How to Develop an Ideal Candidate Profile

Jodie Cherry RothBy Jodie Cherry Roth
November 2nd, 2022 • 5 Minutes

Recruitment marketing is a two-way street. Not only do HR professionals need to work hard to cultivate a strong employer brand, but they also need to understand the needs and challenges of potential candidates. Developing an ideal candidate profile can help you develop a better recruiting strategy and shape your marketing materials.

What Is an Ideal Candidate Profile (ICP)?

An ideal candidate profile, or persona, describes the characteristics of the job applicant best suited for the position. The ICP lists the skills and traits the company desires, along with information about the candidate’s potential challenges, behaviors and habits.

Marketing professionals do this exercise all the time. Customer personas help companies refine their marketing strategy based on consumer habits and expectations. In the same way, an ICP can help HR professionals zero in on candidates with in-demand skills.

Who Should You Build an Ideal Candidate Profile For?

Candidate personas can help with recruitment marketing for any position, but an ICP might be uniquely suited for particular roles. You might consider building an ideal candidate profile for:

  • Your hardest-to-fill roles
  • Your most commonly recruited roles
  • Roles that feature niche qualifications/skills

Managerial positions, for example, require a healthy blend of technical competence and interpersonal skills. Developing an ICP for these positions can help you clarify the skills you’re looking for and connect with the right candidate.

When Should You Build an Ideal Candidate Profile?

Create an ideal candidate profile as early as possible — prior to developing your recruitment marketing plan and supporting materials. This way, you can adapt your company’s content and employer branding to reflect the qualities listed in your candidate persona.

Why Should You Build an Ideal Candidate Profile?

Candidate profiles are helpful for three critical reasons.

1. They Augment Your Job Description

A candidate persona is not the same thing as a job description, but it does explain the type of candidate and skills that best fit the role. Crafting an ICP can help your HR team think strategically about the role itself, as well as distinguish between “required skills” and “nice-to-have skills.”

2. They Refine Your Recruitment Marketing Strategy

Candidate profiles give you a deeper understanding of who you’re recruiting. What do they care about? What are their challenges? Understanding your applicants helps you refine your content and employer branding strategy so you can highlight the things that matter most to your candidates. 

More practically, an ICP can help you learn what online channels your applicants interact with, which will influence where and how you conduct your marketing campaigns.

3. They Ensure Objectivity in the Hiring Process

Hiring decisions should be free of bias. An ICP ensures that you interview and hire qualified candidates based on objective criteria spelled out in the candidate profile. This minimizes the possibility of favoritism in the recruiting process.

What Are the Benefits of Creating an Ideal Candidate Profile?

Companies that integrate an ICP into their recruitment marketing strategy can expect to enjoy the following benefits:

  • Fill roles in less time
  • Weed out unqualified candidates
  • Retain top-performing employees
  • Raise employee satisfaction/engagement
  • Increase satisfaction scores of hiring managers
  • Save money by using advertising dollars more effectively

Perhaps most importantly, a candidate profile can streamline your hiring process. You’ll be able to maintain greater focus throughout the process and maximize your effectiveness by using the marketing channels that best connect with your recruitment pool.

How to Create an Ideal Candidate Profile

Ready to get started? Here’s how to create an ideal candidate profile for your company.

Step 1. Schedule a Discovery Call

Start with a discovery call with the hiring manager. Seek to understand the foundational requirements of the role you’re creating a persona for. Think about skills, qualifications, education, experience, or other ideal candidate traits.

Step 2. Evaluate Previous Employees

More times than not, you can craft a persona based on the traits of previous hires and high-performing employees. Just be careful to look at their objective skills and performance-based traits, rather than make judgments based on personality or demographics.

Step 3. Research, Research, Research

Careful research can help you better understand economic and industry trends. You’ll want to consider sources that provide details and analysis on things like:

  • Skills data
  • Career pathing
  • Labor market trends
  • Industry-specific trends
  • Compensation trends
  • Pay differences by gender

Not sure where to start? Here are a few suggested sources:

  • ONET
  • Talent Neuron
  • Professional surveys
  • Industry associations/publications
  • Economic Modeling Specialist International (EMSI) software
  • Workforce Studies (look for those released by your local Chamber of Commerce)

Each source offers different types of data. Reading reviews on a recruiting site like Glassdoor can provide qualitative data on what applicants really care about.

You might also consider looking into areas where your ideal candidates are currently working. What job titles do they hold? What are their current salaries? This can form a baseline for creating your own recruiting package.

Step 4. Organize Your Findings

Organizing your findings allows you to make sense of the data. At the very least, organize your findings based on the needs of your company and the expectations of job seekers. Later, you can further divide each category into salary expectations, necessary skills, etc.

Step 5. Identify Key Trends

Do you notice any patterns emerging from the data? What are other industry analysts saying? Identifying key employment trends will empower your company to better connect with job seekers. But, as always, rely on objective data, and be conscious of your own biases when you’re considering this information.

Step 6. Create Your Initial Profile

Next, prepare a candidate profile based on your key findings. Make sure that your initial draft addresses the following questions:

  • How do job seekers look for jobs?
  • What information do they trust?
  • What are the top employment criteria (education, experience, etc.)?
  • What are the most common job frustrations?
  • What are job seekers motivated or influenced by?
  • What skills would make them successful in their job?
  • What are their most common employment barriers?
  • What are the deal-breakers that would make them turn down a job?
  • What are their work preferences (hybrid employment, benefits, etc.)?

Addressing these questions can help you create a profile that matches the expectations of today’s job-seekers as well as the needs of your own organization.

Step 7. Gain Stakeholder Alignment

Once complete, your job is to share this profile with your hiring manager and other senior leaders for their input and approval. And, if you use reliable data from trusted sources, it will be easier to persuade your company’s stakeholders of the necessity and efficacy of your profile. 

You might also highlight ways you’ll measure the effectiveness of your ICP, and make plans to re-evaluate your employer branding and marketing process at a later date.

How to Use Your Ideal Candidate Profile

You can now use your ICP to enhance your employer branding and recruitment marketing efforts. For example, you might use the persona to:

  • Refine your job description
  • Strengthen your job advertising content
  • Select your advertising strategy (email marketing, social media channels, etc.)

Keep in mind that this process can be iterative, which means that you’ll continue to refine your persona based on new data and feedback from job seekers.

Streamline Your Hiring Process

According to recent reports, two out of every three companies around the globe are struggling to attract new employees. An ideal candidate profile isn’t a magic bullet, but it can help you refine your hiring strategy. 

By crafting a persona that matches your workplace culture, you’ll have an easier time retaining your workers once they come on board. An ideal candidate profile can improve satisfaction for your organization and job seekers and give you an edge over competing companies.

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