How to create a candidate persona?


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Karthik Subramanian

Karthik Subramanian

23 Sep, 2020

What is a candidate persona?

A candidate persona is an assimilation of skills, qualifications, characteristics, likes, dislikes, motivations, and aspirations of an ideal person suitable for a role.


Why are candidate personas important?

Candidate personas are important because they help HR teams clearly demarcate what they’re looking for in an ideal candidate.

Have you ever tried to make a dish using an online recipe? What happens when you don’t follow it? You have a disaster in your hands.



That is what happens when you don’t get your employee personas right. So, here are 6 reasons why you need to nail down your employee personas well.



Candidate personas go beyond the resumes and include items that often go unnoticed in resumes. It includes social profiles, personality traits, career aspirations, and locational preferences.

It is a 360-degree profile of how the ideal candidate would look like.


Attracting the right candidates

You don’t a rocket scientist to fix a light bulb. She’ll rush out of the exit door before you know what happened. What you need is the right man/woman for the right job.

The ideal candidate must have the skills, qualifications, experience, and motivation to do the job. Otherwise, it will be an uphill battle to retain employees.




Putting out the right message

Recruiters use all sorts of communication to get the word out in the market for vacancies. They need the right ammo to do it effectively.

A candidate persona must have the right keywords to use in their ads, emails, job description to attract candidates. For example, a software engineer job ad will be relevant only if it has keywords around such as C, C++, Java, etc.

This way, candidates will almost self-select themselves into the employee pipeline than undergoing a massive chopping and pruning exercise.




Getting the hiring process right

Hiring managers need inputs from candidate personas for scheduling interviews with candidates. For example, a candidate looking for a remote-based job may not prefer a face-to-face interview as she is happy operating that way.

It also helps interviewers to answer queries immediately during the interview stage than going back and forth.




Reducing the time taken from recruiting to onboarding

Most organizations struggle with this. It takes too long from the time a vacancy arises to its filling. That is because either the HR teams struggle to understand the nuances of the role or they fail to communicate it effectively to potential candidates.

However, this puts additional pressure on everybody – business teams, HR, and project managers. Instead, with a candidate persona, HR teams know the template and mold that suits the role and will look for similar profiles.




Improving employee morale

Meeting employee expectations is like fulfilling customer expectations. You deliver on what you promise – be it a customer or an employee. Moreover, this improves employee morale.

That is because you’ve earned their trust by giving them what they were looking for. On the contrary, a grumpy employee with unmet expectations is likely to go around the town telling how bad her experience was with your company.




Enhancing employee retention

If your company has high retention rates, maybe it is time to buy your recruitment team a few drinks. You owe it to them for identifying job requirements and matching candidate personas with that.

When you select the best candidates for their ideal job profile, they will be happy. They’ll prefer to stay on and will probably trade job satisfaction for higher salaries or perks elsewhere.




Candidate persona cheat sheet – 3 grey areas

Before you begin the process of creating a candidate persona, create the candidate cheat sheet which includes answering questions in three grey areas. They are:

  • Who is our ideal employee?
  • What matters to them?
  • How do we reach/engage them?

Clearing the grey areas will enable you to know what information you need before creating candidate profiles.

Let us examine each one of them.


Who is our ideal employee?

This question aims at mapping the requisite skills and educational qualifications for the job.



Here’s how we’ve broken it down into further questions:

Scope Areas to explore
Minimum educational qualifications needed MBA, MS, bachelor’s in computer science, diplomas, degrees, etc.
Necessary skills Written communication, logical thinking, interpersonal skills, analytical prowess, design thinking, problem-solving, vendor management, liaising.
Requisite experience
  • Year/s of relevant experience
  • Experience in relevant industries or roles
  • Apprentice or intern
Preferred job location
  • Cities, towns, villages
  • Factories, offices, hospitals, laboratories
  • Travel time
  • Remote work
How does a typical day look like? Time spent in

  • Core job – 40%
  • Supervision – 25%
  • Meetings – 25%
  • Other stuff – 10%
  • Published 7 white papers in clinical journals
  • Generated $300k in revenues
  • Saved $1 million in operational costs
  • Set up enterprise-wide security systems


What do candidates care about?

Potential employees may have the requisite skills and qualifications, but that is only about 30% of requirements.

The other major question to ponder over is what do they care about?



Here are the scope and the likely range of answers to it.

Scope Areas to explore
Monetary expectations
  • Salary expectation versus offer
  • Increments, appraisals, promotions
  • Paid/medical leaves
  • Health/dental/eye insurance
  • Gym memberships
  • Transport allowance
  • Pantry/kitchen
  • Manager/Senior manager
  • Supervisor
  • Head of engineering, design, quality
  • Finance controller
Role attributes
  • Individual contributor
  • Team member
  • Manager/Supervisor
  • Type of projects
Growth opportunities
  • Learning potential
  • Growth curve in the next 2 years
  • Career progression and prospects
What companies do candidates like?
  • B2C, B2B companies
  • Large company, SMB, startup
  • Not for profit
Why are candidates looking out?
  • Reason for unhappiness
  • Will passive candidates be interested?
  • Work-life balance


How do we reach/engage with candidates?

The final query is about finding ways to reach them or engaging with them.



The scope for this final query is below.

Scope Areas to explore
The primary form of communication
  • Email
  • Social platforms such as LinkedIn
Where are they looking for jobs?
  • Job boards
  • Company websites
  • Social platforms e.g., LinkedIn
  • Newspapers, magazines
  • Referrals
What do they do besides their core job?
  • Side hustles or projects
  • Weekend routine
  • Working for specific causes


Creating candidate personas

When you’ve identified the scope and areas to explore in a candidate profile, there are three steps to create the ideal persona:

  1. Interviewing stakeholders
  2. Analyzing responses
  3. Creating candidate personas

Let us look at the first step. Before you begin, remember to record your conversations or take comprehensive notes.


Step #1 – Interviewing stakeholders

The next step in this process is to interview stakeholders who’re in close contact with the role. So, here are the people you need to speak to and the questions you need to ask:

  • Existing candidates
  • Business managers
  • HR managers


Step #1.1 – Interviewing existing candidates

The best people to interview are existing candidates who are in the same role or similar role. Based on the three questions we explained above, there are three categories of sub-questions. They are:

  • Skill/Qualification/Role-based questions
  • Motivation-based questions
  • Personality-based questions




Skill/qualification/role-based questions for incumbent employees

  • What did your previous job/profile look like?
  • Why did you take up this job?
  • What are the must-have skills you need for this job?
  • What qualifications do you need for this role?
  • How does a typical day at work look like?
  • What do you lack in your current role? Tools, resources, learning, etc.
  • Do you think a person can flourish in your role even if he/she doesn’t have the skills/qualifications?
  • What challenges are you facing in your current role?
  • How do you solve these challenges? Does your manager help you or does your team support you?
  • Do you have a locational preference? If yes, tell us your preferred location. Why do you prefer it?
  • Do you prefer remote work or in-office work?
  • How do you define success in your present role? E.g., the number of deals closed, the number of patents filed/accepted, etc.




Motivation-based questions

Answers to these questions will tell you the real reasons why employees like or do not like their jobs.

  • What made you accept the offer in our company?
  • What motivates you in your current role?
  • If there is one thing that you’d like to change about your current job, what would that be?
  • Tell us what do you like about your present role?
  • What skills would you like to learn in the future?
  • Where do you see yourself in the next two years?
  • If this job is inadequate, what kind of job would give you maximum satisfaction?
  • What would encourage you to apply for a similar role in another company?
  • Do you care about Glassdoor ratings while applying to a new company?
  • What are your thoughts about this company’s culture? Do you like it? Do you feel the need to improve it?
  • Will you refer this company or job to a friend or relative?




Personality-based questions

  • Name your preferred communication channel. Email, DMs on social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram?
  • What is your preferred social media platform? LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram?
  • What are your hobbies and interests?
  • How do you spend time outside work?
  • Would you be open to joining a community with shared interests?
  • What are the social causes you care for?
  • Do you have any side projects running?


Step #1.2 – Interviewing business managers

Business managers lead their teams and are a vantage point to know what it takes to do the job. But, questions to business managers are quite different from what you ask employees.

So, here we go:

  • What kind of companies do you hire employees from?
  • What motivates employees to take up a job in your team/company?
  • Why are they productive or unproductive in their respective jobs?
  • What kind of attitude do you prefer employees have in your team?
  • Do you expect employees in your team to go above and beyond the call of duty?
  • What are the typical aspirations of employees in this job?
  • Why do employees leave the job?
  • What kind of jobs do they take up after leaving?




Step #1.3 – Interviewing hiring managers

Hiring managers have a bird’s eye view of different teams and employees. They are privy to information that business managers and even the company management may not have.

So, here is what you must ask them.

  • What is the average age of employees in the team/company?
  • How long do employees work in a job/role?
  • What are the salaries and benefits employees look for?
  • What kind of culture do they expect in the company?
  • Are there ample opportunities to move within the organization?


Step #2 – Analyzing responses and creating personas

This step is about analyzing responses from different quarters and so, here is how you go about it:

  • Go over the conversations from different stakeholders
  • Note down the commonalities in their responses. Focus on the must-haves and common areas highlighted by the stakeholders.
  • Start creating the candidate personas for different jobs/roles across 4 categories – qualifications/skills, experience, likes, and dislikes.


Candidate persona examples

In this section, we will examine the best candidate persona examples across different jobs/roles.






Corporate Banker


Candidate-persona-banker-NurtureBox-part-1 Candidate-persona-banker-NurtureBox-part-2


Manufacturing engineer




Candidate Personas – Time for action

When you’ve dug up all that you need to know candidate personas inside out, it is time for you to document them. So, here are a few steps you can take straight away:

  • Advertise the open positions in places where your ideal candidates are – on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
  • Match your personas against the candidate resumes you’re reviewing
  • Match candidate responses to your research and earmark the ones that are outliers
  • Keep adding notes to your research as you uncover newer facets about their personalities

In other words, potential candidates, are not one-size-fits-all. What works for one candidate may not work for another candidate. Candidate personas are like a shooter’s target.

Only when you see the target clearly, you’ll be ready to fire.

And, it is not as exhausting as you feel. It is about beginning with researching the role well and you’ll notice things falling in place as you go along.

Karthik Subramanian

Karthik Subramanian I’m passionate about content marketing and I love to help people get started on their marketing journeys. I am a medium-distance runner and I love beaches (especially on balmy Sunday evenings). I can read a balance sheet and have a Bachelor of Commerce degree, but I’m wondering what to do with it.

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