Recruiting (and retaining) better candidates by knowing exactly who you're looking for

By ZoomInsights staff

What if you had a deep understanding of what drove candidates, what moved them, how they'd fit in at your company and what they were really looking for … before they ever set foot in the door? No crystal ball required. Personas can get you there.

What's a persona?

Regularly used by marketers, product managers and user experience professionals to anticipate customer needs, personas define the behaviors, attitudes and motivations of a group of people. Because they share certain traits, the members of these groups tend to make similar decisions. Sourcers and recruiters can leverage these likenesses to speed up the hiring process, inform candidate decisions and generally make themselves look smart.

"Personas help recruiters re-focus their efforts on finding the right people, rather than generic candidates," says Peter Gold, managing director of UK-based digital recruitment firm Hire Strategies Limited. "Hiring is made a lot easier with personas. They can save recruiters a lot of time."

According to John Vlastelica, founder and managing director of Recruiting Toolbox Inc., personas give recruiters some major advantages. In a presentation for SourceCon 2013, he outlined how developing these tools increases the credibility and effectiveness of candidate sourcers.

What can personas do for you?

Vlastelica says personas help recruiters solve real problems, including massive hiring requests and job descriptions and titles that straight up "stink." They can also …

  • Move you from requirement-level sourcing to a more proactive approach

  • Help internal stakeholders understand and agree on job functions

  • Save companies time and money by shortening the recruiting process

  • Help you source higher-quality candidates

  • Give you the tools to assess candidates' credibility

  • Cut down on lost candidates and rejections

The making of personas

Now that you know why personas are helpful, here's how to get some. The process involves interviewing stakeholders to find out who your ideal candidate is, what she's likely working on now, what makes her different and what aspects of your company will inspire her. "You have to really get inside your persona's head and go way beyond the hiring manager intake meeting," Vlastelica writes.

  • Think like, not about — One of the tenants of Vlastelica's strategy, the key is to figure out what drives your ideal candidate, what their dream team looks like, and craft his career story.

  • Dig into the details — In-depth stakeholder interviews with hiring managers and execs can help you develop the most accurate candidate portrait.

  • Start at the top — Use personas where they're most needed. Start with high volume/high impact positions where it makes sense to spend the time.

  • Ask for help — Marketing and user experience people have the knowledge you need. Pick their brains about how to create the most effective personas.

  • Get validation — Once you think your personas are ready, confirm by asking stakeholders a few more questions. Is this the person we're looking for? How can we sharpen this picture?

Sure, when you're dealing with crazy deadlines and unreasonable expectations, it can be tempting to skip the legwork personas require. But the experts advise against it.

It's vitally important to "define your target prospect from all perspectives, including demographics, 360-degree connections, career and personal needs, decision criteria, job-hunting status and the most likely companies to source from," Lou Adler, founder and CEO of The Adler Group, wrote in a 2012 article for "If you don’t know who you’re looking for, you’ll waste a lot of time in all the wrong places."

Now that you're practically a persona expert, it’s time to find candidates that fit. ZoomInfo Pro lets you drill down, with powerful searches of education, work history, professional background and more to help you find the perfect rock star for every position.

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