September 17, 2020 • 5 min read
How to Create Personas in Employer Branding
Using personas is the perfect storm for talent acquisition (TA) and employer branding (EB). A TA professional’s modus operandi is to segment, to market map, to source and to search, and by using personas, EB is able to tap into the very essence of how TA works and dial it up a notch or two. It also helps you to think bigger than skillset, to consider mindset and focus less on what and more on who.
Personas can be used as a very tactical EB weapon. They help you to go deeper, so you can understand potential employees drivers, their motivations, how they think, what they want and what they have in common. The result? You connect with precisely the right candidates, and in a way that is deeply human.
It’s important to note that personas should be positioned only as a guide. They shouldn’t dictate every action or be used too literally. Instead, use them to test and diversify messages, and work out which channels work better. It’s all about discovering who your candidates are on a more personal level.
How to create EB personas for your target audiences
A great place to start your EB persona journey is with an empathy map. The idea of an empathy map is borrowed from the world of design thinking. Put simply, it’s a visualisation that articulates what we know about a particular type of user, or in our case, type of candidate.
A great place to start your EB persona journey is with an empathy map.
Creating an empathy map begins by holding workshops with people in the organisation who broadly match the personae you’re targeting.
Let’s say that for a certain role in the business, you’ve discovered that candidates come from very distinct backgrounds. This tells you that the hunt for more role-specific talent is less about the intricacies of the role itself, and more about the nuances that differentiates these backgrounds. Using a persona strategy to understand these differences grants the insight and understanding you need to:
a) win the hearts and minds of the different candidate types, and
b) know the different themes to focus on while interviewing each candidate type.
It’s time to create your persona. Just as you would when meeting someone in real life, start with the basics:
- Their name, age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, marital status and political interests
- Where and with whom they live
- Their level of education
- Their socio-economic status, including career, work experience and salary
- Their hobbies and interests, including favourite weekend activity/band/movie
- Their favourite food and preferred beverage
- The type of car they drive
- Their dream holiday destination
- Their social media/internet habits
- Their role models/influencers – who they aspire to be like?
- How would they find a job? What would they do first? Where would they look and why?
Once these questions are answered we’ve created something human-shaped, but like a mannequin, it’s missing humanity. At this point we sit down to create the empathy map, asking ourselves:
- Who is the person we want to understand? What is their situation? At what point are they in their career? What are they doing?
- What do they say? What are they saying to their family and friends? What are they saying to their work colleagues?
- What do they see? What do they see in their environment? What do they see others doing? What are they watching or reading?
- What do they hear? What do they hear their friends and family say? What do they hear their work colleagues say?
- What do they think and feel? What are their fears, frustrations and anxieties? What are their wants, needs, hopes and dreams?
Having worked to understand the mindset of our persona, it’s time to turn our focus to how this knowledge will affect our employer value proposition (EVP) content:
- What are their career goals?
- What is most important to them when it comes to an employer?
- What working style will appeal to them?
- What level of support do they desire?
- What leadership style will bring out the best in them?
- What kind of problems do they like to solve?
- What will frustrate them?
- What will be a deal-breaker?
Insights gathered, it’s time to turn them into a story that brings their persona to life.
Meet Ashley, an EB persona
To better target candidates for our case manager roles, we segmented potential employees into three broad backgrounds. We then used the persona approach to better drive our messaging.
Using personas is the perfect storm for talent acquisition (TA) and employer branding (EB).
Ashley has been a return-to-work coordinator for a couple of years and feels like she’s moving in the right direction. That said, she senses a lack of progression, and desires development opportunities and more money, while ideally staying in the city. She sees others getting ahead or looking elsewhere for progression too. She brings a high level of integrity and doesn’t compromise on her own values. She’s looking for an open team leader who gives constructive feedback, helps her to develop and offers a clear path forward.
Ashley would leave a company if progression opportunities were limited. She would become disengaged if she had to compromise on her delivery or was working with tools and resources that didn’t allow her to do her job properly.
Ashley is looking for a professional environment, but without micromanagement and strict KPIs. She likes working with people who are friendly, who have a good sense of humour, but who are also resilient and supportive. She wants to feel energised in a diverse and social culture where colleagues are friends.
Ashley’s primary career goals are:
- Financial security
- A professional life that facilitates a healthy social/personal life
- To feel competitively and intellectually challenged
- Ashley desires the following features in a potential employer:
- Market success, inspiring leadership, corporate social responsibility
- Competitive base salary, a clear advancement path, rapid promotion
- A friendly work environment, supportive leaders, a flexible schedule
- Professional training and development, secure employment, team-orientated work
Now that we better understand Ashley, we can identify themes that will resonate with her.
If it feels like you’re standing still, like everyone else is going past you, switch gears, change lanes and avoid the dead-end. Choose which direction you want to go and feel supported to pursue different opportunities.
To do the work you love. To work the way you like. To do what’s best for your clients. To have access to the tools and resources you need. To gain experience in both public and private sectors. To become a better, more skilled case manager. To become the best you can be.
LESS OF THE SAME, MORE OF THE DIFFERENT
Surround yourself with a diverse mix of people to call friends, colleagues, mentors, coaches and managers. People to learn from, feel supported by and thrive beside. Be part of a team to laugh with, be there for and feel energised by.
CAREER x LIFE
We deliver whatever you need to get the most out of life and work. To step up, to take time out, to do more, to go faster, to hit pause or rewind, to be trained in something new, to experience a different challenge.
EB personas: The evolution of segmentation
Unlike segmentation, which focuses on skills and role type, a persona approach is more about humanity, about craftsmanship. It borrows ideas from design thinking, forcing us to connect on a more human and empathetic level. It also draws on direct marketing intelligence, which uses targeted communication to drive a clear call to action.
Unlike segmentation, which focuses on skills and role type, a persona approach is more about humanity, about craftsmanship.
The next steps on the journey?
- Bring themes to life using testimonials that focus on proof points that demonstrate the employee experience.
- Create talk tracks for hiring managers to focus on the key themes.
- Develop landing pages that leverage the key messages for each persona and use tailored social media content to drive traffic.
But all of this starts with building your version of Ashley for a particular open role. Only then can you be confident your employer branding efforts are targeted to a specific audience with the themes, values and messages they’re looking for.
About the author: Over the last 20 years, Kara has enjoyed being part of the employer branding movement and shaping its future. Kara is currently the Head of Employer Branding at Allianz, she is passionate about pushing brands out of their comfort zone. She believes it is truly an honour to innovate and transform brands and therein lies the spark behind why she has spent the last 20 years working in this space!