This Is What I Want to Know About a Job Candidate

If you’re reading this article right now, I’m guessing you’re the type of person who likes to consume anything you can get your hands on about TA. Anything from articles, blog posts, social media posts, videos, podcasts, reddit, conferences, and whatever other new channel gets thrown at us (TikTok, anyone?). And you do all of this to help learn and grow. I’ll even take it one step further and surmise that you are on top of not just the best-in-class TA strategies but that you are also intimately familiar with all the newest technologies in TA from AI to automation to CRMs to Tengai.

That’s great. And while I will never discourage you from pursuing all of this information on TA strategies and technologies, I want to spend the next few minutes refocusing your attention on something I know is much more important than all the aforementioned: the candidate. 

“But wait, Joe, I think about the candidate all day long! I’m sending them emails, messaging them on LinkedIn, texting them, and when I exhaust all those channels I may even call them (wait for it)…on the phone!” 

I hear ya. And I am not telling you to stop doing all of those things. But what I am asking you to do is focus less on what you need to do and instead pay particular attention to the person, that actual flesh-and-blood human being with two eyes, two ears, and a heart and mind, you are trying to reach. 

But again, I caution you. Paying attention to the candidate does not mean going to their LinkedIn profile to see what school they went to just so you can send a message that says, “Go Badgers!” in your initial outreach. You have to go deeper. And it starts with the candidate persona.

Bio Versus Biography: Building the Candidate Persona

The candidate persona is a living, breathing document that defines the preferences, motivations, and behaviors of the person or persons you are targeting to come join your organization. The candidate persona should read more like a biography and less like a bio you’d find about a speaker at a conference. And the difference has nothing to do with length. (I certainly don’t expect anyone here to write hundreds of pages (or, 24 volumes and 9.2 million words in the case of the official Winston Churchill biography by Randolph Churchill and Martin Gilbert) on each group of job seekers you are targeting.) 

But the contrast has everything to do with what you are trying to learn about the job seeker or candidate. In the case of the speaker bio at a conference, you learn all about the what: their job title, their education, their work experience, number of children and pets, and what they like to do on the weekends. But the biography tells a story. It lifts up the hood of the car to reveal more than just the shiny exterior. It takes you on this journey of highs and lows to reveal the whole person, not just the polished outside. This is what we are aiming for. This is what the candidate persona needs to truly be to be effective.

Let’s get even more granular. When creating the candidate persona, here are the questions I like to ask and answer (you may come up with more or may not use them all but this is a good starting place):

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  • What is going on in their life today? 
  • What motivates them to do great work?
  • Do they make decisions based on intuition and emotion or logic and numbers?
  • What pressures are they dealing with?
  • What frustrates them?
  • Are they outgoing? Introverted? A little bit of both?
  • What makes them smile real big?
  • What movies are they watching?
  • What are they reading in the news?
  • Where do they get their news?
  • What channels do they use to communicate?
  • What do they do for fun?

Oh yea, one last thing on this topic of building your candidate persona. TA folks always ask me, “Where do I get the answers to these questions?” I know you could probably answer some of these questions on your own because you’ve been interacting with these job seekers and candidates your whole career. But I am going to strongly recommend that you pick up the phone and call five to seven actual people who fit the profile of the type of person you are trying to hire and ask them these questions. Each call will be 10-12 minutes. If you call five people, that’s less than an hour of your time for a goldmine of information.

How to Reach Your Persona

Once you have created your candidate persona (I like to use PowerPoint and allocate three to four slides per persona) it is also nice to include a stock photo of what the person may look like. I’m giving you permission to generalize here! Start thinking about how and where you are going to reach them. (This is the point in the article where we tie all the way back to where we started.) 

When it comes to what you’re going to talk about or what you are going to message, the candidate persona becomes your guiding force. Now instead of talking about where they went to school, you are talking to them about their work, about some video they posted online, or about the next big conference in their industry.

Plus, based on the information you collected to create your candidate’s personas, you should have an intimate understanding of where your candidate persona hangs out and via which channels they like to chat. And this is why we believe conversational recruiting is becoming so important because it pairs so well with the insights uncovered in the candidate persona (you can read more about how to tie the candidate persona to conversational recruiting in this post.)

So pause for a moment today before you start your next task and ask yourself, “Do I really know the person on the other end?” Because if you don’t, this article was for you. And if you do, I guarantee you’ll feel like you have the inside track into the hearts and minds of your candidates.

Joe Matar is the director of marketing at Brazen, a conversational recruiting platform helping recruiters start more conversations with talent. Previous to Brazen, he worked for Fusionfarm, a marketing agency that helped TA teams with their recruitment marketing and employer branding. He has no kids and no pets but a loving and lovely wife that he loves.

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