Job Candidate Personas: A Guide for Recruiters

Every job opening comes with a specific set of candidate requirements and characteristics. But beyond your basic job description, how do you make sure you’re targeting and attracting the right candidates?

And even more importantly, how can you guarantee a quality hire if you don’t know what your ideal candidate looks like?

Fortunately, with the help of job candidate personas, you can identify, target, and fill your talent pipeline with the best candidates in the workforce. Ready to learn more about candidate personas? Keep reading.

What are job candidate personas?

Marketers have long used buyer personas to identify their ideal customers. The same concepts can be applied to recruiting.

A job candidate persona is a fictional representation of your ideal candidate. It’s built using traditional hiring information, like work history, skills, and education. It then goes beyond a potential resume to explore other, less tangible traits that might make someone the perfect hire. This often includes career goals, personality traits, and employment preferences.

Job candidate personas use industry research, hiring trends, and anecdotal evidence to try to get inside the minds of your ideal candidates.

Why use job candidate personas?

Good recruiters often create job candidate personas in their heads, but very few actually put them down on paper. Having a documented candidate persona strategy leads to a more informed and improved recruiting process. It helps with the following:

How? It’s simple—a well-crafted candidate persona puts you in your ideal candidate’s shoes. You’ll know what the perfect candidate is looking for, where to find them, and how to reach them.

Creating effective job candidate personas

It takes a significant amount of time to create high-quality candidate personas, but it’s not a complex process if you are well-prepared. Persona creation boils down to three steps: collect your data, analyze it, and then build your final profile.

1. Data collection

When marketers create buyer personas, they use existing customer data and internal research to inform their decisions. It’s very much the same for creating candidate personas—but rather than looking at customer data, recruiters look at data surrounding successful hires and placements.

Whether you’re a consultant for many companies or an in-house recruiter for a single organization, the data collection process requires two things: a thorough analysis of past hires and interviews with current employees.

The goal is to gather as much data as possible about the specific position or job opening. For example, if you’re hiring an entry level copywriter, you should compile the resumes of copywriters you’ve hired or placed in the past, interview professionals who currently work as copywriters, and talk to other recruiters to gather anecdotal evidence about copywriters.

Here’s what types of information you should collect:

  • Demographic information: Age, location, current job title, income.
  • Background: Work and education history.
  • Qualifications: Any required or related skills, certifications, or coursework.
  • Personal attributes: Personality traits, strengths, weaknesses, interests, and fears.
  • Goals: What kind of career do they want to build? Where do they want to be in five years?
  • Objections: What would make them not want to work for a company? What about a company’s brand, culture, or hiring process would make them lose interest?
  • Web activity: Where they spend time on the internet, including where they go for leisure, for networking, and of course, where they look for jobs.

2. Identify trends

At this point, you should have mountains of data to work with. It’s going to be overwhelming at first, but once you start to look for trends and shared traits, your personas should begin to take shape.

If you’re struggling to find commonalities within your research, consider using these questions as a guide:

  • What is the ideal candidate looking for in their work environment?
  • Where does the ideal candidate search for jobs?
  • Is the ideal candidate currently employed? If so, at what type of company?
  • Have you noticed that successful candidates possess certain personality traits?
  • Where does the ideal candidate see themselves in five years?
  • What motivates the ideal candidate?
  • How does the ideal candidate handle pressure or stressful situations?
  • What skills does the ideal candidate absolutely need to have?
  • Are there any unrelated skills that successful hires possess?
  • How does the ideal candidate spend their time outside of work?
  • Does the ideal candidate have any unique interests or hobbies?
  • Where did the ideal candidate go to school? What classes did they take?
  • How does the ideal candidate interact with others?
  • Do they like working independently or as part of a team?

The more granular you get with your trends and research, the more successful your personas will be.

3. Create your personas

Now that you’ve collected and organized your data, it’s time to actually build your persona stories. Use the common answers and themes you’ve discovered to create a hypothetical candidate.

Remember: This isn’t a job description. It’s a representation of what an ideal candidate could look like, but it’s flexible. This distinction is important. While some of your persona’s qualities will match up with the job description, others may not. For example, just because the ideal candidate wants to make $100,000 a year doesn’t mean they aren’t the perfect fit for a job that pays $75,000 a year. Perhaps their lofty salary goals show ambition and drive.

So be sure your personas are representative of actual human beings—and don’t be afraid to get creative. Many companies give their personas names and pictures to make them seem more realistic and three-dimensional.

Applying candidate personas to your recruiting efforts

With each new job opening or position to fill, you should create a brand new candidate persona. Over time, you’ll have a library of personas to pull from—making your recruiting process efficient, effective, and streamlined.

Use your candidate personas to inform each aspect of the recruiting process, from the language you use in your job description to the questions you ask in your interviews. Try to get inside the minds of your ideal candidate and tailor your recruiting initiatives to their preferences.

For more information about candidate sourcing check out the following blog post:

Or, contact our sales team today to learn how ZoomInfo’s TalentOS can help your source better talent today!