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The Employee Persona: A Critical Element in Attracting High Potentials

Kristen Harcourt Oct 14, 2014 11:03:59 AM

Expressions-1It seems in life that very few things we really want to happen, happen without a little effort. Take attracting high potential employees to our organziations; to attract this A-level talent, you have to specifically target them. Studies show that upwards of 80% aren’t actively looking for a job. They’re not going to stumble across your job ad. They’re not going to find you on LinkedIn or spend an hour consuming the career page on your website. You have to understand them at a deep level and develop a strategy to target them.

You need to create an Employee Persona.

What is an Employee Persona?

A persona is a marketing term that simply means a fictional, three-dimensional description of a person who represents an ideal customer. In recruiting, you can substitute employee for customer. The idea here is that you create a vision of your ideal employee. This vision will inform your decision around where to look for them, how to approach/interact with them, how to position your company, the role, and provide a benchmark to measure candidates against. This is beyond a typical ideal candidate profile, but that's a good starting place.

Creating an Employee Persona

Creating your employee persona should be done through a combination of interviews with key stakeholders, current high performers and your own knowledge.  Here are some sample questions you should be asking:

  • What past roles have they held?
  • What do their current managers say about them?
  • What are their career goals?
  • What do they like about their current job?
  • What would make them a good fit for your culture?
  • What frustrates them in an employer; in a manager?
  • What personality traits will be key to success in the role?
  • What social networks do they use?
  • What type of person do you NOT want?

The idea is to prepare yourself to paint a picture that you can hold in your mind when you are thinking about writing job descriptions, looking for them on social media and interviewing candidates.

We’ve developed a tool that will help you in gathering some of this information. Get it here. McQuaig clients can use the McQuaig Job Survey to get an even more comprehensive look at the behavioral requirements of your ideal candidate.

How to Use the Employee Persona

Once you have your employee persona you can now use it to inform all of your other activities in the recruiting process.

Social Media Activity

Let me remind you: A-level talent isn’t looking for a job. If you only rely on those candidates who respond to your ads on job boards, you’re not getting to 80% of the top performers out there.  If you don’t need a top performer for the role you’re recruiting for, that’s fine, you can continue to recruit like its 1997. If finding that A-level is important to you, though, you have to be using social recruiting.

Your employee persona will guide where you can find your ideal candidates and how to get their attention. Remember, on social media you have to soft sell. You can’t start pumping job ads into LinkedIn groups or tweeting “work for us” pleas to your target audience.

Look at your persona. What does your target want in a career? What frustrates them about their current management? Try offering some helpful career development advice. Profile an existing employee talking about how they built their career. Talk about the importance of a culture that values independence (if that’s what your employee persona values). Bottom line: BE HELPFUL! Build your network by appealing to the needs and wants of your ideal candidates.

There’s more on how to use social recruiting here.

Job Description

Your job description needs to speak to the employee persona. Forget skills and education. Those are table stakes and A-level talent don’t have the patience to read through it. Instead, use your job description to describe the environment based on your employee persona’s hopes and desires.

Weave a tale about how they can use their natural leadership ability to mold a new team. Or how their common-sense, no-nonsense approach will help them cut through the clutter and deliver meaningful results. Make it personal. Help them picture themselves walking the halls of your office. Skills won’t take them there. Make it what we call a 3-Dimensional job description.

Website Career Page

Like your job ad, your career website should speak to the needs and wants of your employee persona. Don’t use it to espouse generic vision and values bunk. Nobody cares. Show them how you can help them realize their goals, avoid their frustration, find the leadership they’ve been looking for. Highlight your involvement in the communities they participate in. Whatever your persona tells you is important to them, that’s what they need to see there.

If you’ve got multiple employee personas, why not create customized career pages for each one? Marketers do it all the time for different types of potential customers. Highlight the things that matter to them on a page promoted just to this group.

If you’ve got elements of what you don’t want in an employee from your persona development, highlight that, too. If you need quick-thinking, decisive leaders, let them know that analytical types will struggle. This will appeal to your target and discourage those you don’t want, creating less screening work for you.

Remember, it all starts with your employee persona. Get that right and you’ll set yourself up for success. Get it wrong and the rest of your activity will continue to bring in candidates you don’t want, increasing your workload and leaving that A-level talent out there for someone else to attract.

You can find more on creating and using an Employee Persona here.


 

Choosing a Behavioral Assessment Tool

Kristen Harcourt

Written by Kristen Harcourt

Kristen Harcourt is a highly trusted, creative and collaborative advisor who is passionate about people. She really enjoys helping companies make the right people decisions to achieve long term productivity.