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Identifying and Developing Candidate Personas


Have you ever walked into a store and found that every single aspect of the retail environment appealed to you, from the color scheme and background music to the products themselves?

This wasn’t a coincidence. That customer experience was engineered to delight you, because you shared characteristics with that company’s buyer persona.

Similarly, recruitment marketers in HR can develop candidate personas, fictional characters that represent your ideal candidates for each role. These are composites of the diverse, dynamic set of applicants you’d like to attract.

Why You Need to Create Candidate Personas

HR professionals use clearly articulated candidate personas to inform all of their marketing and recruiting decisions. This marketer’s mindset allows you to:

Once you have defined your niche audience, you can get into their head. You can ascertain not just where they are in their careers now, but where they want to be and what they value.

All of this will help you frame your employer brand and current job opportunities in a way that will resonate deeply.

A candidate persona is a character that represents your ideal job candidate.

How to Start Developing Candidate Personas

The aim is to create one candidate persona for each job type. If you think about it, candidate personas for management roles will differ significantly from entry-level candidate personas. Similarly, your ideal candidate in IT won’t be the same person as your ideal customer service candidate.

Start by defining how many candidate personas you’re going to develop, and assign them to each opportunity you’re hiring for. Next, gather data for each different persona.

If you already have employee success stories and great culture fits, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) advises modeling your candidate personas around top performers in each role.

Once you find out what makes these people tick, you’ll have a better idea of how to attract more candidates like them.

Start by modeling your candidate personas around top performers.

What to Include In Each Candidate Persona

Remember, a candidate persona is not a job description that simply lists out roles and responsibilities. It is meant to represent the flesh-and-blood people, the real candidates who are out there in the world that you want to attract. Here are a dozen data points to identify when developing candidate personas:

  • Age.
  • Location.
  • Work history.
  • Income level.
  • Qualifications.
  • Soft skills.
  • Personality traits.
  • Career goals.
  • Motivation sources.
  • Values.
  • Job search strategy.
  • Objections.

Be careful not to assign vague traits that any candidate off the street might have, like “wants to succeed” or “has a liberal arts degree.” A bland candidate persona won’t accurately narrow down your stack of applicants.

Instead, be as detailed and creative as you can, make your candidate personas as lively as possible. Give each one a made-up name and a headshot to bring them to life. The persona should sound like a real person with a unique story!


Once you’ve fleshed out dynamic candidate personas, you can frame your recruitment marketing initiatives around attracting real people who share characteristics with your persona. This strategy will allow you to:

  • Target applicants at the right stage in their career.
  • Meet your ideal candidates where they spend time online.
  • Present an employer brand and job description that resonate.
  • Align values and overcome objections during the hiring process.

Request a free demo of JazzHR to see how our applicant tracking system can help you filter through incoming candidates and find the ones that match your candidate personas.


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