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What are Candidate Personas? We Asked an Expert

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HR managers discussing candidates personas

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 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.

What are candidate personas and why are they important ?

A candidate persona is a semi fictional representation of the person that is needed to fulfil the role successfully.

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. 

Candidate personas are similar to a buyer persona used in marketing. 

An example of how candidate personas can be used:

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 the recruitment marketing strategy. 

Candidate personas provide guidance on recruitment strategies

Defining your candidate personas also assists with the decision 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 we're 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 parts 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 the perfect hire for the role.

Talent acquisition partners should also continually be building their knowledge of their industry, the types of roles they recruit for and the perfect candidates for 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. 

How candidate personas are used?

HR managers can utilise resulting personas to make decisions about the strategy to target candidates.

Understanding candidate personas allows recruiters to spend time with a more effective approach in the recruitment process. 

Marketing content and interview processes that will work best for the best job candidates can be defined.

What are the elements that should be included on a candidate persona template?

BuiltIn recommends the following elements to be added to a candidate persona template:

  • Education Geographical location
  • Woking experience
  • Specific skill sets
  • Communication style
  • Preferred work environment
  • Professional goals and motivators
  • Personal online presence

How ‘personas’ make HR’s 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.

Candidate profiling 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.

Recruitment content can be built for different personas. Relevant elements of employer branding can be mentioned during the hiring journey to job applicants that fit within the candidate persona template.

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. 

Ensure 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. 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.

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