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Personas – Engaging candidates through wisdoms from advertising



Have you ever noticed how great advertisements seem to talk directly to you? They make you laugh or think or trigger some sense of recognition ‘yes, that is totally me!’. And the more that they seem to talk directly to you, the more you pay attention and perhaps buy what they have to sell. Right?


Obviously, this is no accident. Organizations spend a ton of resources in the form of time and money and expertise to know you so that they can ‘speak to you’.


If knowing the audience works for selling product, wouldn’t it stand to reason that it will also work for selling jobs? In other words, successfully attracting and engaging candidates involves knowing and understanding your candidates.


Luckily, there is a common technique in the world of marketing and advertising that can help – Personas.


Personas – turning concepts into people


Personas are a tool to help design advertising campaigns (and products, sales strategies, websites, and any other customer interaction). They allow teams to tailor messaging and design, maximize resonance with each target market, and find and navigate around potential pitfalls and challenges before they happen. Personas give teams insights into the wants and needs of their customers so that they are selling exactly what the customer wants to buy.


That is a pretty powerful tool! So, what exactly are these amazing things?


Personas are personifications of specific target markets. They are pretend (or in some cases, real) people that have the attributes of each market segment. They each have names, demographics and other attributes, backgrounds, goals, challenges, needs. Teams use these ‘people’ to imagine how they will act and react, and how to best interact with them.


Why are these fake people so powerful?


Well, consider how much easier it would be to sell a job or draft a job description or design a job website if you were designing it for the specific people you knew and not just a nebulous ‘candidate’.


But rather than tell you about personas, let me show you:


Persona example – meet Jasmine.


Jasmine is a 31-year-old marketing manager. She identifies as black and female, she is a mother of two young and energetic little boys, and she lives with her husband, children, and dog in the suburbs of Chicago. She is upper middle class with a strong educational background and values financial stability for her and her family. She is close to her parents and siblings and their families, most of whom are still in the New York area, and she loves traveling with her family and her close group of friends.


Professionally, she is ambitious and creative and nothing drives her more than seeing her unique campaigns front and center in major marketing efforts. She doesn’t need glory, but she does expect recognition and respect. She prides herself in creating campaigns that work for any audience though she has a particular passion for ensuring companies don’t ignore black and brown consumers.


Jasmine is open to opportunities. She has a job and does not need a new one, however she has begun feeling anxious in her role due to lack of growth opportunities and lack of autonomy to reach her full creative potential. She is starting to look for growth opportunities elsewhere.


Think about the last time you had a marketing manager role. Would you write or say anything differently if you were talking to Jasmine?


Personas to ‘speak to’ your candidates


Using personas, like Jasmine, turns the process upside down. Instead of focusing on the job and the responsibilities, you can focus on the future employees and what they need.

You can tailor messaging to target markets by demographics, experience, interests, etc. because those facets become human. For example, for candidates like Jasmine you could concentrate on the growth potential, autonomy, and creative freedoms of the job. Or you could promote flexible work schedules, family-friendly priorities, and strong vacation offerings. Or you could tell the narrative of how the organization designs its marketing campaigns across a range of demographics and interests.


How much more effective and powerful and insightful would your job descriptions be if you were writing them for Jasmine?


Now consider what would happen if you built out several personas representing a range of candidates that would thrive within your environment.


Using personas to create inclusive, effective job descriptions


Create personas that have varying demographics, attributes, backgrounds, and interests. Give them names and stories and desires. Consider what they need and want in a role, and not just what you want from them.


Watch how much more human your content and details become when you shift from writing and talking to ‘candidate’ to writing and talking to Jasmine and John and Jose and Jordan (for some reason, my personas always have ‘J’ names).


Bonus tip: use real people to create personas. Talk to actual people who have the role inside and outside the organization. Speak to people of different demographics, attributes, backgrounds, and interests to get a real sense of what your candidates are truly like. Then create general personas that personify common patterns across multiple people.


Want more about how to write and communicate inclusive, effective job descriptions? Check out the career.place self-paced job description training program. Short, actionable, and practical. The first two sessions are on us!


#NoBias #breakthebias #diversityequityandinclusion

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