In this episode, Josh and co-host Annelle Barnett takes an in-depth look at what candidate persona is.


Episode 56 | Candidate Personas

[00:01] Welcome to the Epic Company Culture Podcast, where your host, Josh Sweeney, will give you, the business leaders, HR professionals, and company culture aficionados, the knowledge you need to take your company culture to the next level.

Josh: [00:16] Hello, my name is Josh Sweeney and welcome to the Epic Company Culture Podcast. Before we get started, I would like to thank Prototype Prime for this amazing podcast space. I’d also like to welcome you to season two, which is all about hiring; company culture, hiring, marketing, recruiting for people, all of those amazing things. And today I am joined by Annelle Barnett with Marketing Mob. Thanks for joining me, Annelle.

Annelle: [00:41] Yeah, thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Josh: [00:44] We are excited to have you. So to get started, tell us a little bit about yourself, your background in Marketing Mob.

Introducing Marketing Mob

Annelle: [00:49] Okay. So I am a twenty-plus-year marketer. I Started on the corporate side and about eight years ago. I went out on my own and became a marketing consultant at that point. And then about three or four years ago, I started Marketing Mob. Marketing Mob is a marketing, recruiting and staffing firm as its primary function. We also offer a learning platform for marketers as well as a marketing job board and community. So we have lots of fun and exciting things going on.

Josh: [01:24] Awesome. We are going to have Annelle in for multiple episodes to share in marketing of recruiting, hiring, all of those different things. And today’s topic is candidate personas. So now, what is a candidate persona?

What is Candidate Persona?

Annelle: [01:39] So a candidate persona is very similar to what marketers use as a buyer persona. So essentially, we’re developing candidate personas so that we can identify the exact person that we’d like to hire. So there are multiple reasons that you do this. It creates alignment across your team so that everyone is on the same page about who you’re trying to hire. It then also identifies characteristics of the individual.

As a marketing recruiter, I get a lot of requests from my clients that are looking for the purple unicorn. They want everything in one person and, unfortunately, everything does not exist in one person. So by developing candidate personas, it helps the company determine who they’re actually looking for. It goes beyond just what the job requirements are and talks about the demographics of the individual. It sets the salary requirements and different interests and channels to reach that individual.

Josh: [02:49] Gotcha. So for those people not in the marketing space, maybe everybody doesn’t know, you can’t just say, “I want a marketing person” anymore. There’s a lot of different marketing roles.

Annelle: [03:01] Yes, for sure.

Different Marketing Roles

Josh: [03:02] So how does that play into the persona, all these different marketing roles and the nuance between some of those?

Annelle: [03:07] Yeah, there’s definitely crossover between different roles. You need to identify the different skill sets that that individual needs. Also identify the type of person that would be good in that role. So for instance, if someone is an analytical person, then they’re probably not going to be very good in a creative role. As you mentioned, there’s probably a hundred different disciplines in marketing.

You really do need to identify the actual role that the person will be doing in your organization. Whether that’s a marketing generalist who kind of has a little piece of everything and uses outsourcers and agencies to fulfill those needs; or if it’s a truly specialized individual who is doing something like search engine marketing or social media or any other kind of discipline.

Resources Available

Josh: [04:13] Gotcha. So when you’re going through the candidate personas, do you have a sheet that you will use pretty much every time to fill out and go through and ask all these questions?

Annelle: [04:25] Yeah, there are lots of resources that you can find online for building a buyer persona so you can actually use those personas and adapt them to a candidate rather than a buyer. You’re trying to figure out the same kind of information as you would for a buyer persona, but you’re using that for a candidate.

Problems without Candidate Personas

Josh: [04:45] Got it. What are people running into if they don’t use a candidate persona? Or are they’re just getting marketing people all over the board in different ages and different experience levels? What goes wrong?

Annelle: [05:00] Well, I would say a lot of things can get wrong. I mean, in business, you set up targets. This is really a way to set up a target for the individual that you’re looking for. So if you don’t have a well-defined persona, then you’re going to get a lot of different applications for people who don’t fit the position.

The persona helps you write the job description. The persona helps you determine salary and crossover titles that someone might have. So there are different titles that an individual could have that are similar to the title that you’re actually looking for. If you identify the different titles in advance of those crossover positions, then when those applications come in and you can look for those individuals as well.

Establish Targeted Salary Range

[05:59] Establishing your targeted salary range, and knowing where the individuals that you’re looking for are. Obviously someone’s going to want a bump in pay when they take a new position, so if the targeted individual that you’re looking for is already making too much money, then that’s not going to be a good fit. You’re going to struggle to find that individual.

Josh: [06:27] Got it. I know we’ve noticed in putting out job openings and openings for positions that the less clear we are with that information, the more miscellaneous items and extra people we get in. So I think one of them was like for on location, we have to be very specific. We want somebody that’s going to work in our office. Coming in versus maybe somebody that’s going to want to work remotely. You get lots of different applications.

Location is Huge

Annelle: [06:52] Right. Absolutely. And location is huge. I often, when I’m interviewing candidates, it’s one of the first questions that I ask because if it’s not a fit as far as a commute is concerned, then it’s likely not going to work out and often the candidate claims that that’s not going to be an issue if it’s an hour commute. While it might not be an issue for the first six months, it’s going to be a challenge for them going forward and being able to identify that and knowing what your radius is and kind of sticking to your guns on that.

Josh: [07:33] So with the amazingly rough traffic we have in Atlanta, the commute radius is like two miles because that’s a forty-five-minute-commute or what are you seeing that normally happens? Is it like ten miles, fifteen miles? What are people willing to do and also stay for the long term?

Annelle: [07:52] Yeah, I would say it’s not necessarily a mileage target. It’s more, “Is this commute going to be thirty minutes? Is it going to be an hour and a half?” I mean, I try to target people that are within thirty minutes of the company. So it’s interesting, I had an interview one time with someone who is very concerned about work-life balance, but her commute was going to be an hour and a half each way and it’s like, “Where are you going to find that work-life balance if you’re driving three hours a day?” So it’s listening to what their needs are, what the company needs are and making sure that there’s a match there.

Josh: [08:34] Yeah. And I’m sure you get a lot of crazy combinations like, “Well, I live in Buford but I want a work-life balance but I only want to drive thirty minutes and, oh, by the way, all the tech jobs around four hundred or something.” Right?

Annelle: [08:45] Right. Exactly.

Josh: [08:48] Like interesting combinations like that.

How Location Limits Potential

Annelle: [08:49] Yeah, it’s really interesting. In doing this line of work, I’ve realized that, often, where somebody lives limits them on the jobs that they can take because if they are looking for a highly creative marketing agency type of role, and they live in extreme outskirts of Atlanta, they’re going to have a hard time finding that role. So it’s interesting because most people move outside the city for the cost of living, but then once they’re outside the city, it’s hard to get the jobs that would be able to afford the cost of living when they’re outside the city. And of course everyone’s different and of course an hour and a half or an hour commute is fine for some people and some people can totally manage that. But it’s our job and it’s our company’s job to understand whether someone really can handle that.

Josh: [09:45] Gotcha. Yeah. I know with my commute, I try to work around traffic in every possible way. So like if I’m going to Buckhead, it’s wake up at five AM, get down there, go to the gym, I already have my bags pre-packed and get to workout before the traffic even hits and then end up where I need to be. So working around trafficking in this area, at least, is definitely optimal.

Annelle: [10:07] Right. Absolutely. Yes.

Josh: [10:08] Awesome. Well, is there anything else about the candidate persona that we missed or you’d like to share?

Background is Still Important

Annelle: [10:17] I guess I didn’t discuss background necessarily. So obviously you want to make sure the background of the individual fits. I think that companies are more successful if they give a little leeway in the background. You need to understand that the individual can actually do the job that you’re hiring them to do but personality and motivation and drive and perseverance and things like that are all things to consider as well. Sometimes the person hasn’t done everything that you’re asking them to do yet they’re very capable of doing it. They’ve proven themselves in other lines of work or other areas and so trying to find the best fit possible, but yet also the person that fits the role as well.

Josh: [11:11] Gotcha. Yeah, we’re always talking about culture, obviously, and making sure that people have the skills that are needed to go learn something because nowadays it’s just so easy to learn. We are actually doing some research for a presentation I’m working on and it talked about boomers to Gen X to millennials to Z. And one of the education things that have happened is, originally, with boomers and before, people were used to going to college for what they were going to study and they stayed in that role for years and there wasn’t as many educational inputs.

Online Training

And now you can move so fast because within two years or sometimes overnight with a little bit of online training, you can decide to fundamentally switch positions and gain that skill. So oftentimes we’re looking for somebody who is really willing to go learn that new skill and can learn that skill as opposed to maybe has tons of experience in that specific realm.

Annelle: [12:06] Right. And that actually brings up a topic of conversation not necessarily to cover here, but the acceptance of job hopping now has become — I think with the millennial generation, it’s a lot more acceptable to switch jobs more often now than it used to be. So to your point, people spend a year or two in one line of work and then they move to another one.

Josh: [12:36] Right. Yeah. And it’s also hard. How do you say, “Hey, you need four years in social media on a marketing platform that was really invented three years ago.” Right? It doesn’t exist.

Realistic Experience Time

Annelle: [12:46] Oh, yeah. That happens all the time. All the time. We want fifteen years of marketing automation experience. Well, yeah, that wasn’t around then.

Josh: [12:57] It wasn’t a thing. Yeah, you couldn’t buy that platform fifteen years ago, really. Right?

Annelle: [13:02] But honestly, I see requests like that all the time from my clients.

Josh: [13:07] Interesting. Very interesting.

[13:09] Awesome. Well, that is our episode today on candidate personas. Like to thank Annelle for joining us on that topic and we look forward to seeing you and speaking with you on the next episode.

Annelle: [13:21] All right. Thank you.

[13:23] Thank you for tuning in to today’s episode of the Epic Company Culture Podcast with Josh Sweeney. If you enjoy this content, please subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher. For additional content and transcripts, visit epicculture.co. If you have questions or topics you’d like us to address or expand on, tweet us @epicculture1 or email at podcast@epicculture.co.