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What Is a Candidate Persona?
A candidate persona is the combination of ideal qualifications, skill sets and traits that make up an ideal candidate for your organization. When you’re hiring for a new role, you have a general idea of what kind of person would be a good fit. That “general idea” is an underdeveloped candidate persona. If we intentionally create a fictitious “perfect employee” for a specific role, this moves your candidate persona from a theoretical daydream to a tangible tool. It can guide your hiring process from job description to final decision.
How to Create a Candidate Persona
Building your theoretical “perfect employee,” can seem a bit overwhelming. Don’t get lost in the details! Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to get you started.
Step 1: Do Your Research
A good place to start is within your own company. What parts of your mission and company values do you want to see reflected in your employees? Which employees are your aces, and what about them makes them an ace? If you want more employees like them, start by interviewing them. Survey your employees to turn your company’s ideals into characteristics you want to see in your employees, and meld those qualities into your candidate persona.
Step 2: Build a General Company Persona
A company persona is a more generalized big picture persona that captures the qualities and characteristics a company wants in every employee, no matter the role.
A company persona helps build the framework of who you want at every level in your company while also providing a foundation on which to build position-specific personas.
Take a broad snapshot of your company’s mission and ideals and break those down into traits. From there, select the traits every employee should possess to further the organization’s goals. This general persona excludes qualifications such as higher education, experience or logistics (such as office vs. remote), as this persona applies to every role from entry level to upper management.
Step 2: Build a Role-Specific Persona
A role-specific persona builds on the company persona with a specific level of experience and position-specific requirements. It unites the company persona with role-specific qualifications. Ideally, you should have a persona for each role.
Step 3: Review and Rework
It’s worth mentioning that this isn’t a one-and-done project. Stay active in your research. Companies evolve over time, and so do positions. Regularly re-evaluate both company and role-specific candidate personas and how you are utilizing them. Otherwise you risk stagnation, making your persona obsolete.
Examples of Candidate Personas
Here are examples of one company and one role-specific persona.
Company Persona for a Running Shoe Company
Background: Has experience with running shoes
Roles and experience: High school graduate or equivalent
Skills: Articulate, proficient with computers
Interests: Healthy eating, exercise, hiking and running
Goals: Moving up in the company and continuing to further skills and education.
Values: Aligns with company mission and values.
Role-Specific Persona for a Social Media Manager
Background: Advertising and social media management
Roles and experience: Five years’ experience managing business social media. Has worked with large brands. Is considered a social media influencer.
Skills: Excellent with a computer, grammatically meticulous, creative writing
Interests: Technology, creative writing, keeping up with the latest news
Goals: Upping their follower count and staying on top of the latest algorithm changes on every platform.
When to Use a Candidate Persona
This tool can then be leveraged throughout the candidate journey.
Candidate Attraction/Passive Recruiting
A strong candidate persona allows you to cater content specifically to those who fit it. The idea is that people interact and do business with brands/ companies they relate to, and you can use this to build a pool of qualified applicants. This strategy is known as a passive recruitment strategy (or attraction recruitment) since you’re not actively seeking out candidates who are currently looking for a job. Instead, by curating content to fit what your candidate persona would find appealing, you begin to build relationships with those people via social media. Even though they may be currently employed, by following an attraction strategy you are keeping your organization at the forefront of their mind so when they are looking for employment in the future, your company will be the first place they check.
Having a role-specific candidate persona enables you to customize your job posting to resonate with the right applicants. This doesn’t just refer to the way you word your job description (though that is a good place to start). It can influence where you post your job openings and which methods you use to push the open role to the public.
For example, if you were looking to hire an IT professional, you might post the job on IT forums and social media since that’s where your candidate persona would likely frequent. Once you have a persona, you give substance to what would normally be an impression or intuition. By creating the persona, you have a more specific idea of where this imaginary employee would spend time, what values they hold, education they have, even what area they might live in. With this data, you can cater where you push the job information and even the language of the job posting itself to be as appealing to your imaginary employee as possible.
Making a Hiring Decision
Keeping the persona in mind as you move candidates through the hiring process can help make the final hiring decision. You can use a persona to help stay on track with the vision you have for the role and who you want working in your organization.
Since your persona includes character traits and values, you are able to grade applicants not only on what requirements they fulfill, but what preferred traits they hold as well. This will ultimately contribute to the quality of the candidates you end up bringing on board.
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Kayla is the Chief Innovation Officer at Hero Culture, where the passion is to create company cultures of retention using the power of personality.