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Guide To Creating Candidate Personas For Tech Teams

Hiring in the post-pandemic world is harder than ever. As recruiters, you would have already heard about the Great Resignation, and how tight the job market is. Given that this climate is unlikely to change anytime soon, recruiters still need a surefire way to sift through the clutter and find the right candidates. In such times, maybe it’s not a bad idea to go back to the drawing board and redefine ‘who’ you are looking for. Why? Because knowing your audience is a critical factor in any recruiting strategy, especially when it comes to tech. And we all know that the audience has changed in many ways since the Big C happened to our world. Also, writing down goals has been shown to be intrinsically linked with higher success rates, making you anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to accomplish said goals. So, if you are looking to hire the best and the brightest, writing it down in words (or candidate personas) could actually help you hire better. All on board? Let’s begin!

What is candidate persona?

A candidate persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal job candidate. It’s developed based on a combination of data and research, encapsulating the skills, experiences, motivations, and attributes of a person who’d be a perfect fit for a specific role within your organization. Much like customer personas help marketers identify their target audience, candidate personas aid recruiters in streamlining their hiring process, ensuring that their efforts are directed towards attracting, identifying, and engaging the most suitable talent for the role.

By understanding and defining a candidate persona, companies can craft more effective job descriptions, target their recruitment advertising more accurately, and enhance the overall hiring experience to appeal to their ideal candidates.

Characteristics to include when creating candidate personas

Demographics: This includes details like age, gender, educational background, and experience level. While these aren’t definitive indicators of a candidate’s fit, they can offer general guidance about where to find potential candidates or what life stage they might be in.

Skillset: Detail the technical and soft skills that the ideal candidate would possess. This not only includes job-specific skills but also transferable skills that might be beneficial to the role.

Professional background: Outline the industries, roles, or companies where the candidate might have previously worked. This provides context to their experience and familiarity with certain work environments.

Motivations: Understand what drives the candidate—whether it’s career growth, work-life balance, a passion for a particular kind of project, or values alignment with a company’s mission.

Career goals: Highlight the aspirations or long-term objectives that the ideal candidate might have, helping to align the role’s potential with their personal and professional growth.

Cultural fit: Describe the cultural attributes or company values that resonate with the ideal candidate. This could relate to collaborative tendencies, innovation, work ethics, or other cultural facets.

Challenges & pain points: Identify common challenges or issues that might dissuade them from joining or staying in a role. This could be things like limited growth opportunities, lack of challenging projects, or a preference for remote work.

Preferred communication channels: Recognize where your ideal candidates spend their time, whether it’s on professional networks like LinkedIn, job boards, industry-specific forums, or even at offline events.

Personality traits: Delve into the softer aspects, like whether they are self-starters, how they handle feedback, their preferred work environment, or their teamwork style.

Step by Step Guide To Creating Candidate Personas


Step 1: Understanding Developer Candidate Personas

Marketing and sales divisions have been using personas to define their ideal buyer for a very long time. Developer personas are an off-shoot of this oft-used strategy; with a few tweaks and changes to make it engineering-friendly. Building developer candidate personas lets recruiters visualize a fictional representation of the ideal candidate for each role. Creating personas lets recruiters get into the mindset of the candidate and tailor the hiring process from the applicant’s viewpoint. This has a direct effect on enhancing the candidate experience. Mostly though, creating developer personas is a great way to understand the ‘why’, ‘who’, ‘what’, and ‘where’ of tech hiring.

Sidebar The credit for creating ‘personas’ to identify customers rests with Alan Cooper, a noted software developer. He created ‘user personas’ to predict how different users would interact with software. Angus Jenkinson, a professor of integrated marketing, then took the concept and applied it to marketing. His technique was adopted by OglivyWorldWide and became the gold standard for defining buyer personas as we know them now. 

Step 2: Why We Need Candidate Personas

Designing and understanding developer candidate personas helps you do the following:

Create tailor-made JDs: As noted above, once you understand your candidate’s mindset, it becomes easier to tailor your hiring process to attract the right talent. Beginning with the job description.

Optimize recruitment marketing and sourcing: Understanding who you are targeting for a given role will give you better insight into where you can source them. You can curate your recruitment marketing strategies better in this instance.

Integrate diversity hiring initiatives into the process: Building developer personas also helps you identify gaps in diversity hiring, and allows you to build relevant initiatives into your process.

Improve recruitment metrics: Data says that recruiters spend a minimum of 13 hours per week sourcing for a single role. When you have your developer personas mapped out, you can significantly reduce the time spent in sourcing. Over time, you will also see a marked improvement in other recruitment metrics like Time To Hire, Quality of Hire, Offer Acceptance Rate, and so on.


Read More: How Engineering Managers Can Help Recruiters Hire Better

Step 3: Creating A Developer Candidate Persona

 The research While you may think you know what a tech role entails, have you ever sat down and done any research to understand what exactly it is your team needs in the next hire to boost performance? Begin by sitting down with relevant stakeholders and learn the details of the role you are hiring for. Understand what a workday looks like for this specific employee, and then add it to your JD. Remember to ask questions about the following:

    • Who is our ideal candidate?
    • Where does this person operate?
    • Why would they want to work for our organization?
    • What kind of experience are we hiring for?
    • What will this employee’s typical workday look like?
    • Are there any specific skills this candidate should have? In addition, what are the core skills and the adjacent skills required for this role?
    • Are there any geographical limitations for hiring?
    • Is it necessary that this candidate have an online presence? If yes, then where should I be looking?
    • Is there a list of competitor employers?

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The skill set It is very important to understand the skill set required for any tech role. We said it above, but it begs repetition. There are some core skills that every developer must possess. Problem-solving, critical thinking, communication skills, and proficiency in the core languages like JAVA and C++ come to mind. There are adjacent skills which a developer can easily pick up on the job, provided they are adaptable and happy to learn new things. Mastering ten different languages is a prime example. It is NOT necessary that your ‘ideal candidate’ be a pro at everything. Your JD should NOT be a dump of requirements that no human can possibly fulfill. Instead, break it down into Must-Haves and Can-Learns and use this to define your personas. Tech Hiring Must-Have Skills   The behavior When hiring someone for a role, recruiters often look at the longevity of the candidate in their company. This can be predicted (to a certain extent) by charting an ideal employee’s behavior traits. Some of these might overlap with the research you did earlier, but it’s never bad to be doubly sure! When adding these subjective elements to your developer persona, ask these questions:

    • What motivated them to apply for this role?
    • Do they have goals this role will help fulfill?
    • How do they best communicate with others?
    • What kind of work environment is best for their work style?
    • What’s most important to them (i.e., salary and benefits)?
    • What’s less important to them (something that often varies by generation)?
    • What do they want from their employer (their strengths, brand recognition)?

The PERSONA Yes! After all that research and brainstorming, it is now time to build your candidate’s persona. Below is a template for defining your candidate persona. You may not be able to answer all of these questions, but the more you answer the better you can adjust your recruiting campaigns and efforts. Click Here For Free Template

And There You Have It!

Once you get the first few personas down, creating additional personas for each new opening will become second nature. You can even get creative with the process. The more candidate personas you are able to define, the easier it will become to navigate the tech recruiting landscape. Personas help not just in terms of bettering your sourcing efforts, but also in shaping other top-of-funnel recruiting activities like advertising, employer branding, awareness, and candidate engagement. We use this persona-creating technique for all our in-house hires, and we can vouch for its effectiveness! We hope this guide helps you create developer candidate personas for your tech team, too. Happy hiring.

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