Since 2006, according to HubSpot, inbound marketing has been the most effective method for online business development. Just think of the semantics behind the term. “Outbound” implies pushing, repelling and moving activity away from an organization. “Inbound” evokes a sense of gathering, attracting and embracing. It’s personal and welcoming. It’s also the content-rich strategy that savvy recruiters are adopting to draw in exceptional candidates. The highest performing talent acquisition professionals are those who understand the importance of an inbound marketing approach to hiring. Yet even with vibrant blog posts and engaging social media interactions, how does one rise above the digital noise to stand out among a targeted audience? Well, just as inbound marketers have perfected the art of buyer personas, staffing experts can create equally effective talent personas.

Content is King in the Online Age

It’s ironic that the rise of the Internet led people in the publishing world to lament that “print is dead.” To a certain extent, electronic media has weaned us off our reliance on paper — and probably saved quite a few trees in the process. What it didn’t do, as print producers implied, was to destroy readership and the demand for writing. The Internet wouldn’t exist without content and an audience of voracious readers. In many ways, the World Wide Web is driving that demand. It’s also given people a platform to produce and distribute content in novel ways and new formats.

Regardless of the medium — videos, electronic articles, infographics, etc. — the success of inbound marketing springs from captivating storytelling and actionable intelligence. It’s no different in the world of recruitment marketing.

Recruiting through inbound channels has changed the hiring landscape dramatically. If 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.

In today’s workforce, the evolving 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. Still, the issue that confronts the best recruitment partners is in casting a wide yet targeted net. That’s where talent personas leap in to save the day.

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

Content will continue to increase and permeate the digital world. In the next two years alone, analysts expect the amount of online content to double. Every company and every consumer seeking talent will become a media entity, enticing workers through content. Yet, it’s crucial that the 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.