Creating Talent Personas Should Be Part of Your Recruiting Strategy

Jul 14, 2016

There’s lots of buzz around talent personas these days. As a program recruiter at heart, I’ve always been on the bandwagon of casting a wide but focused net. For those of you who are evaluating if this “new” technique, adapted from our friends in marketing and user design, is one you want to learn more about, I’ll break it down for you with a quick What, How, and Why.

What’s a talent persona?

In the simplest of terms, it’s a data-driven, aggregate model of one of the many employee profiles your company needs to sustain or fuel its mission. Not so simple? Try this: it’s profiling.

Before you get your PC dander up, while the approach is similar it’s a tool that can help you cull the herd of candidates who don’t align with your values, aren’t qualified for the role, or are unmoved by your mission, which is kind of what recruiting is. But it also adds the ability to target specific profiles that have the skills and attributes to be successful in your company with content they find relevant and (wait for it) engaging.

Talent personas are like customer profiles on steroids because we’re armed with much more ‘important” information when applied to the right audience.

How to build personas for recruiting

First, understanding the number of personas needed depends on the complexity and diversity of your business segments. It can be as few as 2-5 or  20-30. Even at a global multi-national company, when I was working across all business units in the highest volume hiring region, the most I had was 4 (and 2 of them were pretty close).

To do this effectively, you have to take a broad and unbiased view of your organization. Leave bureaucracy and politics to one side, and look at your internal workflows and functions in relation to your market perception and goals. Each persona is built from multiple internal and external data sources then compiled into a matrix of skills, aggregate trends in “ideal” employee behaviors and attributes, and market research aligned to your company growth plans.

Thanks to HR technology platforms we also have access to various dimensions of historical data on hiring success, employee performance, development, and turnover. Accessing data from online channels like your website or LinkedIn will enhance your traditional salary/market/industry research as well. Use what you have to build as focused a picture as you can.

It’s all hands on deck data for gathering and validation across your people teams, but everyone will benefit from a core persona-driven strategy and a consistent understanding of the needs and values of your shared customers – your employees.

Why use them?

The greatest benefit of utilizing personas is this: if you know your audience, the likelihood of creating programs and producing content that will engage it increases exponentially. Some of the best recruiters in the market are masters of understanding their hiring manager’s particular needs. Talent personas help you do this at scale.

You’ll often find program recruiters (university, diversity, veteran, etc.) already applying this model to their approach. It empowers you to be “high-touch” at volume by understanding what your candidates’ value so you can target your resources, budget, and time in the right places.

Ideally, talent personas are the foundation of your talent attraction strategy, but it depends on what your goals are. For example, when building a talent community you’d start by looking at the persona data and supplementing it with market research that helps you answer questions like:

  • Where do these profiles spend their time?
  • How do they learn and get industry news?
  • What events are important to them?
  • Who do they follow?

These types of questions can guide you in building a strategic outreach plan aligned to the profiles you want to attract. (Hint: They’re equally useful in developing your internal communication strategy, you’ll just need to adjust your content.)

In the end, it’s about adding a strategic tool to your arsenal. Using talent personas to supplement your approach helps you better understand your audience and increase your ability to be relevant in the right places, mitigate risks and improve engagement with your target candidates.

This post first appeared on the Proactive Talent Blog.