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How Marketing Buyer Personas Can Help Recruiters Build Amazing Talent Pools

As today’s workforce evolves, the role of recruiters is becoming even more pivotal. Candidates aren’t attracted, sourced and recruited the same way they were a decade ago. The transactional tactics of matching skills, work experience and compensation to job descriptions no longer bear the same fruits. As the industry moves toward predictive analytics, digital ecosystems and on-demand talent pools, the best recruiters are confronted with the challenges of casting wide yet targeted nets. And the question becomes: where do they find the right talent, and who are those candidates? We wrote recently that the most effective sourcing processes are beginning to mirror business development and marketing mindsets. By borrowing a page from the inbound marketing playbook, we can retool the notion of buyer personas to create talent personas that uncover the top candidates we need — for any client.

Connecting the Dots in the Hiring Ecosystem

One of the most significant shifts in the staffing industry has dawned from the explosive growth of the “human cloud,” an expanding ecosystem populated by a crowd of contractors, consultants, freelancers and subject matter experts who are seeking new models of employment. This ecosystem drives the gig economy and has altered the way we think about talent acquisition. In fact, it was one of the most widely heard phrases in discussions in the industry. According to a report by Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), the revenue generated by Human Cloud platforms has risen by 42% in 2019 amounting to $178.5 billion. The concept of a crowd-based hiring ecosystem, connected by digital intelligence and new recruiting strategies, is something we’ve talked about for years.

With the rise, and tremendous benefits of HR ecosystems, recruiters must also learn to approach talent acquisition differently. Today’s marketplaces, fueled by the gig economy, demand immediacy, fluidity, elasticity and an on-demand structure. Accommodating these new needs can be difficult, especially when clients expect the same door-to-door type service they receive from gig pioneers like Uber. Building virtual talent pools is becoming imperative. ADP predicted in 2016 as follows:

Waiting until job descriptions or salary ranges are finalized before making overtures of interest can impact success rates, especially if other organizations beat you to the punch. So developing a pipeline of potential candidates and hinting that a position will be available soon makes it possible to improve your chances of overall hiring success.

So how do we find the workers we need? That’s where marketing personas could emerge as powerful arrows in the modern recruiter’s quiver.

Recruiting through inbound channels has changed the hiring landscape dramatically. In fact, it’s improved the way candidates learn about recruiters, connect with them and interact with them. Where outbound marketing often requires buying ads, building email lists and hoping for leads, inbound marketing focuses on the creation of quality content that pulls candidates toward your organization — it explains to talent why they’ll want to be a part of your team. The secret lies in aligning the content you publish with the interests of candidates. When done right, this creates an inward flow that naturally attracts prospects who can be converted, hired and delighted over time.

Understanding the Concept: What is a Buyer Persona?

As marketing leader HubSpot explains, “Buyer personas (sometimes referred to as marketing personas) are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. Personas help us all — in marketing, sales, product, and services — internalize the ideal customer we’re trying to attract, and relate to our customers as real humans. Having a deep understanding of your buyer persona(s) is critical to driving content creation, product development, sales follow up, and really anything that relates to customer acquisition and retention.”

The most powerful buyer personas are based on market research and insights gathered from customer interactions, surveys and other communications. They empower a greater understanding of customers, as well as prospective customers, in marketing organizations. This makes it easier for them to tailor content to the specific needs, behaviors, motivators and concerns of different groups. So instead of sending everyone in the database the same messaging, buyers can be segmented and matched to specific pieces of content that are the most appropriate and appealing to their needs.

If you follow the logic of buyer personas, you should begin to realize how relevant they would be for recruiters who are pursuing top candidates.

How to Build Talent Personas

Define the Business Culture

The first step in building talent personas is defining the culture of your staffing organization and the culture of each client you support. To paraphrase Sedef Buyukataman’s article in TLNT, you must take a “broad and unbiased view.”

“Leave bureaucracy and politics to one side, and look at your internal workflows and functions in relation to your market perception and goals,” Buyukataman writes. “Each persona is built from multiple internal and external data sources then compiled into a matrix of skills, aggregate trends in ‘ideal’ employee behaviors and attributes, and market research aligned to your company growth plans.”

“Thanks to HR technology platforms,” she adds, “we also have access to various dimensions of historical data on hiring success, employee performance, development, and turnover. Accessing data from online channels like your website or LinkedIn will enhance your traditional salary/market/industry research as well. Use what you have to build as focused a picture as you can.”

Document all the information you gather during phone interviews and social media interactions. Check out the LinkedIn connections of your candidates, and use all of this data to spot trends. Now, it’s time to flesh out the profile. The basic structure of your talent persona will be four sections with specific categories that address the fundamentals of Who, What, Why and How.

Section One: Who is Your Candidate?

For the first section of your talent persona, you want to list out critical details of the candidate’s background, demographics and identifying characteristics or behaviors.


  • Predominant job titles or roles.
  • Level of education and majors.
  • Skill sets.
  • Relevant background data, such as educational level, hobbies, etc.
  • Industries they have supported, excelled in or prefer.
  • Size and type of the organizations they have worked in.
  • What have the persona’s responsibilities typically included?
  • How does the persona gain new information (e.g., online courses, conferences, etc.)?
  • What publications or blogs does the persona read?
  • What associations or social networks does the persona belong to?
  • How does the persona prefer to communicate and interact with recruiters (e.g., email, social media, phone, SMS, face-to-face, etc.)?
  • What are the primary tools or methods the persona uses to find job opportunities (e.g., job boards, online recruitment platforms, LinkedIn, etc.)?


  • Years of experience in the job market or in a certain function
  • Salary history.
  • Location: is the persona rural, urban, or suburban?
  • Level in career path (e.g., entry level, returning to workforce, alumni, senior management, changing careers, etc.).


  • Buzzwords that the talent uses or responds to.
  • Mannerisms: how would you characterize the overall demeanor, attitude or behavior of the persona based on your interactions?
  • How does the persona prefer to communicate? By phone, email, text, or other medium?

Section Two: What Motivates Your Candidate?


  • Describe the persona’s primary career goal, aspiration or inspiration.
  • Now, try list out the persona’s secondary goals or motivators.


  • What are the primary challenges the persona has encountered in his or her job searches?
  • What are the secondary challenges this individual has faced?
  • Do they differ based on job, industry or employer?

How Can You Help?

  • How can you help solve the persona’s challenges in finding a great position?
  • How can you help the persona achieve his or her goals?

Section Three: Why Has the Candidate Succeed or Faltered?

Real Quotes

During your conversations or correspondence with candidates, jot down a few actual quotes that represent the talent persona well. This will also help you establish veracity, create compelling messaging for similar profiles, and make the persona relatable to a wider audience.

Common Objections

  • Identify the most common objections the persona might raise during the hiring process.
  • Examples could include: “I’m afraid I’ll have to relocate,” “I worry about access to skills development and a real career path,” or “I want the flexibility to work remotely on occasion.”

Section Four: How Will You Communicate the Right Story to Similar Talent Personas?

Marketing Message

For each type of talent persona, you want to take all the intelligence you’ve collected and synthesize that information into a compelling message.

  • What solutions can I offer this persona?
  • How should I describe the solution to this persona?
  • What message will the persona see as the most meaningful?
  • What are the best media to reach candidates who fit this talent persona: blogs, tweets, InMail, Instagram, Facebook, phone calls, emails, or others?

Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch is a succinct and persuasive sales message used by business development professionals. The idea is to come up with an engaging or intriguing pitch that explains a product or service and its value — in the amount of time it would take to ride an elevator. Recruitment marketers should develop a similarly punchy and powerful statement to describe their solutions, in a manner that’s direct, simple and consistent for each talent persona.

The Audience is Listening -- Make Sure Your Voice is Heard

More than ever, it’s crucial that your recruitment message makes its way to the appropriate audience. If staffing professionals want to ensure that they’re reaching the right candidates with the right skills for the right clients, developing targeted talent personas can make all the difference.

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Accelerating Innovation in Hiring and Workforce Management