The Importance of Identifying Candidate Personas to Communicate Your EB Successfully

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As with all marketing disciplines, understanding your customer is absolutely key to employer branding. Who are they? What interests them? What’s really important to them work-wise? To communicate effectively, you have to know exactly who you’re communicating to.

But in most cases, your target market isn’t just one demographic. Talent needs vary, from entry-level to senior tenure, from location to business specialty. As they become more complex, it becomes more important to identify the different segments of your audience so you can refine and tailor your communication to each accordingly.

Building these candidate personas involves a strategic merger of quantitative and qualitative data. You need to know who your existing talent is, who you want it to be, where your talent is coming from currently and where you are losing talent from your organisation.

For me, breaking it down into a few fundamental steps gives me the information I need. The following is the process I work through in order to connect effectively with all the different candidates I want to attract.

I define the ‘customers’ 

From an EB perspective, talent is the ‘customer’ or the audience you want to reach.

I start here by using a framework of attributes related to workplace requirements and desirable traits, to benchmark internal and external data. This includes things like:

  • Asking people what they want from a workplace
  • Communication preferences: type of content (e.g. TED talks, vlogs or blogs, testimonials, business news, fun memes, etc), format and channels
  • Asking people what they DON’T want (usually the answer is corporate jargon!)

Then, I create personas

The more complex your talent needs are, the more important it is to create different personas. 

When mapping out each persona or target audience, it is really important to find the right level of detail that enables you to craft compelling content for them and get it in front of the right candidates in the right way. 

A lot of people tend to create personas by describing their ‘typical’ candidates mainly in terms of their lifestyle: ‘This is Jane, she is a banker, she has a dog and an 11 year-old daughter, she watched Money Heist on Netflix and does yoga.’

But in my view, it’s much more important to focus on facts about Jane’s professional standing, and aspirations and what would appeal to her enough to get her to move to your company.

This might be along the lines of: ‘Jane is a senior banker who has a good salary and is happy at her current job. She wants prestige, is very competitive, doesn’t engage with corporate jargon, isn’t actively looking for another job but uses LinkedIn sporadically, would want to know exactly what projects she’d be working on if she were to move jobs, and she’s physically active in her spare time.’

Identifying selling points

Qualitative feedback is important when crafting a key message platform for each persona or audience. You have to know what your employees do and don’t like about their jobs and your company – otherwise you’ll do another corporate approach that doesn’t land well with the candidates or employees.

You also need to understand what would make an external candidate change jobs in terms of offering, but also what would catch their attention – it is worth commissioning a survey for this as this is very valuable data.

I find that a mix of questionnaires, interviews and focus groups is the best way to get the flavour you’re after. Personally, I have found short one-on-one interviews more useful than focus groups, but I do use both because they offer varied insights.

I group the research into:

  • Internal research: what people like and don’t like
  • External research: what people want and think of your company and what would they like from a job
  • Process research: what works and what doesn’t in your candidate journey
  • Overall behavioural research: what channels are they on and what content do they like?

Don’t sell what you can’t offer

This is the biggest error you can make in employer branding. You may get people to apply, but not to accept the offer. You may get people in, but they won’t stay. The wider candidate market will soon become wise to it too. Word gets around.

Being open and honest about what you can and can’t offer is the best way to get the right talent through the door and keep them. You will get the ones who are okay with certain things that aren’t perfect, but who really like the things you are good at.

Be as authentic as possible, and exemplify very practically what you can give as a company. If it is not enough to attract the right talent, and there’s a huge misalignment between what a key talent group wants and what you are actually offering, you might need to go the longer route of making bigger changes to your offering.

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