Using candidate personas

I’ve suggested in one of my previous blogs that you can use candidate personas to better understand your target groups. It’s a very effective tool whether you’re working on your employer branding strategy or recruiting for a specific role with the expectation of bringing in results quickly. Once you’ve practiced it a little, the process is quite simple and quick and I’ve recently learned about a great tool that can help you with it.


Identify your target group

The first step is understanding what group of people you’re trying to communicate with. Is there a specific type of candidate you’re looking for? Perhaps a more general pool of professionals in a particular industry? I find it helpful to write down the characteristics of that group including details such as industry, business role, location but also interests and behaviours.


Create personas

Think of a persona as a representative of your target group. By focusing on just one particular person that’s part of your audience, you’ll find it easier to understand how to speak to the entire group. Depending on how diverse your target audience is, you can also create multiple personas.

There’s an app to help you with the process called Personapp that works quite well and guides you through the different areas that you ahould consider when creating the description:

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Of course, if you’re creating a candidate persona, you should also consider their job seeking behaviours. Do they look for roles online, or do they find jobs through their offline networks? Do they attend career fairs or meetups? What is the most important aspect they consider when applying for their next challenge?

All of this will help you determine who your typical candidate is and hopefully, it will help you understand them a little bit better. That is what in marketing is referred to as insight, defined commonly as:

A non-obvious understanding about your customers, which if acted upon, has the potential to change their behaviour for mutual benefit.

A really funny example of what insight is can be found on Air New Zealand careers site:


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See that emergency cord in the top right corner? This is what appears when you click on it:


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I don’t know about you, but I really liked this idea. It’s simple and funny and something your potential candidates might share with their networks – I know that was my first reaction when I saw it ;)

Defining the insight you can use in your strategy takes time. While creating a first draft of a persona can take a couple of minutes, this is something you may want to come back to after clearing your mind a little. If you’re using it for your immediate recruitment needs, step back for an hour or two and then revise your initial thoughts. If you’re working towards long term goals, it may work best to review the description of your persona regularly. It works similarly to getting to know a real person and you just can’t rush it.

One thing that can help you, if you’re looking to get as much information as quickly as possible is an outside perspective. You can invite your team, your hiring manager, or someone from the team you’re hiring into to, to help you out and add additional information to the description you already came up with. Better yet, you can make this a team exercise and create the persona together.


One last thought

Creating personas is a great exercise and it can really help you with defining your communication strategy. It is not, however, an excuse not to read the profiles of the potential candidates you send your messages to. Whenever possible, use more than just generic information about your audience and personalise your approach.

Otherwise, you risk missing the point completely and sending out a message that works perfectly in theory, just not as well in practice.

Social Recruiting geek turned trainer @ Lightness, networking enthusiast & blogger. Love travel, sci-fi & all things employer branding! I travel between London and Poland a lot and so some of my social posts will be in Polish :)

One thought on “Using candidate personas”

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