employer brand

Candidate Personas: Your Path to Better Messaging

Candidate personas—borrowed from marketing’s highly successful use of “buyer” or “shopper” personas to drive consumer messaging—represent a picture of your target candidate based on a composite of common and desirable attributes. The purpose of developing a candidate persona is to arrive at a much better understanding of your target audience to create messaging and marketing strategies that connect and resonate with the talent you seek.

Sounds like a smart approach, doesn’t it? It is and it works. For those new to the concept of candidate personas, a GR8 way to begin creating one is to gather the answers to three specific questions:

  • Who are we talking to? In addition to understanding the basics of education, specific experience and skills that are needed, explore and uncover patterns in industries and accomplishments in the backgrounds of top candidates and hires. Location is another consideration, particularly where the work will be performed, the amount of travel involved and the current locations of candidate pools (i.e., national vs. specific regions of the country).

  • What do they care about most? The goal here is to understand the emotional side of your candidates—why they show up every day beyond the paycheck. Here, you will be determining what their expectations are regarding the work environment and the types of projects they like working on most. By digging deep into the answers to this question, you can learn more about any career-related concerns they have and their priorities for both work and life.

  • How can we reach them? With this question, you’re delving more into candidate behaviors. For example, what made them search for their most recent job and how did they go about it? You should uncover everything from the resources they use to learn more about potential employers to how they prefer learning about potential opportunities. Map out what a day-in-their-life looks like and make sure you ask about their media habits.

In order to fully answer the questions outlined above, you will need to do some research too. Don’t rely solely on what you think you know. Look at data in your ATS, read industry reports, and turn your hiring managers, employees and candidates into focus groups for accurate insights.

Putting Personas Into Practice

To illustrate how this all comes together, pretend for a moment that your area of focus is campus recruiting. Year over year, one of your biggest challenges is hiring interns for a finance internship program.

You do your research and summarize the key themes or “commonalities” that you’ve uncovered. Among them, you’ve learned that internship managers all agree that their best interns were members of a local college’s Undergraduate Finance Association and that mounting student debt is a huge worry. Secondary research confirms your hunch that Instagram is the social platform most widely used by the students you’re targeting.

From a marketing standpoint, you see an opportunity to create a dedicated Instagram account. The candidate persona points to an opportunity to efficiently leverage your Campus & Event technology to invite members of the Undergraduate Finance Association to an on-campus interview day – a much better alternative to investing heavily in a paid advertising plan. Your messaging will highlight the competitive pay the internship offers along with the entry-level roles that could lead to a lucrative career path once they graduate.

Your actual persona will likely have much greater depth than what’s outlined above to build a strategy and set of messaging. And, the greater the depth you arrive at, the more useful your candidate persona will be in talking to prospective candidates through the right channels in ways that are relevant, meaningful and allow you to reach and hire the right talent.


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