How to Define Your “Target Candidate”


Defining your target candidate is part of the first 'Critical Success Factor' of recruitment, ‘Building a pool of potential candidates’. 

Maybe you've noticed that when undertaking a process, we can sometimes be struck with the urge to race ahead, skipping steps with an expectation that we will arrive at the outcome sooner.

Sometimes this approach will indeed lead to an outcome, but very often it will either not be the desired outcome or it will actually take longer than if we had followed all the steps in the first place (think flat pack furniture or some of my recent cooking efforts).

To apply this analogy to the recruitment process, if we want to hire the ‘right’ person the first time, it pays to follow certain steps in a particular order.  When a position becomes vacant the first thing we would do is take the opportunity to review the position description and recruitment brief to ensure that it is current and reflects a role that is still relevant to our current business goals and objectives.

As part of that exercise it proves valuable to put some thought into capturing a description of the target candidate to fill that role within your particular organisation, the 'candidate of choice'.  From there we can put our marketing hat on and think about where we will find that person, how we will attract them and finally how we will identify them through the selection process.

Let’s take a look at why this is important.

If we clearly understand our target candidate we are in a position to speak directly and compellingly to relevant, high calibre candidates in language that will motivate them to take action, which in this case is to either make contact and/or apply for our position.

Remember, the employees you want are the good ones and are therefore in a position to be fussy and often only in the early stages of thinking about making a move.  If your ad doesn't 'appeal' to them, they take NO action.

Now this may sound like unimportant waffle but many of the people we work with come to us after having run their own advertising campaign unsuccessfully and using this approach we are able to produce a result most of the time.

So how do you identify your target candidate?

  1. Understand and document the challenges and outcomes you want your employee to be motivated and engaged by.One way to do this is to picture yourself walking around your workplace in 12 months time with the successful candidate.  Now think about what you will say to them in acknowledgement of the outcomes they have delivered and what they have achieved and brought to your organisation over that time.  This exercise will assist you to identify both the personal characteristics of your ideal candidate as well as the challenges and tasks that will engage and motivate them.
  2. What type of work are the ideal candidates doing now?
  3. What are their career ambitions?
  4. Are there any typical ‘pain points’ for people in this position/industry that your company has solved which you can use to attract their attention.For example, will you provide a Manager with training and development budget or access to management information systems that provide real time snapshots without hours of compiling reports from manual sources.
  5. What personality type is most suited to the role and what language/words appeal to them. An Accountant for example will be attracted to a completely different type of ad copy than a Sales Person.
  6. An understanding of what type of culture will they be attracted to.  And does your organisation have a specific culture that can be woven into the copy of your ad to attract the right people?

Armed with a clear picture of your ‘Ideal Candidate’ you are now in a much stronger position to write a compelling ad that will attract high caliber candidates. You will also set your business and new team member up for success by having a clear set of documented hiring and performance criteria.

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