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Decoding A Successful Hire’s Candidate Persona

This is part II of our series on helping recruitment teams halve their “time to hire” by building candidate personas. If you missed part I, have your fill here.

“Treat candidates like customers”

Prophecies, oh dear prophecies – what does not come as a prelude to prophecies is the realization that there are invariably three stooges to them – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Without further ado, let’s dive into each one of these - 

  1. The Good – Talent acquisition teams have explicitly reported the dire need of engaging with active and passive candidates to create a high-velocity pipeline (The good folks at AON reported it here). The intent is nine-tenths of the law, they say.

  2. The Bad – Organizations have started to couple employer branding with hackathons. Spray a Hackathon here, sprinkle a coding challenge there and poof, the white-winged “employer branding” angels have blinked. If only it was that linear an equation.

  3. The Ugly – A substantial number of talent acquisition teams are confident (bordering to overconfident) that they don’t need a conversation mechanism with candidates. The overarching belief stems from the fact that a strong brand equity today is helping them close positions with little to no sweat. My oh my, I bow to thee!
    Exponential rise in Interest Levels for “Hackathons” makes us shed tears of happiness

    Let me talk to the folks who fall in the good and the bad buckets (for the ones in ugly would steer towards the good and bad in due time) – if there is one thing that your recruitment teams should be doing fervently and religiously, it is building candidate personas.

            Can you do me a favor today? Please hop on to your friends in marketing next bay and ask them a question                       that is  going to unlock all your answers to “how to start building an employer brand?”

            “Pray you me, what is a consumer persona?”

             Crafting an accurate consumer persona is a marketer’s raison-de-etre. An accurate answer to the persona is the              gold pot at the end of the rainbow for our poor marketer. She runs, digs, sweats, investigates,                                                    reads and Googles answers to all existential questions till she arrives at the haloed paragraph that defines her              consumer persona.


Decoding A Successful Hire’s Persona

The following is a step by step account of how this exercise is undertaken. Mind you, this is not an ordered list and can be executed in an order that befits ready availability of data and access to unbiased opinions inside your organization and from external candidates.

  1. Who is the ideal candidate?   

    The first step, the only step? Teams who are looking to answer this question slip to reading the Employee Value Proposition, instead. If you are one of them, I prod, nay beg, you to not commit this crime. Why? Because EVPs are crafted by “consultancies” that boast of shiny glass windows which house suit armoured, robotic looking men and women who don’t have the slightest clue of what your ideal candidates should look like. Their focus group discussions tap surface level questions which you can very well have answers to, in an hour’s probing of your key people.

    What should you do instead? 

    Probe, probe, and probe. Talk to each and every member of the team you have to recruit for. Do not rely on a manager’s requisition form. Speak to their subordinates; after all, managers might have long departed from roles which demanded execution. In today’s decentralized teams, each member has an opinion about what it takes to be successful in a role within their team. 

    Your questions should sound like the following -

    1. If you were to refer a friend for this opening, what personality traits do you think your friend should have? 
      (It makes them think in an open-ended fashion – creates room for a lot of one-word answers)

    2. Though this isn’t happening if you were to pick one person from the organization who would perform exceptionally well in this role, who would it be?
      (Makes them draw parallels; their answers would help you correlate the kind of people you should be looking for)

    3. Let’s talk about the opposite of success – what do you think would lead to poor performance in this role? What does one need to avoid at all costs?
      (Informs you about who to NOT hire)
    4. Which organizations do you think have people who fit the bill well?
      (Gives you multiple options instead of relying on the organizations mentioned in a manager’s requisition form)
    5. What would this hire expect from the team as well her manager?
      (Would help you define Total Rewards for a particular role)
    6. Where do you think this ideal candidate hangs out the most?
      (Targeting and outreach inputs)
  2. Dive Into The Past 

    Look into your past hiring numbers. Dive deep into the organizations where you hired people from. If any of the following holds true, you have work to do.

    1. If for 100 roles, you hired from more than 30 unique organizations (you have a scattered talent pool – you are not concentrating your efforts on branding in front of a targeted audience)

    2. What was the percentage hiring from direct competition (if the figures are less than 10% you are looking at large ramp up times for people hired from other industries)

    3. Ask managers about the direct correlation with performance ratings – Performance ratings are an organization’s best-kept secret so we doubt you would get access to them but it does not harm to reach out to managers and ask them if there is a direct correlation between performance ratings and the organizational/ educational background of recent new hires.

The Resultant – Here is a sample persona we built for one of our clients, a leading transport fleet tracker - 

“Shikha (fictional name) is currently employed as a Mathematician at [Company X]. She has an advanced degree in Mathematics from one of 50 recognized institutions in the charter. She has an intermediate degree of exposure to statistics, predictive modeling, visualization tools and business knowledge.

In her past avatar, Shikha has spent 1-2 years working at a Startup before transitioning to Company X. She is currently based in Bangalore.

On the personality front, Shikha leans towards being inquisitive and solutions-oriented.

Shikha is active in the following Linkedin Groups

  • Group A
  • Group B
  • Group C
  • Group D The best mode to reach her is email. We recommend an invitation to Shikha for our upcoming 6 Sigma hackathon and consequently build an ever-lasting relationship with her”
Imagine the possibilities when you are armed with a persona like this. A persona helps you eliminate clutter from the information overload that accompanies opening a role. It helps you separate the wheat from the chaff. It enables your journey to think like a marketer in a recruiter’s boots. Above all, it strengthens your understanding of the operational environment and aligns recruitment with business priorities.

Isn’t it what we are all striving for?

Till next time.

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