Editor’s Note: These are the notes and visuals from Maren Hogan’s presentation.
I'm certain you know about candidate personas and the importance, but in this post, we're giving you a deeper dive into how you can use these personas to build a hiring strategy that won't stop. Even better? Your candidate experience will be through the roof.
Building a candidate persona for recruitment is just like building a buyer persona in marketing. The same rules apply as they rely heavily on research and common sense to understand the target audience. Candidate personas, like buyer personas, need to focus on three things to be effective:
Casting Call: Picture your new hire as if they were in a movie. What would their perfect on-screen doppelganger do? What kind of attitude would they have? Most importantly where are they RIGHT NOW? Stuck in a dead end job? Desperate for leadership experience and focus? Feeling overlooked at a safe but unfulfilling job? How old are they? What level of education do they have? Who do they report to? How are their results measured?
Forensic Evidence: Once you’ve created a sketch of the persona, go through LinkedIn profiles to see what his or her colleagues do, read, how long they’ve been in a certain position, what groups they’re in, the works. This can really help you figure out what appeals to them. It can also give you solid insight into their retention numbers and what sort of recommendations ideal candidates might receive. You can get an idea of schools these folks went to, what kind of hobbies they might have and more. I always use an amalgamation of traits to get a good picture.
Write the script: This is the fun part. Try to figure out what makes them tick, use the info gleaned from people like them to gauge whether they listen to Spotify or Pandora, value work-life balance over money or are due for a move in the next six months. Does this person get along with superiors or might they want to work alone? Ask yourself anything, and then attempt to answer it. I give our personas a name. I try to imagine where they grew up, what is valuable to them and then fill in what channels are most likely to reach them wherever they are (online or IRL).
Create a winning recruitment strategy with this step by step guide for creating candidate personas!
It’s like a candidate persona tree, so, for example, you have your Management positions as the main persona, but then the different departments where the management roles are housed would be your sub-candidate persona.
Management – What kind of managers are successful at our company? Are our best managers successful because they’re team players with a first here, last to leave mentality OR are our managers successful because they command authority and have mastered delegation? Do we need management teams who take direction and do what they’re told from management above or do we need managers with entrepreneurial spirits and aren’t afraid to pioneer their own paths to create new processes or departments?
Being a good manager means different things to different companies depending on your organizational structure and culture, but it’s defining those characteristics that shape your entire plan.
Once you have this understanding, you’ll build out actual candidate personas to inform SEO keywords to be used in all copy, job ad messaging, social messaging and all outreach. We’ll call them power words.
The job ad should resonate with candidates and speak to your targeted candidate personas. Fill out the below candidate persona worksheet and keep it at top of mind when creating the content of the mobile ad. What do the below people like or dislike? What kinds of jobs appeal to them? If you’re hiring for a position that will need to pioneer a new role, department or market in your organization, their persona could look like this:
(e.g. 30 – 45 years of age)
(e.g. Bachelor’s Degree; Finance, Economics, etc.)
(e.g. 5+ years of management experience)
(e.g. Aspirations to drive their own department or create a new path in the organization)
Personality Type Most Successful in the Role:_______________________
(e.g. Entrepreneurial spirit, wants to own their own business but doesn’t want the stress of it.)
You already know someone like this if there is a similar role in your company. Ask this person about their mobile habits. Where might they be online? What initially attracted them to the role?
Keep in mind this can’t be discriminatory, but if having a family is important to your target candidate, then highlight the great benefits your company offers to make their work/life balanced.
Create a survey using Survey Monkey or QZZR that you can send out to your personal or professional network to gather data. You may seek resources in the most unlikely places… For example, your little brother who is on active duty with an extensive network of new veterans or your cousin Laura who is a stay at home mom with a college degree and looking for remote work are real-life resources you can use to draw up a persona draft.
Try This: Don’t be afraid to post to your personal Facebook or Twitter and ask your friends if they know anyone who fits a brief description of your targeted talent pool. The more people you can recruit for information, the better.
Look for common answers and develop a way to organize trends for each category. If the position you’re hiring for is a desk job, but the candidate you’re targeting is a military veteran with a bachelor’s degree who doesn’t want a desk job then your recruitment messaging needs to focus on the other parts of the job that don’t require desk work.
Use your candidate personas as a cultural fit template. Todd Raphael (@ToddRaphael), Editor in Chief of Recruiting Media Company explains,
“Hiring for cultural fit above skills is a great idea, because you never know how much an employee will be developing, growing and changing over time — they could be in a completely different role by next year… And it makes sense to do so based on the industry and market you’re in, too: If you’re an accounting company, for instance, you don’t necessarily want to hire someone who’s chaotic and extremely creative. If you’re a cutthroat, uber-competitive, cutting-edge company, you don’t want to hire someone who’s very laid-back and not as driven by competition, for instance…”
Try This: To best organize your candidate personas (and all of the personality details mentioned above), try using an outline format or bulleted list.
THIS is the first step to ensuring every point of the recruiting process keeps the candidate in mind. It’s especially important when reaching out to candidates, scheduling social recruitment messaging, creating job advertisements and building any recruitment messaging out in general.
Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of creating personas:
At RBM, we create them in the very beginning of strategy development which provides reference materials for decisions. When there’s confusion or pushback, we point back to them to be sure the candidate is the foundation of our decision. We aren’t always right, but we always have confidence that the final product actually considers the hire we want. It’s crucial to make these first so your content and that’s everything that hits the job seeker’s eyeballs, is written FOR THEM.
Below is are 3 different examples of candidate personas. The first was created for an international protein company who was hiring for supervisor roles within multiple plants. The second was for a well-known pharmaceutical company who was looking for top talent in various cities across the US. The last were created for an international financial technology company who needed to hire a new CFO and was struggling to form a recruitment strategy for the critical executive role.
There were numerous supervisor roles available, but the company needed specific skillsets to ensure the position was handled appropriately. Below are 3 candidates who could fit the job.
In Cambridge, there are many smart, ambitious people. Long a hub for scientific exploration, the town has recently become a haven for innovation labs of large companies like IBM, Transgen and Microsoft. Due to the number of facilities being built there to capitalize on talent emerging from MIT, Harvard and Yale, the competition for top talent (particularly in the sciences) is fierce. In order to compete in this environment, the pharma company recruits and staffs in a very different way than in their HQ in the Midwest. Here is a rundown of the candidate persona for Cambridge:
What is Jennifer’s Background?
Jennifer has worked her way through the ranks to become part of senior leadership within her organization. She is primarily (and sometimes solely) responsible for financial administration and oversight of funds and reports to the CFO. She is likely around 45-55 years old and has been with the same company for 4-7 years. Jennifer probably has a CPA and is well-versed in the B2B environment, specifically around finance.
She assists in the development of new models and needs to constantly take into consideration, the market, regulatory and business environments in which her funds operate.
Jennifer is highly visible within the organization and requires working cross-functionally with all levels of management in areas including Portfolio Management, Operations, Legal, Compliance, Product Development, Sales/Distribution, Client Service, Corporate Finance and the various vendors that provide services to the Funds. She also provides support for ongoing reporting/relationships with the various governing bodies that oversee the Funds including the Board of Directors.
What does Jennifer do all day?
Jennifer oversees operations related to the funds that include daily net asset values, valuation, distributions, expenses, tax matters, shareholder recordkeeping, custody of assets, implementation of accounting policies, new instruments, periodic review and update of offering documents, issue identification, management and resolution.
Jennifer likely has these traits:
How is Jennifer evaluated?
What keeps Jennifer up at night?
Jennifer’s entire job depends on getting accurate information out in near real-time. With the advent of digital, her job got more complex because she needs to get the information, tabulate the results, pull from multiple sources, make sure it’s accurate and attractive and then redistribute that information to multiple groups on multiple platforms, all while meeting very specific regulatory guidelines. She is terrified of falling behind.
Jennifer has a very strong sense of URGENCY in her daily job.
What are Jennifer’s barriers?
Trust. Jennifer needs to know she is working with a team that has a track record and is used by other thought leaders in the financial industry. Combat this with more information about your management team on the website and the proposal, as well as additional and more robust case studies.
Another Candidate Persona Example:
Managers who have the desire to own their own business, but haven’t followed through because of the risk or lack of resources would be targeted for an unstructured company, a new business or even a structured corporate organization that needs to enter a new market or provide a new service or product.
Power words: personal development, career development, career growth, autonomy
Like we discussed in the job advertisement and job description section, you’ll want your recruiting team to have candidate personas in hand to know what kind of employee fits best into the role. By doing so, you’ll reduce that applicant-to-interview ratio so later on down the road the candidate-to-hire ratio is one you can be proud of!
In recruiting, candidates can be segmented much like consumers so recruiters can adapt their recruitment messaging and improve results. This is particularly important when it comes to creating job advertisements.
Let’s take everyone’s FAVORITE Generation, Gen Y:
Pretend you’re targeting Gen Y job seekers who have obtained their bachelor’s degree. First, you’ll want to fire up Google and research issues and trends influencing your targeted candidate audience. Make sure to set search parameters to be timely, within the past month or past year (no later), and relevant. Gather as much statistical information as you can and compile a brief trend report that highlights key identifiers of your targeted group.
From the research, you can see that your targeted audience is concerned with job security and doing meaningful work, values workplace flexibility and a higher salary more than other working generations, and is more inclined to go back to school or start their own business instead of continuing their job search. This tells us that Gen Y job seekers are ready to do what it takes to build their career, they want to do work they’re passionate about, be compensated well, have a work/life balance and feel secure in their positions.
While it’s not safe to stereotype a candidate segment, it is okay to use the information as a generalized framework for recruitment messaging creation. As a conclusion to this brief, you’ll want to exemplify how your company, if applicable, supplies these generational demands.
The next step in marketer speak is to align your buyer personas with the sales stages. We do this in marketing to create content that reaches the person at the right time, and this can be applied to your candidates too. The passive to active spectrum is ever-growing as technology is giving candidates more options than ever before.
Branding and Marketing have lots in common. Numero Uno? They all run on content. If marketing and branding campaigns are the car, then content my friends is the fuel.
For our purposes today, content includes, of course, blog posts, but also literally anything your audience can consume:
And more! Any I forgot?
The next step in marketer speak is to align your buyer personas with the sales stages. We do this in marketing to create content that reaches the person at the right time, and this can be applied to your candidates too.
The passive to active spectrum is ever-growing as technology is giving candidates more options than ever before. In content marketing, the sales stages are Awareness, Consideration and Decision.
How do you get candidates to even know about your company and the positions it’s offering? You use:
Basically, all the fun stuff! Remember, these don’t have to be specific about your company or too promotional. You don’t have to overtly have your logo and mentions of your company plastered everywhere. If you create great content it will do the talking for your brand.
How do you get candidates to start applying for a role at your company?
What do they need to know? What are they most concerned with? Do your research! So they see you’re super cool but have you told them what real people at your company are like? What they’ll be expected to do? Have you profiled that marketing superstar that never graduated high school or that Comicon addict who’s the best finance analyst you know? They know who you are, now show them why THEY should be part of YOU.
What resources do they need to help them move forward?
Give them everything they need to make them feel confident moving forward. This serves a couple of purposes. One, they’ve already given you a pass but now if they’ve applied, you’re competing with other, faster organizations. So how can you stand out? Well, detailed explanations of compensation, your hierarchy (or lack thereof) and of course, useful information.
Numero Dos? Providing this information beforehand can help them self-select out of the process. If you publicly share a diagram of your organizational chart and the ebbs and flow of each department, you’re helping a candidate who is looking for a flat organization self-select out of the process before you waste your time screening and interviewing them. Get that information out there with these:
A key goal here is to create content that not only attracts those who have already applied but is still relevant for those earlier in the funnel. As we all know the candidate experience doesn’t stop with the application, or even the offer letter. So start building past just attraction and seal the deal. What if you put your offer letter, swag intro, employee reviews or even interview scheduling emails into your editorial calendar? It’s what marketers do, right down to the last three stages of that funnel we discussed.
A great example of this is a little booklet I stumbled across a few years ago on how to break into web development. This was geared to be of help to a new graphic design or web developer and as soon as I downloaded it, I received a follow up from the person managing TA at the company.
Other examples include packing checklists for traveling nurses, interview guides for career centers in target schools, goal setting workbooks for management candidates and more. We all need a little help doing our job and many of us find it on the internet. Once you start creating candidate focused downloadables you will have a much better chance of attracting new applicants.
Now we’re ALMOST ready to start filling those little squares in. But we have to do a few more things to do first.
If I may make a suggestion, try the medical recruiting industry. They work their butts off shining a light on their candidates and recruiting them with videos, contests, social media — you name it. Also, remember those groups I told you to pay attention to when you were scoping LI for your personas? Now’s the time to head in and see what all the fuss is about. Which articles are they clicking and liking, which influencers do they follow, which online communities are their watering holes of choice? I literally copy and paste links into an inspiration section of our calendar. This is what they want to read/watch/consume.
And remember events. Your editorial calendar for hiring is NOTHING without events underpinning it. When are you headed to recruiting events? When did product say you’d need an influx of data entry people? How full is your campus recruiting schedule? And this isn’t just about actual events but also about historical data. What have been your high and low points of the last year or three years? People often build out calendars like schedules and they are NOT, you simply don’t need as much content in August as you do in March.
Take inventory of recruiting content you already have. In some cases, re-optimizing a page on your career site, or building a new opener for a corporate video can instantly repurpose content and fill a hole in your ed cal.
Okay, got all that? Now let’s talk structure. We use Google Sheets for our editorial calendars but there are plenty of plugins if you’re a Hubspot or WordPress user you can use, especially if you’re only managing one blog or set of social tools:
NOW we can use this to build your editorial calendar!
At RBM we build out a campaign for every month or so. Use the info gleaned from both your hiring research and the editorial calendars you collected earlier. Depending on how often you plan on releasing content, you may want to include social updates and imagery in this section.
Separate them out using one of the following criteria:
It will be very tough to create content for every persona in every stage every month, so keep in mind that awareness and even consideration content can serve dual purposes. For example, a video you create for one persona in the awareness section might be just the thing to send someone in the decision phase. Or your blog post about the engineering team could be exciting to someone applying to your marketing department.
Outbrain conducted a study of 150,000 article headlines to see which characteristics got the most clicks. Here are the key takeaways:
Another great tool? Hubspot’s Headline Generator. Just google it and WIN NO MATTER WHAT.
We’re just building an editorial calendar here. If you don’t want to do all that hard work then you can simply head to our website and grab a copy of both the content funnel and the editorial calendar. Of course, it’s empty so how you fill it is up to you. Just download or add the document to your own Drive to get started.
Now once you get on a roll of creating lots of content, you can go back and repurpose it all to create even better more engaging content. By looking at what’s been the most successful (most views, most CTA clicks, most downloads)! Combine blog articles to create a guide, turn an employee testimonial blog into a video, and so on!
In fact, this entire presentation/post was created from content myself or my team had already made!
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