How to use candidate personas in tech recruiting?
April 8, 2022
min read

How to use candidate personas in tech recruiting?

Christoph Schachner
Christoph Schachner

In marketing, we usually take candidate personas for granted. 

Without candidate personas, you neither know which messages appeal to your target group nor where you can reach them. They also play an increasingly important role in recruiting when you want to put yourself in the position of the target group.

Even if the basic idea is the same in conventional marketing practice, this article intends to focus on candidate personas in tech recruiting, as some differences need to be considered.

What is a candidate persona?

A candidate persona illustrates typical representatives of a target group using fictitious people. 

Definition happens by bundling characteristics, such as gender, age, behavior, goals, and fears. It would be wrong to expect that candidate personas can represent various aspects of candidates.

Usually, we use them on behalf of certain applicants to make it easier to implement employer branding and personnel metrics, as you have specific people in mind instead of an unspecific target group. 

Crucially, candidate personas must be effective and based on real people's behaviors, motivations, and goals.

“You can't do IT recruiting without getting to know your audience. Who they are, what they need, what makes them tick. And most importantly - what they are looking for in a potential employer.” - Ana Gospodinova, Head of Talent Management at WeAreDevelopers

Use of candidate personas in tech recruiting

You might be wondering: ‘Why would you go with all that trouble?’ 

candidate persona in tech recruiting

In short, the time saved by recruiting personas far outweighs the effort involved in creating them. This becomes even clearer when you look at the following list of benefits:

  • Knowing exactly which arguments work for the target group and which don’t
  • Know your channels, job portals, forums, events, influencers, and groups of target groups
  • Assess culture fit in advance
  • Asses and improve your application process from the perspective of candidate personas
  • Know necessary information on your company career section
  • Grow your interest in job ads

6 must-have candidate personas characteristics

Type of candidate personas you will use for tech recruiting purposes depends on your company type. As a helping hand, here are some criteria to assist you with the creation process.

  • Photo
  • Name and surname
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Place of residence
  • Marital status
  • Training
  • Current occupation
Special qualifications:
  • Techstack
  • Interests & hobbies
  • Professional
  • Private
Goals and needs:
  • Professional needs
  • Life goals
Looking for job behavior:
  • Application motivators
  • Job must-haves
  • Job ‘nice to haves’
Problems & challenges:
  • Reasons for changing jobs
  • No-go in the application process
  • Reasons against an application

Candidate personas specifics in IT industry

What is the difference between a candidate persona in the IT industry and a general candidate persona? While reading above mentioned features, you've probably seen the word ‘tech stack.’ However, this is just one of many features that you must consider, especially when collecting data (more on this later).

candidate persona in tech recruiting
  1. Tech Stack: All technologies used inside one company are summarized under this term. In connection with candidate personas, this means, on the one hand, knowing the company's technologies. While on the other hand, learning the tech stack that my target group likes to work with. For example, Rust is one of the favorite programming languages, while COBOL is the least popular language according to Stackoverflow.
  2. Working methods: Are flexible working methods such as a home office or remote work supported?
  3. Team structure: Hierarchical structures and flat hierarchies are probably the most well-known. The latter can be found in almost every job advertisement, but there are other ways to improve team efficiency. You can find out 8 additional types here.

Here is how to create IT applicant personas

There are four steps to creating candidate personas that aren’t based on facts but are also accepted and used by your own company.

  1. Data Collection: Research is the first step when creating personas. The strongest buyer personas are based on market research and insights you gather from your actual applicants. Discussions with current employees can give you qualitative information about the specialist department, and interviews with the target group. Above all, ask questions that are hard to find through online research, such as LinkedIn or Xing. For example, what triggered people to join your company, what media types they use, which benefits they value most, and what they think of the tech stack and the importance of their work. In a second step, it is advisable to bring numbers into play. You can browse through ATS (Applicant Tracking System) and compare CVs that were a good fit for your company. Make notes about characteristics that continuously appear. You can do the same for candidates who didn’t make it further in the application process and use them as anti-candidate personas, making day-to-day work even easier.
  2. Analysis: After you have gathered all the information about your candidate personas, you need to decide how many personas there will be at the end of the day. Depending on the company, you can have as little as 1 or 2 personas, but you can also have 5 or 10. If you're new to personas, start small. You can always develop more personas when needed. It is important to be as detailed as possible since the person should be fictional in the analysis. For example, it's better to say that the person has a MacBook Pro 13 than that they have a laptop.
  3. Acceptance & Implementation: The candidate personas creation process ends here. However, we aren’t done yet. Persona profiles you have just worked out are initially hypotheses that need to be checked. First, the candidate personas should be presented to your colleagues, and criticism is most welcomed. It is important to emphasize that these are only fictional people representing a cross-section of the target group. After the first internal adjustment, it is time to test the candidate personas ‘in the field.’ Check your candidate's CVs and statements in interviews with the candidate persona. Don't get discouraged if not all candidates 100% match. Before making any decisions related to personas customization, conduct a few conversations first. It’s not about being able to classify all candidates in your personas but matching with some characteristics.
candidate persona in tech recruiting

Once candidate personas are created, what’s next?

A candidate persona is an ideal representation of a potential candidate. This means that you have to make compromises when hiring real applicants. In the rarest of cases, candidates will match constructed candidate personas 1:1.

Another mistake can emerge when candidate personas are too specifically written. You notice this when the persona is so detailed that you cannot find suitable candidates who match the characteristics in the interviews. This can also lead you to exclude suitable applicants wrongly, and in connection with gender, so you can also leave the gender open.

When properly researched and used, candidate personas are a handy tool in IT recruiting to better empathize with the target group(s) and align the recruiting strategy accordingly.


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