Talent personas 101: What is a talent persona in employer branding & why you need one

Talent persona, candidate persona, candidate profile?

Talent persona, candidate persona, candidate profile: whatever you call it, creating a talent persona is an essential employer branding exercise. For this guide, let’s use the term talent persona (talent here refers to an employee in a specific field of work, and the persona part helps color in the actual person through their interests, hobbies, and behavior).

You have probably heard sales and marketing professionals talk about buyer personas before? Talent personas have their roots in the world of buyer personas and follow the same principle. A company-specific customized talent persona is an employer branding tool in the same way that a buyer persona is a sales and marketing tool.

When creating buyer personas, brands use real data to create imaginary personas and customer profiles to create an image of the ideal (typical) customer. Buyer personas help marketers dive deeper and step into the customer’s shoes, ensuring that any content produced genuinely tackles the customer’s problems and reaches them on the channels they frequent.

Talent personas work in the same way, but rather than a customer, you’re looking at attracting a specific person or talent segment whose skills your organization needs… Let’s get into it.

Building out your talent persona for EB & talent acquisition

When building a talent persona, it’s very important to cultivate a deep knowledge and understanding of the different people and tasks in your organization. You need to fully understand a talent segment before you can create a useful talent persona.

Now, you might be thinking something along the lines of “that’s easy! We already know our people and the tasks they do, let’s just use our staff survey results”. Sure, staff surveys are a useful tool, but when building out a talent persona, you must dig deeper than just task-level understanding.

You have to understand how people in that specific talent group think, what they enjoy, and what they don’t. You need to understand how and why they structure their working lives, as well as what they value in their work and outside of it. You need to know what channels (like social media) they use and when.

In addition to getting to know people, you also need to dive deeper into your company’s business and talent strategy. Leveraging talent personas should be closely allied with your talent acquisition roadmap.

Talent personas are also a great tool for developing your employer brand in the long-term.

Five tips for building talent personas

  • Understand why you’re building talent personas and how your organization can actually leverage them.
  • Integrate your talent personas with your talent acquisition function ad overall employer branding strategy
  • Take a deep dive into the everyday life and thought processes of your different talent segments: interview representative people within organization
  • Build talent personas in cooperation with the talent you want to hire
  • Plan for how and where talent personas will be used and implemented. This will ensure that your hard work doesn’t go to waste! 

How do you leverage talent personas?

You probably have these EB goals in mind:

  • Developing your organization’s overall visibility
  • Becoming known and recognized as an employer in your space
  • Reaching talent segments that will support your recruitment goals.

By using talent personas, you will have a much deeper understanding of what candidates are looking for in a working environment, and what they do not value. You will also understand your talent group’s specific interests and pain points.

Armed with this information, you can build out employer brand and recruitment material that is interesting to your segments and that genuinely serves their needs. With the help of talent personas, you will also have a better understanding of the channels you should be using to reach the right people.

Say goodbye to the ‘spray and pray’ method of communicating with your talent market: target your message to just the right channels at just the right time and highlight topics that genuinely interest your target audience. In addition to reaching the candidates more effectively, you will also save on hours and advertising costs.

A talent persona can also (and should be) leveraged when it comes to developing your company’s internal processes and brand. By understanding candidate personas on a more granular level, you can take action to improve your internal employee experience and offer current team members better projects and career paths.

When should you NOT create talent personas?

While talent personas are a great tool for brands looking to develop their employer brand and upgrade their talent strategy, don’t make the cardinal mistake of just creating talent personas for the sake of it.

Firstly, it is important to understand how building talent personas will benefit your organization and how they will be leveraged and implemented in practice. And most of all, you have to have a deep understanding of how a good talent persona is built.

Let’s clarify what not to do with an example: an IT organization heard that talent personas positively contribute to their employer brand and recruitment plans. The work on building talent personas was kicked off quickly, before anyone really had a chance to delve into how talent personas should be built and how they are best put into use. Rather than get a better understanding of talent personas first, recruiters just jumped in and created personas for a few different talent groups. After they were complete, the personas were quickly cast aside to become buried in the depths of files and folders, never to be seen again.

This is what can happen if you launch into building talent personas without a clear implementation plan and a clear ‘why’.

Talent personas & EVP: a powerful employer branding duo

In order to strategically improve your employer brand, talent personas are a must-have. Without detailed information and knowledge of key talent groups it’s almost impossible to target your employer branding and marketing work to the right people at the right time.

Talent personas can be seen as one of the cornerstones of developing your employer brand; a cornerstone that sits alongside defining your EVP (employee value proposition) for future and current employees.

We suggest that in order to leverage this powerful EB duo, you start with talent personas, moving onto defining your EVP. Without talent personas, your EVP and messaging is likely to be too generalized and unfocused.

At Finders Seekers, building talent personas and sharpening EVPs is all in a day’s work for our EB team

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