candidate Personas 

How do you define a candidate persona? 

A candidate persona is a semi-fictional account of the ideal candidate a recruiter desires for a particular role. Candidate personas help write better job descriptions, market the company brand, and scout relevant markets to attract the right candidates. 
A candidate persona should be built from scratch and well-documented using data points from anecdotal evidence, employee interviews, questionnaires to hiring managers, industry trends, etc.

What should be included in a candidate profile? 

A candidate profile should be an accurate picture of the candidate a recruiter is looking for. The essential data points in a candidate profile can include roles and responsibilities, unique qualities of the role, culture, and identity of the company, a list of hard and soft skills needed, and demographics. 

A candidate profile should contain realistic requirements gathered after extensive research from multiple sources and queries from the top candidates.   

What are the different types of personnel needs assessments?

Six major types of personnel assessments are used to develop a candidate’s persona. These include performance-based assessments, motivation assessments, cognitive and personality assessments, assessments for cultural fit, assessments by coworkers and managers, and client and customer-based assessments. 

What does an ideal candidate look like?

An ideal candidate possesses all the required skills and talents suitable for the role and proves to be a good fit in the company culture and environment. 

Why is a candidate profile necessary? 

A candidate profile or persona is necessary for recruiters to highlight the desired professional and personality traits to be the right fit for a job. It acts as a blueprint using which recruiters design campaigns and write job descriptions. 

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