Yves Pilet Consultancy
Employer brand management


Personas and content marketing for talent management

In the world of online marketing personas and more recently content marketing has been used for many years. The principles of personas can be used to attract talented employees as well. To understand how this works, I will successively explain what personas are, how to apply them for talent attraction and which important lessons I can give you regarding content marketing.


What are personas?
On a daily basis billions of people visit an equally large amount of internet sites. To bring order to the chaos, personas are used to capture the characterization of these online users. Based on research among target groups different types of online users are identified. They are described as if they were real people, based on certain character traits, educational background and interests. A web master and his team examines the organization's internet site and develops in cooperation with different stakeholders different (fictitious) customer journeys a persona takes. Each customer journey is then used to adjust the content of the website to the needs of this persona. Personas are therefore a method to look at your website through the eyes of the customer.

If we apply this principle to employers who are looking for talented employees, we take their career sites as the starting point. The career site should be designed in such a manner that each user is able to find the relevant content quick, in a user friendly manner and preferably visual. A career site should contain elements like vacancies, application procedures, background information about the company culture and cultural values. However, the availability of this information depends on the stage a potential employee is in. Someone who's new on the career site and may be looking for a job requires a different approach than someone who's invited for her first talk regarding her application. Using personas in combination with content marketing can help in this situation.

To guide you through this, I've prepared an example based on a fictitious employer named RCE (Red Chip Electronics) and three personas: Sarah, Mike and James. Before I explain how these personas are going to follow their customer journey on the career site of RCE, I will first discuss the different types of online users. Online users can be classified in different ways (for example Creator, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators and Inactives as described below).


Figure 1: Online user types according to Forrester Research in the US


Three kind of online user types
In my example regarding RCE I'll simplify the approach somewhat and will choose for three instead of five of online user types. Remember, online user types are not the same as target groups. Each target group could consist of three online user types. Hence, a talented employee currently working for a competitor of RCE (a target group) can be a browser, reader and/or a tracer.

The browser
This online user is looking for a short message of one line of text, possibly supported by a visual (e.g. an infographic). It's the kind of user that would only glance at the headlines in a paper, instead of reading the complete article. She hasn't set her eyes on applying for a job at this specific employer per se.


The reader
This user is slightly more interested in what an employer has te say. She seeking to obtain information in the form of arguments ("Why should I apply here?"). Often one or two paragraphs of text adequately supported with a (numerical) image does the trick. Most of the time she has a good sense of the type of employer presented to her.

The tracer
The last type of user, the tracer, is highly interested in what the employer has to offer and would like to know every possible detail available. She's the type of user who'd like to read a comprehensive report on the organization and would like to know why certain choices are made, how the employer acts in certain situations and if this can be backup by figures (e.g. an employee survey).

Source: Yves Pilet


The six principles of personas
My analysis is consequently based on six principles regarding personas: know where they are, adjust your message to, get in contact with them, understand their needs, steer content development and talk to them. In the image below, this is described in full:


Figure 2 - The six principles of personas

Source: Yves Pilet

Source: Yves Pilet

The principles work as a funnel: any prior guiding principle influence the current. The goal is, through the career site, to set up a face-to-face conversation between the right employee for the right employer. As a result, wasting valuable time of both parties is avoided as much as possible.

Combining these principles with the three online user types, allows us to set up the proper customer journeys. The result is an overview of how the personas relate to three types of online users. Remember that all six principles are relevant for all three personas.

Different content for different personas
When I use personas to develop content for career sites I find it useful to connect them directly to a (fictional) face and name. It makes the discussions on customer journeys that much easier and vivid ("Sarah visits the homepage, but can't find the right info about our business right away. How do we solve this?" and "I wonder is Mike would like to apply for the job we present to him here on our career site?"). Based on research, a comprehensive profile of the three personas can established, including a quote with a core message. Consequently, these personas' customer journeys can be established and the content can be adapted to their needs.

"I wonder what kind of organization RCE is and if they have any vacancies." - Sarah

"I wonder what kind of organization RCE is and if they have any vacancies." - Sarah

Name: Sarah

Age: 27

Sarah is thinking about pursuing a new job. She has always worked as a receptionist at a major US company in the construction sector, but weighing her options. She has humor and likes to connect with people.

Online user type:

Content form on career site:

"I want to know if RCE has a vacancy for me that fits my profile." - Mike

"I want to know if RCE has a vacancy for me that fits my profile." - Mike

Name: Mike

Age: 44

Mike is currently in between jobs. His previous employer, a small trading company, was acquired by a Chinese company and he lost his job. Mike was responsible for an annual turnover of 200,000 euro.


Online user type:

Content form on career site:
Visual and text

"I applied for the position of manager and am invited for a meeting at the office of RCE." - James

"I applied for the position of manager and am invited for a meeting at the office of RCE." - James

Name: James

Age: 36

James has a permanent contract as a manager at DDW, a competitor of RCE, but would like to take the next step in his career. He applied for the position "Manager EMEA, a new position at RCE via LinkedIn.

Online user type: 

Content form on career site:

Source: Yves Pilet


I'm sure you can imagine that each persona has a different need for information. Sarah would, for instance, love to see an online video about the way employees work at RCE, while James would rather read up on RCE's Human Resource policy and the way RCE provides a manager to develop their leadership potential. As a result, different content should be presented to different personas.

Lessons for your approach
Finally, let me give you a few lessons if you are going to use personas to attract talent:

  • Go for experience
    Make sure you have an experienced staff to achieve your goal. It's not an easy task to establish personas, as it requires different disciplines (including focus group research, online applications, content marketing).
  • Work with a flexible technical system
    Especially in the beginning during an extensive test phase ("what works and what doesn't?"), adjustments based on results need to made on the fly (e.g. through Scrum project management). Only then optimization can work to your advantage.
  • Make sure you've set up your measurement instruments
    Results of your measurement instruments are input for your team to gain new insights and the ultimate goal: hiring better talent. Try not only to use instruments in orde to measure number of views, downloads and clicks (eg. via Webtrends), but also use the benefits of an applicant tracking system ("Why would Mike refuse to download the Human Resource document presented to him at this page while applying?").
  • Present on behalf of your team in the group
    As you continually gain new insights, you will have to make adjustments to your career site. To retain support within your organization for these changes, you should explain to your relevant stakeholders within the organization why these changes are necessary. Use their suggestions as well, but try to follow your vision.
Member Login
Welcome, (First Name)!

Forgot? Show
Log In
Enter Member Area
My Profile Not a member? Sign up. Log Out