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Developing and Understanding Candidate Personas

When looking for the best candidate, oftentimes recruiters are stretched so thin they end up leaving a lot to chance. They post job advertisements, collect resumes, and often end up hoping that the perfect candidate is among the applications they receive. Sometimes this strategy works out, oftentimes it doesn't—putting recruiters in the position of needing to go back to the drawing board and do it all over again.

One way to take the guesswork out of finding the perfect hire is by creating candidate personas for each position. Candidate personas are hypothetical profiles describing the ideal candidate for specific job openings. By crafting these snapshots of candidates, recruiters are able to pinpoint the type of hire they want to find, which goes a long way toward reducing the time it takes to hire employees, as well as the cost per hire. In addition, creating candidate personas can boost job acceptance rates and retention, which can also positively impact your DEIB hiring efforts.

How to Develop Candidate Personas

The more time you put into creating a candidate persona, the more useful it will be. The following are some steps you can take to create candidate personas that will make the hiring process easier.

1. Research

In order to get the most out of the candidate personas you create, you want them to be as detailed as possible—which means you need to do research to construct them. A great place to start is with employees currently in the jobs you want to create personas for, since they’re in the best position to let you know what the role entails and the qualities that have made them successful in it. In addition, get input from employees’ direct supervisors to find out what makes an effective worker in this particular role.

Also, get additional information for your personas by reviewing employees’ resumes and work portfolios, as well as doing research online to find out what top people in these positions have to say about their jobs. By doing this research, you’ll get the most accurate idea of who the perfect candidates are in terms of qualifications, backgrounds, strengths, and weaknesses.

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2. Identify Trends

After doing your research, it's time to look at the information gathered and identify the trends that emerge. Do the best candidates generally earn a certain type of degree? Do they come from certain types of colleges and universities? Do they have shared work experience prior to being hired for their current position? By finding the trends in the data you collect, you can get the clearest picture possible of the type of candidate you should be describing in your persona.

In addition, by looking at trends in the data, you can also get an idea of what this type of candidate wants, which will help to not only attract the best talent, but also retain them. Look for trends related to what these professionals want in terms of the type of work they do, the benefits organizations offer, and the environment they’re most likely to thrive in. What do these professionals want to accomplish in the future? What motivates them to produce their best work? Answering these types of questions will help you create a candidate persona that attracts the type of employees your company is likely to keep.

3. Create a Story

After collecting information and identifying trends, it's time to write your candidate persona. This hypothetical professional will have a clear narrative, which should include their educational and work background, the years of experience they have, skills they bring to the table, and their strengths and weaknesses. In addition, the candidate persona can include information about workers’ cultural background, interests and hobbies outside of work, and career goals. By putting all of this information together, you have a guide for exactly what type of person you should be looking for when evaluating applicants—from their past work experience to their present interests to their future career goals.

4. Let Candidate Personas Evolve

Your candidate personas shouldn't be set in stone. As you meet new candidates, increase hiring, and do more research, you should be prepared to revise these stories as necessary. The trends you initially observed may change over time, and candidates may have different needs and goals, so it's important to keep your eyes open for anything you can revise, so your candidate personas paint the most accurate picture of the type of workers you’re recruiting.

Candidate personas are a great tool that recruiters can use to help increase their success when looking for the best talent. Although you may go into recruiting with a good idea of what type of employee you want, by creating a candidate persona, you're able to refine your impressions and craft a more precise candidate profile that will boost your chances of finding the right person—and being able to retain them.

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