Recruiters have heard plenty about the tight tech job market by now. Given that this hiring climate is unlikely to change anytime soon, you still need a way to sift through the clutter to find the right candidates. It helps to know exactly who you’re looking for, because knowing your audience is a critical factor in any recruiting strategy, especially when it comes to tech. And one way to do this is through candidate personas. You might be thinking: “I already know who I’m looking to hire. What do I need personas for?” Well, for one thing, writing down goals is intrinsically linked with higher success rates, making you anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to accomplish your goals. That’s certainly nothing to scoff at, but rather than getting into the science behind this, let’s focus on getting those personas built.
What is a Candidate Persona?As with most things in life, it’s easiest to start at the beginning. Just what is a candidate persona, and where did the whole idea come from? Basically, this is the talent acquisition version of something other departments (think sales and marketing) create all the time. In our case, rather than trying to determine a potential customer, buyer or market segment, tech recruiters try to envision the perfect candidate. This lets recruiters visualize a fictional representation of the person they want to hire, generating a sketch of the real-life human we’re looking for and where we might be able to find them. Building out candidate personas involves a healthy mix of data, research, interviews and imagination. Crafting a detailed persona for every position you’re hiring for might seem like a lot of work at first, but the return on your time investment is significant. To start, ask yourself these three basic questions:
- Who is our ideal candidate?
- Where does this person operate?
- Why would they want to work for our organization?
Doing the Heavy LiftingWith each of the above points in mind, it’s wise to create personas that match your current openings exactly, such as senior software engineer or data scientist. One of the best places to start is by looking at the top performers currently in these roles and identifying what they have in common. If you can set up an interview, ask about the goals, values and ambitions that drive them in their day-to-day jobs. You can also seek input from other sources and stakeholders, such as candidates, hiring managers and executives. From there, detail out a basic profile, accounting for more straightforward factors such as age, location, experience level, skills and certifications. After that, spend some time working out any common pain points that this candidate might encounter, along with likes, dislikes, personality traits, aspirations, challenges and the like. Moving through this part of the exercise will help to answer the first question in full. Answering the others will take some deeper digging. For instance, learning where your candidates operate could mean understanding their web activity. Luckily, tech talent tends to congregate in similar spaces, attending the same events and following a handful of popular brands and companies, as evidenced by Dice's Ideal Employer data. Knowing this will also shed some light on whether the candidates in question would want to work for your organizations. To complete the persona, look out for any key considerations that might influence their decision-making, which includes:
- What’s most important to them (i.e., salary and benefits)?
- What’s less important to them (something that often varies by generation)?
- Any hindrances or possible objections (travel, on-site vs. remote)?
- What do they want from their employer (their strengths, brand recognition)?