Candidate persona: what it is and how to create the profile of the ideal candidate

Candidate persona: what it is and how to create the profile of the ideal candidate

Those who are familiar with the world of marketing are probably already familiar with the buyer persona tool, i.e. profiles of ideal customers, with realistic characteristics, that helps you step into the shoes of the audience.

In a marketing strategy, but also when designing a blog, or defining how to use corporate social media, we often make use of these fictitious identity cards. You build 5-6 profiles under which you group the various types of customers in order to understand how they behave with respect to the purchase process or with the service that is provided, meet their needs, even manage to anticipate them.

It happens, or at least it should happen, even in the world of recruitment: every HR, before starting any selection process for a company, should understand who its candidate persona is. Let’s try to understand what talent acquisition is and how it improves.

Candidate persona: What it is and what it is for

What kind of profile are we looking for? How should you fit into the company culture? What is the approach you expect to have towards the company and the role you will be filling?

These are all questions that a recruiter and his or her team should ask themselves before starting a recruiting process, in order to arrive at the ideal candidate or candidates for the position. These are characteristics that go beyond the qualifications the candidate must have, the years of experience, the company they come from, just to name a few.

These aspects are certainly to be taken into consideration, but they are not the only determining factors. Also because, without making further assessments, without having an idea of what skills the candidate should have, beyond what is written on the curriculum, it is difficult to evaluate the applications that arrive or to know what is the most suitable LinkedIn profile for a given position.

A candidate persona is therefore a semi-fictional representation of the ideal candidate. Defining it can therefore significantly improve recruitment and talent acquisition strategies.

It’s not much different, as we’ve seen, from the buyer persona used in marketing that helps companies reach potential customers more effectively.

Considering the ideal candidate, “designing” him or her, helps to better define the terrain within which recruiters and their staff must move, it helps to understand which strategy to apply, which types of channels to refer to and at the same time the tone of voice to use in the ad, which aspects to focus on, which to leave in the background, define a communication campaign or a possible sponsorship.

This will save a lot of time for you as a recruiter, for your team and, of course, for the entire company. With considerable advantages: a selection process in which the time to hire is reduced but still produces more than satisfactory results, allows you to devote yourself to other activities that may be neglected during a selection process, such as employer branding or dealing with people who have already been hired and their onboarding.

These are just some of the advantages of building a candidate persona, but going deeper we’ll see that they certainly don’t end there.

candidate persona

The benefits of defining an ideal candidate

Defining a candidate person before any recruitment process has several advantages, in addition to those already mentioned. Let’s look at them below.

Attracting the right people

Improves talent acquisition: this is because, if you have an idea of who the ideal candidate should be, it is easier to focus on people who have certain characteristics and “bring” them to our company.

Reduce turnover

Focusing on a candidate, and therefore on the right person, the ideal person for the role he/she is going to cover, will make this person, once hired, less likely to leave the job.

In other words, there is more chance that the employee will not only be successful in the selection process, but that the whole placement will go in that direction and that the employee will actually become part of the company, feel comfortable and decide to stay for a while. In other words, there is less chance that he will look for another job a month later. So double success for the recruiter and for the company itself.

Recruiting people who fit the company culture

Whether they are startups, small or medium-sized companies or well-established firms, each of them has its own “culture”, a way of staying on the market, values that it carries forward and shares with its employees and clients, a way of understanding work, offices created ad hoc. In short, a whole world that makes one company different from another.

Hiring a person who is far removed from all this, or who struggles to understand it and make it his own, can be counterproductive. With a candidate, you can identify people who not only know, at least in broad strokes, the company culture, but who can help promote and improve it.

Create greater involvement with ad hoc content

If it is clear who you are addressing, if it is clear what their needs are, how they are informed, what their expectations may be, then all communication will go in that direction and will be focused on creating increasingly engaging and engaging content.

Talking about company values or particular benefits, for example, may not be of interest to a 65 year old whose goal is to finish his career in a prestigious company, but it may be of interest to a 35 year old with a well-established career, who may feel much more involved when he reads news or listens to videos on certain topics or perhaps, within the job ad, reads that the company in question implements certain welfare policies.

Have a personalized approach to candidates

As we’ve already mentioned in part, creating a candidate persona with their needs, expectations, and desires allows you to approach candidates in a more personalized way and be able to say “This is how we meet your needs at the company.”

Improve the candidate experience

Not to mention that a more personalized approach allows for a better candidate experience for the candidate themselves: they’ll feel more engaged, more valued and even happier, regardless of how it goes.

Increase the percentage of successful offers

The ideal candidate will be much more likely to accept a particular job offer because it aligns with their characteristics, and this will cause the percentage of successful offers to increase.

Improve your recruitment marketing strategy

We’ve said it in part: the candidate persona is very similar to the buyer persona used in marketing. Structuring the candidate persona in the best possible way means creating a successful recruitment marketing strategy that includes processes such as employer branding and marketing techniques such as social recruiting and optimized career pages.

Reduced cost to hire

If profiling the ideal candidate leads to a reduction in time to hire, then the costs associated with the time to hire also decrease, which is an advantage for the company, but also for the staff. And it’s all budget that can be “allocated” to other activities, including recruitment.

Improve brand reputation

Hiring ideal candidates who embrace the culture of the company, who accept job offers because they really want to be part of it, will enable them to become brand ambassadors.

People who speak positively about their work to everyone they come into contact with, who tend to talk about how they find themselves and what they do on social media, and who consequently become key to implementing an employer branding strategy.

How to build a candidate persona?

That being said, how do you go about it in the strictest sense? To create your candidate persona, you definitely need to move by following some very specific steps.

The first step to build your candidate persona is to define who you are starting from your bio. Obviously it’s a fictitious profile, we said it, but giving some physical characteristics – as long as they are not discriminating – helps you not only to outline him/her at best, but also to make him/her rather correspond to the truth.

Therefore in the bio will be indicated:

  • age (more or less)
  • salary
  • educational background (bachelor, master, etc.)
  • professional experiences
  • social background
  • position held

This is more general information, but no less important and usually comes out of the type of specific request that is made by the manager of a particular team.

Another source to address this first step can be the database you have: if for a certain area people have been hired who have done a certain type of training and have a certain educational as well as social background, this is information you can have to build your ideal candidate.

The second step goes further: you need to identify the main character traits of your candidate person: is he/she ambitious? Individualistic? Shy? Dynamic? A team player?

If you’re wondering how to get this information, the advice is to do some internal questionnaires and/or talk to people who have successfully held a similar position to the one you’re looking for.

So talk to people inside the company – or outside, if it’s a new position – and try to figure out what their character traits are, what kind of colleagues they would best work with in a team, and what character traits are most valued in that work context. These questions may still be a bit general, but they will help you to get more and more specific.

The third step of our guide to the candidate person leads instead to identify which skills this person should have – both transversal and hard (i.e. technical-professional skills) – in which areas they should have developed them and what experience they should have had in this regard.

Again, a significant contribution can be made by internal people who have been hired in that role as well as by the future boss or manager to whom this person will have to refer and/or by matching the people hired with their LinkedIn CV/profiles.

candidate persona

With that done, the next step is just as important and involves goals: in describing the ideal candidate, the recruiter should imagine what reasons this ideal candidate would have to leave their current job, their personal goals, their professional goals, their life inspirations.

Again, it helps to talk to people inside the company: figure out what motivated them to choose it, what career level they were at when they were hired, what their goals were, and if they know of any networking or offline professional groups you could follow to learn more.

Some of this information can help you better understand the candidate’s motivations. For example, why should they choose this company: its reputation, interest in innovative projects, mission, particular vision, salaries, benefits, work environment, etc.?

All information that can also be “picked up” during a job interview, as we will say better below. It is just as important to understand the reasons for dissatisfaction of the typical candidate: what they would like to change about their job, what obstacles perhaps do not allow them to do so, and so on.

Last but not least, hypothesize how their job search takes place and, broadening the field, what their candidate journey is like, i.e. the journey they can take to get to intercept our job offer.

A process that should be tested first by HR to understand how and if it works, focusing on inbound recruiting (i.e. how the candidate has arrived or can arrive at us) and also analyzing the data we have in our possession and that we may have acquired using ATS software.

We need to define whether our ideal candidate uses mobile or desktop more, and here in addition to the ATS, it can be helpful to have analytics of the company website, which channels they can use (social media, company websites, job boards, friends, family, etc.) and also to hypothesize whether the ideal candidate is active, i.e. is looking, or passive.

How many candidate personas does a recruiter need?

How many ideal candidates are there for each position? How many candidate persona should be created? Let’s say that answering with a unique number is quite difficult, but we can say in general that for each position 3 to 5 candidates persona should be created.

But this depends on the size of the company and above all it also depends on the various differences that may exist between one profile and another, such as the department in which you work, your seniority, the position you are looking for. If they are significant differences then more candidates should be created even if they have similar characteristics.

Let’s explain: if a company is looking for a content manager, either as an intern or to be hired on a permanent basis with several years of experience, it is true that many characteristics may be the same, but a young person who has just graduated differs from one who is, for example, 40 years old.

In the first case you could focus more on what the internship offers, on the brand of the company and the type of experience that will go to make and choose a channel like Instagram to try to attract him, in the second on the salary, on the type of editorial staff in which he will work, on career prospects, but also on the benefits that will be given and as a channel may be more appropriate LinkedIn or Facebook.

How to understand if a candidate has the requirements to be part of the candidate persona: the questions to ask

candidate persona

Having built the ideal profile or profiles, what remains to be done is to understand if the candidate in front of us is the candidate we are looking for.

To understand this, there is no other way but to ask the right questions. Questions that can be easily modified depending on the situation, but which help to outline the characteristics of the candidate in front of you.

A recruiter should first ask the candidate to describe their training and education, to tell about their previous work experience, trying to get them to tell you what they learned in particular from each one, what led them to enter this field, the size of the companies they worked for.

Another part of the questions should be about your current situation: the role you play, how your work is valued, what a typical day is like, what tools you use every day in your work. And again, ask: what personal and professional challenges have you set for yourself – a question you often don’t ask that can really tell you a lot – what are your goals, how do you document and update yourself, and how do you look for new job opportunities.

Important questions that help both to understand if he or she is the ideal candidate and, in the event that he or she is not, all of the answers are important information that help better delineate the candidate persona.

How to help find the best candidates

To outline the candidate person, another valuable help comes from the database: searching for the best profiles, understanding what characteristics of each one might be most congenial to the company and especially to the role that must be covered helps to outline the best profile.

Artificial intelligence: an extra gear

While helping yourself with the database can be a good way to clear your head, it could also waste a recruiter’s time. Being able to take advantage of an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) with an inside artificial intelligence algorithm, on the other hand, makes this search process even more intuitive and reliable.

An intelligent algorithm is able to analyze the historical data of the CV Database, make a predictive analysis and assign a value to the candidates in line with the recruiter’s preferences. By analyzing the profiles of candidates hired for a given position, it is possible to get a precise idea of the candidates hired and their path within the company, so as to be able to outline the type of candidates most in line to fill the same position.

Finally, intelligent screening of CVs helps in the creation of the candidate person because it allows you to take advantage of the historical data in the CV that can also help to refine the profile of the typical candidate. By using data on the candidate’s career path, we can gain information that goes beyond the job title or the job sought; data that tells us a lot about a candidate’s previous experiences, his choices, his lifestyle.

All of these actions, we’ve seen, take time, but it’s important to remember that attracting the right candidates, making the right hires, and therefore hiring engaged employees means getting 202% more out of them than an unengaged and uninterested candidate would, in two words: not ideal.

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