Back To Compensation Today

Want to Attract the Right Talent? Create a Kickass Job Post with Employee Personas

Topics: Growth

It’s no secret it’s an employee market. A recent Vistage Survey of CEOs found that the talent shortage has elevated to a “hiring crisis.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 6.7 million open jobs in the U.S. but only 6.4 million workers to fill them. As the cost of recruiting continues to rise and the marketplace becomes more competitive, we find that many companies are missing a simple opportunity to convince a recruit to take action and apply.

Wait for it … their job postings are awful!

However, it’s not as simple as adding in spicy language. You need to know who your right–fit candidate is and what will compel them to take action.

What Makes a Right–fit Candidate?  

Your jobs aren’t for everyone, so why spend time and money appealing to the masses? Employee personas help clarify who you’re targeting, so you can better allocate budget and Human Resources team’s efforts to deliver a higher ROI on recruitment efforts.

Learn More About Our Compensation Software


Right–fit candidates do exceptional work, contribute beyond the responsibilities in their job decision, successfully lead teams and drive your business forward. They have that “it” factor that might be hard to put your finger on. However, if you do the research you will find there are some common traits of your company’s right-fit candidate that will be the foundation of your Employee Persona.

The idea of personas comes from brand marketing and, if you think about it, the same types of tactics used to attract a client also apply to get on the radar of a great recruit. Simply put, an employee persona is a fictional representation of your best employees. To build one, identify and document an employee’s most desirable characteristics in the following areas: motivations, goals, barriers, triggers and where they seek information.

So What are the Steps to Creating a Persona?

There are five steps to create an employee persona, but the most critical is the in–person employee surveys. Don’t skip them!

1. Define what a successful hire looks like

  • Must–have factors – what are the necessary characteristics and skills?
  • Culture–fit factors – what traits are admired within your organization?
  • Not–a–fit factors – what kinds of people have not thrived at your company?

2. Conduct an internal automated survey of current employees

Use this opportunity to gauge:

  • Demographic details
  • Motivations – work-life balance, interests, passions, etc.
  • Goals – professional and personal
  • Barriers and frustrations
  • Triggers for a new job search
  • Communication preferences – how do people prefer to receive information? Are they more engaged on social than with emails?

3. Interview a smaller subset of current employees in–person

For small organizations, interview a sample of 5–7 people. For larger organizations, interview a handful of people from each department

4. Analyze your results

Are you seeing any trends? Identify strengths and areas for improvement: How can you use this data to paint a realistic picture for a job candidate of what it’s like to work for you?

5. Use this research to create an employee persona

Create an actual visual representation of your employee persona and use it throughout the recruitment and interview process. This data can be used to paint a realistic picture for a job candidate of what it’s like to work for you. This persona can also be repurposed as an evaluation tool or conversation starter during reviews of current employees.


Sample Employee Persona


Highly-valued Candidate Traits

Write a Job “Ad,” Not a List of Duties

Now that you know your ideal candidate it’s time to use that employee persona to craft a compelling story of why top talent should want to work at your company.

  1. Hook them with the job title. Just like a fantastic advertising headline the first few words can make or break your chance of sparking a candidate’s interest. Don’t just use a job title. Add the top two or three things that will make the role attractive to your target persona.
  2. Start with why. I am going to go all Simon Sinek here – this first paragraph is your chance to inspire and excite. Use this space to talk about why this job is meaningful to your company and what about the role is compelling.
  3. Tell the business’ story. Candidates today want to know more than just the history of your organization. They want a peek into your culture, your vision, values, and purpose. Use this opportunity also to highlight the types of clients you work with or exciting projects. This section is your chance to share your accolades, as well. If you’ve been recognized as an industry innovator –for your work or as a best place to work– be sure to use that to your advantage in the post.
  4. Coffee is for closers. You’ve peaked someone’s interest and now it’s time to close the deal and get the applicant to apply. Drop the laundry list of tasks and focus on selling the most significant parts of the job. Use your Persona, in particular, to showcase what motivates top performers. This paragraph is your chance to talk about your Compensation Philosophy and why it differentiates your company. Hone in on the added perks like working remotely, your location by the beach or your professional development programs. And don’t forget to highlight unique perks like student loan repayment and wardrobe allowances. If available, use the social proof of positive reviews on sites and link out to your company’s review pages.
  5. Make it easy to apply. Candidates want a user–friendly experience during the recruitment process, but most organizations don’t deliver. Setting expectations around the timeline and what will happen during the hiring process helps candidates feel better prepared and increase their confidence that your company has its act together. Automating some of the standard questions or testing requirements can reduce the time commitments of your internal team as well as weed out applicants who are an obvious mismatch.


There is a war for top talent in our marketplace today. If you’re not raising the bar on your employment recruitment strategy, it will be hard to compete and grow, and some organizations may not survive. Don’t lose a recruiting battle due to lackluster job postings. Employee personas are not a quick fix but they are worth the effort.

Tell us what you think

Do you have any advice on how to create great job postings that attract the right candidates? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please comment below or send us your thoughts on Twitter.

Photo by Analia Baggiano on Unsplash

Editor’s note: this blog post was written Kathy Steele, CEO of Red Caffeine.

Kathy Steele is passionate about people, serious about business growth, and loves to help the underdog cause in her community. She is fortunate to “do it all” in her role as CEO of Red Caffeine, a growth consultancy that’s mission is to build badass brands that clients want to work with, and employees want to work for.

A serial entrepreneur, Red Caffeine is the company she feels she is finally getting right. Founded with Purpose, Vision, and Values, along with her decision to operate with open-book finances, Red Caffeine has seen rapid growth. Inspired by her journey in creating a best place to work, Kathy and her team deliver growth strategies for purpose-driven companies who share common values and challenges. Kathy speaks and writes about being an entrepreneur and how marketing impacts business growth. She is a contributor to Forbes and has delivered keynote presentations, and workshops on employee experience, branding, marketing, and business culture.

Kathy Steele
Read more from Kathy

Leave a Reply

Notify of
Start the Transformation

We can help you bring modern compensation to life in your organization.