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Candidate Personas in Recruiting

Personas help to better understand potential employees and reach them at the right time on the appropriate platforms.

What are Candidate Personas and what do they have to do with Employer Branding?

There is a shortage of personnel in all industries. Applicants can therefore often choose where they go. At the same time, companies have to invest massively in time and effort to find interesting candidates. With Candidate Personas, there is a tool that solves this problem. The search becomes easier, the approach to the suitable applicant target group is more convincing and the application process is more successful for both sides.

The concept of personas comes from marketing. The goal is to concretize representatives of a target group in order to gain a better understanding of them and to be able to create advertising activities that are a perfect fit. And what works for marketing also works for employer branding.

Practical example Tim Meyer:

  • Name: Tim Meyer
  • Age: 27
  • Marital status: single
  • Profession: IT architect
  • Professional background: Abi, university degree
  • Hobbies: Mountaineering
  • Personality: introverted
  • Media preference: traditional advertising
  • Expectations: Work-life balance
  • Wishes: professional freedom of choice
  • Goals: Climate protection at the workplace
  • Dislikes: Micromanagement

If you create an applicant profile (persona) with these and similar criteria, HR departments can understand much better with which texts in which media and which benefits to successfully address suitable candidates.

More about Candidate Personas in Recruiting also as a podcast episode:

How to create Candidate Personas

What do Candidate Personas involve?

Key data and information on the target group include:

  • Name and photo: What does the suitable candidate look like? What name does he/she have?
  • Personal data: This includes, for example, age, marital status, occupation and hobbies.
  • Personality: Is someone more reserved or extroverted?
  • Media preference: In which way should the candidate best be addressed? Which media are preferred? Which messages will be well received?
  • Expectations: What does the applicant want from the company?
  • Goals: What are the applicant's career goals?
  • Dislikes: What should leaders avoid as much as possible?


Where do the data and information on the target group come from?

The data on your target applicant group is based on various sources. For candidate personas, you can draw on data from representative studies, or anonymized data from applications already received or from candidates with whom you have already successfully filled positions. In addition, your own qualitatively oriented surveys can be helpful, for example open and/or structured interviews with target group representatives. Step by step, a picture of applicants crystallizes, which is then brought to the point in data-based persona-sedcards.


What can be done with the data in practice?

In times of a shortage of skilled workers, job advertisements should be designed with particular care. Standard phrases or business buzzwords will not attract anyone. Job seekers and applicants want to find themselves directly in job advertisements, they want to be understood with their wishes and expectations. You can achieve all this with Candidate Personas - and much more. Let's look at the example of Tim Meyer. We know what his wishes, goals and media preferences are. With this data, you can place a job advertisement in concretely suitable media - i.e. away from job boards, for example on social media or in blogs. And you can formulate a job description in such a way that it appeals to Tim or the target group. This increases the chances not only for awareness or consideration, but also for preference and action. Or to put it another way: The target group representative applies.


Take off with Active Recruiting thanks to Candidate Personas

With the persona data or the sedcards, you can start directly with Active Recruiting. This means: On digital platforms such as LinkedIn, Xing and also Instagram or Researchgate, you can search for exactly those profiles that ideally match your data-based candidate personas. Let's look at the practical example of Tim Meyer: He is on Xing and without a doubt you can find very similar profiles via the search function that share goals and desires in the same way. You can also first proceed more roughly with the search and then, on the basis of the Xing activities of the individual profiles, identify which person comes particularly close to Tim Meyer's ideal.


The top 5 practical insights for targeted recruiting thanks to Candidate Personas

  1. Candidate Personas save you time and effort.
  2. Thanks to data-based personas, you can find suitable applicants based on concrete criteria.
  3. With perfectly matched tone-of-voice in the right media channel, they successfully address the candidates.
  4. Through targeted activities, your targeting is better than that of the competition.
  5. Shortage of skilled workers? Active Recruiting with Candidate Personas!

Want to learn more about data-driven Candidate Personas? Learn more in our Candiate Persona eBook.


Candidate Personas: Frequently asked questions and answers

What is meant by Candidate Centricity in Recruiting?

Candidate centricity means that the company focuses on the candidates and their needs in all phases of the candidate journey: Only then will it be possible to recruit very good candidates who fit in with the company and to retain them in the long term.
The Candidate Journey describes the applicant's journey from initial contact with the company to their hiring and a longer-term commitment to the employer: attention - consideration and interest - application - selection - hiring - onboarding.
With data-based Candidate Personas, you can perfectly and consistently optimize each stage in this process to meet the applicant's needs. This way, you avoid a mistake at an early stage preventing application or hiring from happening. Candidate Centricity is also very important in the onboarding phase, because 28% of new hires leave companies again within 90 days if there is a breach here, according to LinkedIn research.


What are Candidate Personas?

Candidate personas are fictitious characters that serve as prototypes for potential candidates for a specific position. They are often used by HR managers or recruiters to get a better idea of what kind of candidates would be best suited for a certain position, what makes them tick, what they need, what they expect from the company and the job, and how best to approach them. Candidate personas are created based on market research and data analysis and can help improve a company's recruiting strategy and tactics, ensuring they are aligned with the needs and expectations of the ideal type of candidate. They can also serve as an aid in designing job descriptions and developing recruiting campaigns.


Why do I need Candidate Personas?

The labor market is changing rapidly - towards a "candidate market". Digitalization and a shortage of skilled workers are meeting a generation that is setting new priorities: Salary is becoming less important, while flexible working time models, remote working, work-life balance, ecological footprint and corporate culture count more and more.
As a result, these days it's no longer employees who apply for a job, but companies for candidates - especially for highly qualified workers, in competitive industries or for popular job profiles.
For companies today, it is therefore no longer enough to place a job ad and wait for applicants. They need to pick up candidates where they are every day and turn an application process into a unique experience. How do you do that? With "Candidate Centricity" thanks to data-driven Candidate Personas. This white paper shows you how to create them.


How many Candidate Personas do I need?

This depends on how many different positions you have in your company and how different the requirements for the candidates for these positions are. As a rule, it is advisable to create a separate Candidate Persona for each position for which you are looking for candidates. This way, you can focus on the specific needs and expectations of the ideal candidate for that position and adjust your recruiting strategy and tactics accordingly.

For example, if you have a variety of different jobs in different fields, you could potentially create multiple Candidate Personas to ensure that you find the right candidate:s for each job. However, if you only have a few jobs that are very similar, you might be able to get by with a single Candidate Persona. So it depends on how detailed and specific you want to go.

In any case, create personas for the target groups that offer the company real added value. Because: 80 percent of the results are achieved with 20 percent of the total effort. If your personas cover 80 percent of the desired applicants, you can achieve great results with relatively little effort.
So you need a separate persona for each significant applicant type that will contribute to the company's success; no more, no less.
To identify the significant applicant types, you can segment your applicants according to various criteria.


How do Candidate Personas help fill jobs?

Candidate Personas can help fill positions by serving as a guide to get a better picture of what type of candidate:s would be best suited for a particular position. For example, they can be used to:

  • Design job descriptions and requirement profiles: Candidate Personas can help to ensure that job descriptions and requirement profiles are optimally aligned with the needs and expectations of ideal-type candidates.
  • Develop recruiting campaigns: Candidate personas can be used to get a better picture of how candidates might respond to specific campaigns and which channels and messages are best suited to capture their attention.
  • Conduct job interviews and design application processes: Candidate Personas can be used as a reference to ensure that interviews and the application process itself are aligned with the needs and expectations of the candidates, to ensure that the right questions are asked and that the application process as a whole leads to a good feeling (even in the case of rejections!).
  • Selecting candidates: Candidate personas can be used as criteria to select candidates and ensure that the selected candidates are a good fit for the job and the company.


Do Candidate Personas also help small and medium-sized companies or only corporations with recruiting?

Candidate Personas can be useful for small and medium-sized companies as well as for corporations. They are a useful tool to get a better picture of what kind of candidate:s would be best suited for a certain position and can therefore be helpful for companies of any size.

For small and medium-sized companies, Candidate Personas could be particularly useful if they have limited resources and experience in recruiting and therefore want to focus on specific candidate profiles. They could also be helpful in getting a better picture of how candidates might respond to job descriptions and recruiting campaigns to ensure they are aligned with candidate needs and expectations.

Corporations also benefit from Candidate Personas, especially if they have many different jobs and want to get a better picture of what kind of candidate:s would be best suited for each job. They could also be useful for getting a better picture of how candidate:s might respond to recruiting campaigns and content to ensure they are aligned with candidate:s needs and expectations. Of course, candidate personas are also suitable for optimal targeting to minimize wastage.



What role do candidate personas play in employer branding?

Candidate personas can play an important role in employer branding by helping to get a better picture of what kind of candidate:s are interesting for the company and what their values and attitudes are. They can be used, for example, to:

  • Design the Employer Value Proposition (EVP): Candidate Personas can help ensure that the EVP is aligned with the needs and expectations of the ideal candidate:in and that it conveys the right messages and content.
  • Design recruiting campaigns and content: Candidate personas can be used to get a better picture of how candidates might respond to specific campaigns and content, and which channels and messages are best suited to capture their attention.
  • Shaping the employer image: Candidate Personas can help to get a better picture of what values and attitudes are important to the ideal type of candidate and how the company can communicate these values to build an attractive employer image.


Can I use Candidate Personas even as a very small company without a market research budget?

Yes, even as a micro business without a market research budget, you can create and use Candidate Personas. There are several ways you can do this without spending a lot of money:

  • Use existing data: For example, you can use studies from career websites, job boards or analytics data from your social accounts and existing HR data to find out what kind of candidate:s would be suitable for the job, what makes them tick, what content appeals to them, what concerns are driving them, what they expect from the job or from you as an employer.
  • Conduct interviews with employees: You can also conduct interviews with colleagues, managers or other people who work in the industry to learn more about the needs and expectations of candidates.
  • Use customer feedback: If you have customers, you can also use customer feedback to find out what kind of candidate:s would be best suited for the job in question and how best to approach them and where.
  • Use your own experience: Finally, you can also use your own experience and expertise to get a better picture of what kind of candidate:s would be best suited for the job in question, where to find them, and how to approach them.
  • Use free online resources: There are many free online resources that can be helpful in creating Candidate Personas. These could include studies from career websites, job boards or industry associations, for example.


Who "invented" Candidate Personas?

Personas are a concept that originated in the field of market research and are used to get a better picture of how certain target groups think and act. The concept has been used primarily in the field of marketing and advertising to understand how certain products or services are received by potential customers and to design marketing campaigns accordingly.

The concept was popularized primarily in the 1990s by Alan Cooper, author of the book The Inmates are Running the Asylum. Cooper developed the concept of personas to get a better picture of how computer software users think and act, and to improve the usability of software. Since then, the concept has been applied to many other areas, including recruiting.

Want to learn more about data-driven Candidate Personas? Learn more in our Candiate Persona eBook.



How are Candidate Personas created?

Candidate personas are usually created through a process of research and data analysis. This is done by first gathering information about the skills and qualifications that are important for a particular job or role. This information can come from various sources, such as:

  • Job descriptions and requirement profiles
  • Field reports from employees or managers
  • Market research data and industry analysis
  • Results of applicant surveys or feedback.
  • Data from HR systems or applicant management systems

The information gathered is then analyzed and evaluated to determine which skills and qualifications are most important for success in the position. Based on these findings, a candidate persona is then created, which includes a detailed description of the ideal candidate for the job. This description may include details about education, work experience, personality traits, and other relevant characteristics: What do applicants value about the company, what do they expect? What pain points do they have in their job? etc.

It is important to note that the creation of candidate personas is not a rigid or one-time process, but should be regularly updated and adjusted to ensure that they always meet the current needs and requirements of the organization.

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