RPO Leader Shares Key Elements on Writing Effective Candidate Personas

by Tim Plamondon

hiring manager interviews ideal candidate persona

Engaging and hiring the right job candidate extends beyond posting a job description. In today's talent market, recruiters must include effective candidate personas in their search strategy. A candidate persona provides an in-depth profile of the ideal characteristics for a specific job. However, creating these personas can seem daunting -- where do you begin, right?

An excellent place to start is our recent RPO Leadership Forum webinar. RPOA Executive Director Laees Abourahma recently hosted acclaimed RPO leader Zach Coffey, VP of Strategic Partnerships at Hueman, where he provided valuable advice on writing effective candidate personas. He shared the "what," "why," "who," and "how" of building personas of candidates that will help organizations find and hire stable and constant talent.  Below is a recap of his presentation.

Attract and hire constant and reliable talent with an effective candidate persona.

What is a Candidate Persona?

A candidate persona is a detailed profile created for a specific job position. It focuses on the critical characteristics of successful individuals in that role. This approach considers factors such as personality traits, career goals, motivations, and soft skills that go beyond a candidate's resume and education.

Why are Candidate Personas Important?

Coffey shared that candidate personas are essential because they enable the organization's recruiters to target specific fruitful talent pools instead of focusing on less beneficial ones. Targeting distinct talent pools helps the recruiter find talent who will excel in a particular role and commit to the organization and progress within it. As a result, hiring managers improve hiring decisions and reduce costs by investing resources into attracting candidates who are a good fit for the position and organization.

The Process of Creating Candidate Personas

The person leading the process, Coffey said, should be someone who understands recruitment marketing and the organization. He noted that building candidate personas is a six-step process that includes:

  1. Determine the top 3-5 positions that would benefit from having a candidate persona.
  2. Conduct external research.
  3. Choose 5-10 colleagues to attend a workshop meeting.
  4. Ask colleagues to complete a candidate persona analysis worksheet and send their worksheet one week before the meeting.
  5. Invite selected colleagues to attend the persona workshop meeting.
  6. Sum up and compile the final candidate persona(s)

The first step is determining the top three to five positions that influence the success of an organization. Examples of these positions include line-level manufacturing workers, teachers, and nurses. Next, the process leader conducts external research to understand the specific roles and the larger market.  During this research, Coffey pointed out that the leader should research the market, analyze competitors, and gain insights from organizational leaders who oversee the target roles. The leader then chooses 5-10 colleagues to attend a workshop meeting. Workshop participants should complete a persona analysis worksheet and hand it to the leader one week before the workshop meeting. Participants uncover key motivations and personality traits for success in the specific roles during the workshop.

The final step of the process is compiling the candidate information. Coffey noted that this last step is crucial because this data includes biographical details, career aspirations, life goals, fundamental skills, and more. He added that understanding candidates holistically beyond their resumes enables organizations to see transferrable skills and traits from other fields.

Candidate Persona Questions

Coffey describes practical candidate persona questions to ask during the process and their importance. 

Motivations of Candidates and How They Search for a Job

Coffey emphasized that recruiters should look deeply into candidates' motivations and how they're searching for a job. He pointed out that salary is an important motivator, but it's only sometimes the top priority. Therefore, recruiters should focus on providing information about benefits, company culture, and the quality of colleagues and teammates as critical factors when engaging with candidates. Effectively communicating these aspects is vital to attracting and retaining top talent, as candidates often value these factors alongside or even above their salary considerations.

He also noted that recruiters should consider how candidates search for and apply for jobs.  They need to consider factors like the type of job offered, the candidate's current employment status, and where candidates are likely to look for job opportunities. This strategy involves, he said, adapting the hiring process to make it more convenient and efficient for candidates. It also underscores the significance of meeting candidates where they are, which may include using social media, seeking referrals from existing employees, and selecting the right job boards to reach the target audience effectively. He encouraged recruiters to treat candidates as individuals with unique preferences and behaviors.

Benefits of Effective Candidate Persona

Overall, the benefits of effective candidate personas are significant. They include attracting the right talent, reducing turnover, speeding up the hiring process, and enhancing the interview-to-hire ratio. More importantly, they refocus recruitment efforts on valuing candidates as individuals, promoting a deeper understanding of their motivations, and ensuring a better fit between candidates and organizational roles. As a result, there is an increased likelihood of long-term success. 

Coffey concluded his presentation by saying that it's essential for employers to remember that their employees and candidates are people, not numbers. The candidate persona helps employers gain insight into the personalities of their new hires beyond the daily job requirements and resumes. This approach has many benefits, including hiring the right people with better-staying power, quicker turnover time for filling positions, and a lower interview-to-hire ratio. 

We encourage you to watch the webinar to discover the essential elements of building candidate personas that empower organizations to find and attract stable and talented individuals. Learn the "what," "why," "who," and "how" behind this strategic approach to hiring top-notch talent.


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