Low unemployment and high-demand for talent has led to fierce competition among innovators for the best and brightest candidates. With more competing opportunities than ever before, employers are looking for ways to develop a healthy pipeline of talent as well as retain the competent employees they already have.
One way Purple Tree and our clients have found success attracting and retaining talent is through the use of something called candidate personas. Candidate personas are a powerful tool in your job marketing kit. They are fundamentally, a story about your ideal employee, a detailed look at their goals, ambitions and the factors that motivate them to accept your offer of employment (and stick around for years). Just as marketers use buyer personas to understand their audience, the most successful recruiters use candidate personas to craft effective job descriptions, ads, and other messaging. Further, personas help employers understand what their employees need to be happy and productive in their position for years to come.
There’s a good chance that even if you’ve never heard of candidate personas, you already practice something similar, albeit not formalized on paper. When I speak with a hiring manager about an open position, most often they’ve already got someone pictured in their mind. Based on past hires, many hiring managers already know a great deal about what their ideal candidate should and should not be. If this is you, you’re off to a great start. But let’s don’t stop there! A thorough candidate persona will likely reveal much more about your ideal candidate, including some useful intel you might not have uncovered otherwise.
A good candidate persona tells a story. Why? Because stories are just about the most effective way for us to understand other people. Stories help us understand the emotional reasons that people make decisions and enable us to appeal to those emotions when trying to attract the perfect candidate.
Why take the time?
In the early days of personas, when most marketers still weren’t using them, I had a heck of time convincing anyone to listen to my crazy ideas about “getting to know your audience.” But the years and the numbers have proved me correct and personas have become undeniably critical to the process of 73% of modern marketers. This is not the case for employers. As of 2019, only 30% of employers say they use candidate personas or something similar in their recruitment process. Maybe that’s why 60% of jobseekers report a poor candidate experience and 65% percent of employers report difficulty attracting qualified candidates.
Personas empower our job marketing
Personas help us not only define what motivates our ideal candidates, they help us understand the most productive channels and methods with which to distribute our job marketing. An effective candidate persona will enable you to create an efficient job marketing strategy with messaging that speaks directly to candidates and targets them through the channels and media they interact with everyday.
I’m hiring engineers with 3-5 years of experience for positions in our main plant, located in a rural area of Colorado. Through my candidate persona research I have discovered that my ideal candidates are between the ages of 32 and 38, most often with young families or long-term plans to start one. The candidates best suited to this position are looking to relocate to an area with a low cost-of-living with the goal to buy a home, raise a family, and someday advance to a manager or director-level position. By interviewing my current employees I learn that the most appealing aspects of the position are the extensive benefits, time-off for new parents, and tuition assistance. I also learn through my research that my company lacks a substantial rewards and recognition program, something that my current and future engineers would greatly appreciate. When it comes to job marketing, I know that Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram are the social channels most used by my ideal candidates and these are the channels I’ll use when trying to attract them.
As you can see, candidate personas give me a lot of crucial information I can use when developing my job marketing strategy for engineers. I won’t waste time advertising on Facebook or other channels my candidates aren’t using, and my job ads will focus on the benefits that are most appealing to these specific people. My persona has helped me understand where my candidates are currently working and how much they’re earning so I can take advantage by positioning my company relative to the competition.
What’s in a persona?
The ideal persona will contain as much information as you can muster initially, and will grow and improve over time as your understanding of your candidates increases. Here is some of the most important information to gather for your persona.
Job titles. Job titles vary significantly form company to company so create as complete a list as possible to help you identify what your ideal candidate is currently doing. Keep in mind that if your position will be a promotion for your ideal candidate, you will most likely target positions below the one you’re hiring for.
Where do they come from? What companies or industries have you’ve found successful candidates from in the past? For example, do you find engineers with specific training or from a specific kind of school are more suited for your company?
What do they do? Define the skill set of your ideal candidate including things like soft skills, emotional competence, demeanor and attitude. What other skills or proficiencies will they need? Include knowledge of tools, technology, and processes.
Experience. What level of experience do they need? Is it necessary for candidates to have experience in your industry or sector? Will they need to fill a mentorship role or is this a position where they’ll be learning from others with more experience?
What motivates them? What goals are most common among your ideal candidates? How do these goals align with your company objectives? Interview some current employees and find out what they love about working at your company. How will you connect the benefits of working for you to your candidate’s aspirations?
Where are they? Where have you found great candidates from in the past? What social channels will be most useful to engage candidates for your talent pipeline? What kind of publications and website do your ideal candidates read and visit?
These are the first steps to crafting a successful candidate persona that will help you attract, engage, and retain the talent you need. In the early days of this process, your personas will be some combination of interviews with current employees, research gathered through marketing sources, and a whole lot of educated guesses. As you continue this process and personas became a regular part of your recruitment efforts, your personas will grow more sophisticated and detailed. In the coming weeks, we’ll discuss more about how we create personas here at Purple Tree and I’ll share some of our own personas you can use to get a jumpstart on your efforts.
Do you use personas in your job marketing efforts? Tell us why (or why not) in the comments below!