A persona is a made-up person used to represent a target group. Personas are widely used in marketing and they make it possible to assign specific characteristics to your typical customer. With this information, you can define positioning, promotion and distribution strategies for products or services.

In recruitment, candidate personas can help you target the prospects that stand out to you and will help you approach them in a useful way. You can even create more than one persona if you have multiple positions. This can be very useful when you often have to recruit the same type of profile repeatedly.

Want to give the candidate persona a try? Here are five simple steps to guide you through the process.


1. Describe the ideal candidate’s profile


You can invent a name for your persona and add a picture. Next, try to generalize the profile you’re looking for:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Profession
  • City
  • Education
  • Years of experience
  • Family status

The aim is not to discriminate against anyone using these data, but to create a candidate persona that represents reality. The family status characteristic may seem strange, but keep in mind that a father may not have the same media habits as a single person.

Next, describe your candidate’s personality in as much detail as possible. Think of the list of prerequisites in your job description as inspiration. If that doesn’t get your creative juices flowing, here are a few questions to guide you. Is your persona:

  • Introverted or extraverted?
  • Adventurous or careful?
  • Organized or spontaneous?
  • Autonomous or dependent?
  • Thorough or able to deliver quickly?
  • Likes challenges or prefers routine?

You can add any additional personality traits that you feel are important for the position you’re filling.


2. Itemize interests and lifestyle


To create a candidate persona, you need to understand your candidate’s interests. Does he share common interests with the rest of his community? Everyone is different, but sometimes there are generalities that ring true.

For example: In the case of a software developer, he is likely to enjoy new technologies, video games, problem solving, board games, etc.

Consider the places that your persona visits most often, whether physical or virtual. For example: If you are looking to hire interns, think of businesses near schools (restaurants, bars, libraries, etc.). If you’re looking for marketing gurus, you might be best looking on social media.


3. Think about your persona’s media habits


Is your ideal candidate on Facebook? LinkedIn? SnapChat? Pinterest? Which websites does he use most often? What time does he connect on social media? Which articles does he read?

For example: A designer probably spends more time on Pinterest and Instagram than on Twitter because those mediums are considered “artsy”. Maybe he visits Dribbble or Behance when he needs inspiration.

Adviso published an interesting infographic that listed traffic hours categorized by medium. Don’t take everything it says literally though, because your candidate persona isn’t necessarily representative of the average in all ways.

The ideal is to test your posts at different times of the day, then analyze the results to create your own post schedule.


4. Create a survey to get precise data


If you want to create a candidate persona that is truly representative of reality, you can send your candidates a short questionnaire. Try to limit the number of questions and be clear about your reasons for sending the survey. You definitely don’t want the candidate to withdraw from the interview process.

The best time to send the survey is after the phone interview has been conducted. If after the interview you realize that the candidate doesn’t meet your expectations, disregard his answers. Since he’s not your dream candidate, you don’t want to include his data.

If you’re not sure about sending the survey to candidates right off the bat, you can start by sending it to your best employees. You know, the ones you would clone if you could.

Try to use multiple choice questions so you have metrics to analyze.

For example: What time do you go on Facebook? A) Morning B) Noon C) Afternoon D) Evening

Your questions will change their profile, interests and media habits. Typeform lets you create interactive surveys, extract results and automatically generate graphs to better analyze responses.  There is a free version and a paid version.


5. Finalize the persona and share it with stakeholders in the recruitment process


With all the information you gathered in the previous steps, you are now ready to create your very own candidate persona!

Free software like Xtensio lets you enter all of your information into the application without having to use any design skills.

Then, you can simply export it to a .pdf or .png format and present it to your colleagues who are participating in the interview process. Do they agree with your information? Listen to what they have to say because they will probably have suggestions on how to improve your persona. Keep the organization’s mission and values in mind as the persona has to reflect that first and foremost.

As much as I value transparency, I do believe there are some circumstances where it’s best not to share the persona with all of the employees. Some people who don’t fit the desired profile may feel undervalued.


You created your persona. What’s next?


You’ve created your candidate persona. Well done! Now you have to put it to use by creating a talent attraction strategy based on your results.

  • Choose content according to the medium (Facebook: work life, LinkedIn: professional achievements, etc.)
  • Write or share articles that will appeal to your persona
  • Draft job descriptions that will stand out to them by focusing on an emotional element (choose vocabulary that will reach your target audience)
  • Use the persona to understand how to attract your target audience to career fairs and figure out what type of promotional items they would like
  • Create customized recruitment events for your persona
  • The possibilities are endless, there are so many ways to use your persona to your advantage, you just need a bit of creativity!

If you’re running short on ideas, ask your marketing department for a bit of help.


What you can take away from all of this is that creating a candidate persona does require a bit of effort, but it will definitely save you time in the long run.

Not only will your recruitment team make more informed choices but training new recruiters will be like child’s play!

You will be better able to personalize your writing, attract more qualified candidates and boost our employer brand.