• Estimated read time: 5 mins
  • Date posted:23/03/2020
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Identifying the best candidate for a position is the holy grail of hiring. However, many organisations struggle to attract the right calibre of candidate for the role, resulting in wasted time, effort and, in the worst-case scenario, appointing the wrong individual.

This is where a candidate persona comes in. Creating a profile of the ideal candidate for the position helps empowers hiring stakeholders to reach a consensus on the calibre of individual they seek to hire. This, in turn, aids them in penning engaging job descriptions, job adverts and recruitment content to attract and engage individuals with the desired skills, experience and traits. In short, crafting candidate personas helps to streamline the hiring process.

What is a candidate persona?

A candidate persona is a semi-fictional representation of the ideal job candidate.

Similar to customer personas in marketing, candidate personas help hiring stakeholders reach a consensus as to what the right candidate for the position looks like, both from a technical and cultural fit standpoint. They do this by outlining the ideal candidate’s…

  • Background, qualifications and hard skills: Certain roles require particular experience, qualifications and skills. This is particularly the case with senior management or executive positions, where candidates will be expected to hit the ground running. There is no time to acquire these skills or experience on the job.
  • Soft skills: Soft skills, also known as interpersonal skills, relate to general characteristics that help individuals thrive in the workplace. For example, this could be whether the candidate is a good problem-solver or leader, or has excellent analytical or communication skills. For leadership positions, soft skills are essential.

Describing the qualities of the ideal candidate helps hiring managers to assess all candidates during the hiring process. Candidate personas help to identify and target candidates aligned with the job description and organisational culture.

Why are candidate personas important?

Candidate personas are important because they help organisations hire the best individual for the role. Candidate personas help hiring managers and stakeholders to:

  • Pen accurate job descriptions: The job description is arguably the most important document in the hiring process, even more so than the contract. Why? Because if you get the job description wrong, the signature on the contract will likely be the wrong candidate for the role. Essentially, job descriptions define the results and impact of a given role, detailing what the job entails, what success looks like, and where the roles fit within the wider organisation. It is used to qualify candidates throughout the hiring process, from application through to determining who to offer the role to.
  • Craft engaging job adverts: Providing the role is not confidential, job adverts are one of the first touchpoints a candidate is likely to have with your organisation. Essentially a lean job description focused around the roles’ objectives and stripped of unnecessary waffle is designed to engage candidates and convince them to apply. When writing job adverts, your aim should be for anyone reading it to understand what the organisation is looking for in potential applicants and whether they’d be a good fit. As a result, more qualified and high-quality candidates will apply to your openings.
  • Improve recruitment marketing: When you know who you are trying to attract, you can make informed decisions as to how best to attract them. From knowing where to advertise your job adverts to writing engaging recruitment content and social media posts, candidate personas can shape your outreach efforts and even your employer brand.
  • Assess applications, CVs and qualify candidates: Having an ideal candidate in mind will align all hiring stakeholders during the hiring process. They will be able to assess candidates against the criteria of the candidate persona.
  • Make an informed decision on who to hire: Defining a candidate persona should help hiring stakeholders to reach a consensus more easily on who to hire and who to let go.

What are the benefits of a candidate persona?

There are several benefits of defining a candidate persona:

  1. Hire for culture fit: A candidate persona attracts and engages candidates that align with the company culture and values from the outset.
  2. Reduced employee turnover: Candidates that are a good technical and cultural fit are more likely to succeed and less likely to resign after a short stint.
  3. Higher offer acceptance rate: Candidates that are a good match to your candidate persona are more likely to accept an offer.
  4. Lower time-to-hire: By attracting and engaging the right candidates from the offset, you won’t waste resources (time, money, effort) interviewing the wrong individuals.
  5. Improved employer brand: Employees that love their job and are proud to work for their organisation are more likely to become brand ambassadors.
  6. Boost employee satisfaction: Hiring the right candidate that fits the organisational culture will increase their job satisfaction.
  7. Widen the talent pool: More engaging job adverts will increase job ad view-to-apply rate and catch the attention of passive candidates.

How do you create a candidate persona?

1) Research

Where possible, candidate personas should be based on concrete data, rather than gut feelings and assumptions. Identify your high achievers. What traits do they have in common?

RELATED: Increase quality-of-hire by partnering with a reputable boutique executive search firm

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For more robust analysis, rather than rely on observations, conduct interviews with your star employees. If you’re pleased with their performance and attitude, then this is the best cause of action to take. You should ask them questions, such as:

  • How do you search for jobs?
  • What motivates you?
  • Why did you apply to work for this organisation?
  • What do you consider your main personality traits to be?
  • What do you like about our company culture?

The answers they give can inform the candidate persona. You should then ask candidates the same or similar questions during interviews, comparing their answers against the answers of your high-achievers. If they don’t align, then you know that that candidate is not a good cultural fit for your organisation.

2) Analyse data 

Once you’ve conducted your interviews, the next step is to analyse the data to identify commonalities and shared traits. By looking for trends in the data such as common skills and characteristics, this can help to develop your candidate persona for each of the positions you’re seeking to fill. If you’re struggling to define the candidate persona, here are some questions to ask:

  • What skills does the ideal candidate need to have?
  • What motivates the ideal candidate?
  • Where does the ideal candidate see themselves in five years time?

These questions will help you to understand what kind of candidate you’re searching for. It’s important to note that candidate personas will vary depending on the position and the level of the role.

3) Create your persona

Your candidate persona is essentially a written document that splits into different sections. For example, these sections could be qualifications, previous experience, characteristics and values, soft skills, goals, interests and dislikes.

Some organisations will get creative and even include a photo of what the ideal candidate will look like. Will they be young or old? Will they be male or female? However, this can backfire in the sense that bias can be introduced into your hiring process. To be on the safe side, you should avoid outlining specific demographics in your candidate persona, such as age, gender and nationality.

For more advice on avoiding bias during the hiring process, read our blog: 3 Inclusive Hiring Strategies To Diversify Your Workforce.

How many candidate personas should you create?

For each new position, you should create a new candidate persona. The end goal here is to build up so many candidate personas that you have a portfolio of them at your disposal. These candidate personas could be for roles such as Quality Assurance Managers, Project Managers and Finance Directors. It’s worth noting that candidate personas can vary depending on the department and team the candidate will be working with, for example, whether they require someone with leadership or critical thinking skills. These candidate personas are still a good starting point, however. Having candidate personas for multiple roles will help to make the hiring process more streamlined and efficient.

You should consider the candidate persona as a benchmark that informs the language used in your job descriptions and the questions you ask in interviews.

For more hiring advice tailored to hiring managers in the life science industry…

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* Fraser Dove International is a specialist executive search firm operating exclusively in the Life Science industry. Passionate about people, we take pride in helping exceptional life science organisations source the talent they need to design, manufacture and distribute life-changing drugs, treatments and devices which transform and save patient lives.

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