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What are Candidate Personas? We Asked an Expert



Understanding and building your ideal candidate persona can be a major differentiator in the race to find and hire great talent. This was one of the key discussion points raised by Sarah Bradshaw, a Talent Acquisition partner at BambooHR, during our recent webinar co-hosted with Lever.

Sarah’s passionate about aligning hiring strategies with the needs of a business and creating the best candidate experience, so we sat down with her after the webinar to pick her brain on her role and thoughts on this fascinating topic.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role.

I’ve been at BambooHR for almost five years, I started on the customer support team and then moved on to talent acquisition about four years ago. We call ourselves talent acquisition partners because there’s so much more to the job than just recruiting.

We partner with hiring managers to create a great candidate experience and engage in other business-related development responsibilities. As an HR software company, our mission at BambooHR is to set people free to do great work through providing an easy to use platform and a great user experience for HR professionals and company employees.

What are candidate personas and why is it important to have them?

A candidate persona is similar to a buyer persona used in marketing. When we talk about a candidate persona, we are talking about who the people are that are going to be interested in or looking for the role we’re hiring for, as well as who will be a good fit for the role. For example, for a remote customer experience role, you’d want to think about the kind of people that want to work from home and would be successful in such an autonomous role.

Candidate personas help with marketing the role successfully and in deciding on the hiring and interview strategy to use. We were once hiring for a payroll position and used video interviews but we found we weren’t receiving many completions. We realised that this type of candidate might be hesitant to complete the virtual video style interview, so we started to reach out through a phone call instead of email to explain the process. In doing so, we saw much better results and were still able to use our preferred interview approach.

I am not sure many companies have really put in a process around identifying candidate personas. From what I’ve seen, there are companies that are using some part 0f the concept but not others, and few are putting a name to it.

Who’s involved in creating a candidate persona?

It’s important for the hiring manager and talent acquisition partner to work together to develop the candidate persona.

The hiring manager should have a clear idea of what type of candidate they need and of who will be successful in the role they’re hiring for. Talent acquisition partners should also continually be building their knowledge of their industry, the types of roles they recruit for and the people in these roles. Together, the hiring manager and talent acquisition partner have a great opportunity to learn from each other to create comprehensive and useful candidate personas. They can utilise resulting personas to make decisions about the strategy of hiring and interview processes that will work best for the people they are trying to reach.

How does this process make your job easier?

Creating a candidate persona provides so much direction and insight so I’m able to be more effective in the hiring process and create a better candidate experience.

It helps ensure that we are hiring the right people for the right positions. Aside from the mandatory job qualifications or requirements, we want to make sure that the position is a good fit for the candidate.

What advice would you give companies thinking of building a candidate persona?

One piece of advice I’d give is to be careful not to let biases creep in or tread on legal ground. You can do that by ensuring hiring managers and interviewers have proper training, slowing down the decision making process and being thoughtful about all different aspects of the role.

My advice would also be to focus on why you’re doing this - to ensure you’re creating a great candidate experience and getting a deep understanding of what the role is all about. Talent acquisition can sometimes relate to sales in that you’re trying to paint a picture of the company and tell the story of what it’s truly like to work there. If a talent acquisition professional, hiring manager or candidate is untruthful in the interview process, all parties will find out eventually so it’s best to tell it how it is all along and be open from the beginning.

Sarah Bradshaw - BambooHR

About Sarah

Sarah has been a key player in the development of the core hiring strategies for BambooHR and has hired for several different divisions. She believes that passion and work should go hand in hand—that fully engaging with the larger mission and vision of one’s role is essential to a happy career. She also believes that feeling empowered and supported in the workplace should be the norm, rather than a luxury. Through her own work, she hopes to assist others in finding and obtaining the passion in their careers that she has been able to experience herself.

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