Still Searching for the Perfect Hire? You Need to Create a Candidate Persona


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Monday, July 4, 2022

If you’re struggling to find the right candidates, candidate personas could be the solution. Read on to find out how to create them and accelerate your recruitment.

Article 6 Minutes
Still Searching for the Perfect Hire? You Need to Create a Candidate Persona

Are you struggling to find the right candidates? Perhaps it’s because you don’t actually know who you’re looking for.

Now, you might be thinking, of course I know who I’m looking for; I already have a job title, department and salary in mind - but what does your perfect candidate actually look like? Who are they, and how will they fit in with your company culture?

If you don’t understand who your ideal candidate is, it makes it much harder for you and your team to find and target them effectively. So, the best way to boost your chances of finding and hiring the right people is to create detailed candidate personas.

What is a candidate persona?

Personas started as a marketing tool used by organizations to help them understand and attract their target audience. However, this technique has recently been adopted by HR departments too.

As such, a candidate persona is a semi-fictional representation of what the ideal job candidate might look like. Much like in marketing, this helps organizations to define and understand their ideal candidate. By making use of this representation, recruitment professionals can adjust their hiring strategies accordingly.

So essentially, these personas are designed to guide your hiring process and increase your chances of finding the right candidates.

Why candidate personas are important

There are lots of reasons that you should define your candidate personas, the most obvious being that these will help to strengthen your recruitment strategy. Some of the other benefits of candidate personas include:

  • Attracting and retaining the right people
  • Knowing how and where to target your prospective candidates
  • Creating great recruitment content that candidates will actually want to engage with
  • Offering a more personalized approach to recruiting
  • Improving your recruitment marketing efforts
  • Building your employer branding
  • Tailoring job descriptions
  • Integrating diversity initiatives
  • Improving your hiring metrics and reducing the time to hire

How to use a candidate persona

Creating personas is all well and good, but they’re useless if you don’t know how to use them.

The overall goal is to use your candidate personas to inform the different aspects of your recruitment process. This will include everything from the job description to the final interview.

In order to use your personas most effectively, it’s best to write these down on paper rather than having them exist only as an idea. It can also be helpful to create a visual representation too.

You should use your candidate personas when choosing the language and information to include in your job descriptions. These will also prove to be very useful when implementing any new employer branding strategies.

What’s more, these candidate personas should heavily influence your recruitment marketing strategy. For example, you should use these when designing adverts for passive candidates or creating any relevant recruitment content.

These personas should be at the forefront of your mind when setting out which questions you’re going to ask during an interview. This will help your recruitment teams to determine if someone is a good fit for the role and company culture.

Finally, if you have carefully detailed who your ideal candidates are, you can even use these personas to make positive changes within the existing workforce. You can use them to make changes to your company culture, ask for feedback and generally boost employee engagement and happiness.

4 steps to creating a candidate persona

Creating detailed candidate personas can be time-consuming, but it’s certainly worth the time and effort you put in.

But if you’re not sure where to begin, here are four steps you need to create the most effective candidate personas:

1. Do your research

The first thing you need to do to build your personas is to set aside everything you think you already know. It’s best to start from scratch.

Your candidate personas must be based on research and data rather than gut feelings or instincts. So, the first thing you need to do is begin the research phase and start to collect information.

The best way to do this is to look at data from successful hires within the company. You should also interview your current employees, ideally your top performers, to understand what makes them so successful in their roles.

It’s also a good idea to make sure that everyone is on the same page by speaking with managers, C-Suite and stakeholders to find out what they’re looking for in an ideal hire.

Remember, your personas are made up of a lot of information to represent not just a single person but multiple ideal candidates. As such, you may wish to create more than one persona, depending on the role or department.

2. Start identifying trends

Once you’ve gathered as much data as you can, you need to organize and analyze the information. In doing so, you should start to see some patterns emerging.

The idea of this stage is to develop a list of traits, qualities, characteristics, experiences and skills that your top employees all share. Once you’ve compiled this data and looked for any trends or similarities, your personas will start to take shape.

3. Dive deeper

Once you’ve started to really analyze your data, you can prioritize certain data points. You need to outline the most important aspects for your candidates, such as:

  • Demographic information (age, location, salary, etc.)
  • Education and qualifications
  • Work experience
  • Personal attributes
  • Career goals
  • Objections that would cause them not to want to work for your company
  • Web activity and where they spend time on the internet

4. Create your persona

The final step is pulling all of this information together to create your personas. It’s important to remember that this shouldn’t read like a job description. Instead, it should be a fictional representation of your ideal candidate.

It should be as representative of an actual human being as possible. You could give them a name and create a visual image to go with your description. It can be helpful at this stage to use a candidate persona template to get your information in order if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Final thoughts

As you can see, candidate personas have a huge range of benefits and can help to guide your recruitment strategy. In the initial stages, it can be helpful to create a persona or two that represents the traits and qualities of your ideal candidates.

However, as you become more skilled in creating and adapting your personas, you might want to create a brand-new persona for each new job opening. You can use these candidate personas to inform each aspect of your recruitment process for the best possible results.

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