Employee Retention

5 New Candidate Personas for More Relevant Recruiting

Sep 06, 2022 - Cat DiStasio

We’ve long been proponents of using candidate personas (aka candidate profiles) to shape recruiting strategies, inform communication, and drive recruitment content in your hiring process. Our past advice on using personas (here and here, for starters) still holds true, and there are many ways candidate personas help talent acquisition teams create a relevant and meaningful candidate experience for many different types of candidates.

To stay in alignment with changing candidate attitudes and talent market trends, TA teams need to update candidate personas periodically so they actually match their target audiences. And the way you approach those updates this year should probably look a little different than past practices. Recently, McKinsey offered a new breakdown of talent models that employers can use to refresh and modernize the candidate personas they use to identify and evaluate prospective candidates. Basing personas on candidates’ values and personality traits—that is, their key priorities and preferences—allows recruiters in all industries to create a candidate experience and recruiting content that are more attractive, engaging, and satisfying.

Before we dive into these new candidate personas and how TA teams can leverage them for talent engagement, there are two foundational truths you need to know. First is that people may belong to more than one group and some recruiting strategies may be effective with multiple personas—and this allows you to create an authentic, transparent plan for engaging with lots of different types of candidates throughout your recruiting process.

The other crucial piece is something that may require a new way of thinking for some TA professionals. While traditional candidate personas were often designed to be integral to different age groups or generations, McKinsey’s modernized view shifts the focus to candidates’ values, understanding that these cut cross-sections across generations. This shift actually makes it easier to home in on what matters most to candidates regardless of their age or experience level. Taking cues from consumer marketing and focusing on the topics and pain points that candidates care about most helps you build a more relevant, effective, and customized candidate experience that sets you apart from your competition.

Here’s a look at each persona, and proven strategies for adapting your virtual recruiting strategy to target candidates in each group for more successful hires.


McKinsey describes this group’s key values in an expected way. Traditionalists are career-minded, motivated, risk-averse, and typically attracted to what organizations historically offer employees. That said, don’t assume this group is “easy” to recruit. They still need access to relevant information and lots of opportunities for engagement with your company culture.

How to attract them: Competitive compensation and benefits can lure in traditionalists (particularly if they're passive candidates), but employers need to do more to retain employees who belong to this group. Traditionalists may feel more secure and engaged at work when they’re able to build relationships and trust in their fellow teammates as well as organizational leadership. Meaningful rewards and recognition can go a long way with this group, as can regular virtual events that foster employee engagement.


People in this group highly value autonomy, workplace flexibility, meaningful work, and compensation—and most likely in that order. When provided with a culture and atmosphere that meet their needs, do-it-yourselfers can offer exceptional contributions to your organization. But if you don’t offer what they want most, your hiring team will likely have trouble keeping them engaged through the recruiting process.

How to attract them: Emphasize topics they care about most in your recruitment marketing, content, and virtual events. This group might also have strong opinions and expectations about the recruiting process, so offer lots of options for engagement before and after the application and conduct frequent feedback polls so you can deliver more of what these potential candidates seek.


Candidates in the caregivers group are home-oriented, value flexibility, and may be more likely to be passive talent right now, given that many of them left the workforce during the pandemic (some by choice, some less so) and may need some convincing to come back to work. But, for the right organization and opportunities, they will.

How to attract them: Caregivers want to understand what they’re getting into and how it will impact their home life and family dynamics before they commit. Host informational virtual events, Q&A sessions, and recruiter office hours so candidates can find answers to all their questions about benefits, flexible work schedules, remote and hybrid work plans, and organizational culture. Consider hosting Employee Resource Group events for working parents and other caregivers, so candidates can learn how your organization supports work-life integration.


Idealists value flexibility, career development and advancement potential, meaningful work, and a community of reliable and supportive people. They require a culture of trust, collaboration, and good soft skills—so you need to tell those stories early in the recruiting process to attract them and keep them engaged.

How to attract them: To target this candidate pool, let culture take center stage. Spotlight employee stories—especially employee testimonials and “behind the scenes” videos—and offer ideal hires opportunities to speak with current employees throughout the recruiting process, via virtual leadership forums, ERG events, and networking events with their future coworkers. Inviting idealists to interact with your culture can help them envision themselves being a part of your team. For this group, it’s also impactful to emphasize your organizational values and demonstrate how you give back to the community.


This candidate persona profile might sound like a synonym for lazy but relaxers can be incredibly experienced, creative, and innovative, making them valuable assets to your organization. For qualified candidates in this group, career doesn’t come first and they need the right circumstances to join your organization. They might be passive talent—perhaps they’ve left the workforce voluntarily or are even semi-retired.

How to attract them: Perhaps the most difficult group to target in your recruitment marketing efforts, relaxers shouldn’t be underestimated. All candidates—but especially relaxers—need a short and sweet recruiting process, convenient ways to engage with recruiters (such as a recruiting chatbot and virtual office hours), and easy access to information about job opportunities, organizational culture, work schedules and location, benefits, and more during their candidate journey.

Relevant Recruiting Offers Lasting ROI

Adopting this new framework for candidate personas, thankfully, does not mean you need to scrap everything you’ve used in the past for your recruitment efforts or recruitment strategy. But taking a more proactive approach and focusing on prospective hires’ values, all while allowing those differences to inform your recruiting content, virtual events, and communication strategies can help you attract more of the candidates you seek, engage with them faster, and keep them invested in the recruiting process long enough for you to evaluate them. With this approach, we envision employers will be able to make better hires and are more likely to see better employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention in their recruitment process later down the line, by showing candidates that what matters to them also matters to you. That's the power of a well-crafted candidate persona strategy when searching for the perfect hire(s) within a varied pool of candidates, each with their own strengths, skill sets, professional goals, and employment preferences.

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