Understanding The 3 Candidate Personas When Hiring By Jim Durbin

  By Anonymous  |    Sunday August 7, 2017

Category: Expert Advice, Recruiting


There are only a few stories in life, and recruiters often make the mistake of complicating the decision to take a new job. There are broad themes that run through all hiring decisions, and most of the obstacles, road blocks, and stumbles occur when we divert a candidate from the right path with the wrong kind of information.

Why does someone take a job? I’ve identified three major themes that cover 95% of hires.

Next Step:

These are the best candidates for a recruiter. A person is getting a promotion, getting a raise, moving from a smaller company to a larger one, moving from a slow company to a fast one, or gathering experience in a new position that will enhance their career. 

Next step candidates don’t need to be sold on taking a job. They need to be sold on taking your job. They need to see that this is the right time for them to leave their company and join another. You can identify them when they use words like “career,” or “I’m ready to” and obviously, “the next step.”


Selling points to NextSteppers include; confirmed budget, a better title, more responsibility, and public exposure (like speaking at conferences or access to media). 

To win Next Steppers over, you have to talk to their ego, without inflating it. You treat them with more respect then they’re getting at their current position, but you don’t over do it (running the risk that they think their Next Step is bigger than what you’re offering). A script would include something like, “What you’ll find at your next position,” and “At this level, this is how you carry yourself and what you can expect.”

Next Step is also very easy to sell to clients, who recognize someone planning their career. 

A New Hope:

Some people are looking for a reboot of their lives. They’re in dying companies or dying industries, or they’ve reached the limit of their desire in their field, and want to move in a new direction. Examples include digital creatives who move into manufacturing, reporters who move into marketing, salespeople who move into consulting, and executives who open up franchise small businesses. 

The New Hope is hard for recruiters, because it’s success rate is based on personal relationships or a track record of hiring similar candidates. If you know someone, you can offer them a job and train them. If you’re paying a recruiter (internal or external), you expect someone with experience (it’s a mistaken notion, but a normal one). 

New Hope roadblocks include salary considerations (in both directions - both drops in earnings and those whose new job pays significantly more), lack of training structure, and romanticized visions of a new job. It’s important to differentiate here between New Hope and Get Me The Hell Out Of Here Candidates. They often sound alike. 

Verbal clues include: “Reached the end of,” “don’t see a long-term vision,” as well as comments like “How many web designers do you know over 40?” You can also identify New Hopers at companies whose industry has struggled through layoffs, even if they themselves have not experienced it. New Hopers are not those who lost a job and need to start over. They’re employed, have a career, and are ahead of the curve in terms of planning their career. 

To sell New Hopers, you need to first break them down. A journalist who tells you they are a journalist is not a good candidate for a non-journalism job. They have to fully commit to a new path, which means they discuss writing, research, and interviewing. It’s their skills you’re after, but if they can’t let go of their title, or refer to how things have been done, they’re not ready. You have to tell them that. If they get it, then you need to work with them to remold their resume and story. What have they done that is similar to the new job? This can include phone calls, customer service, accounting, technology, interviews, or management. Recreate their story as a timeline where the New Hope is really a Next Step. Emphasize the commitment at the end, and be sure to include the current title in a Summary or Objective. Repeating the title and skills on paper and throughout the interview will signal that commitment to the hiring manager. 

Most important, practice accepting job offers and practice relevant questions. Consider it similar to assuming the sale. If the candidate sounds like they are ready to take the job, the manager will be more likely to see them as competent at the new job. 

Get Me The Hell Out Of Here:

This is sadly the most common kind of candidate. From bad bosses to needing money to personal issues to naivete and poor planning, many candidates want something new, but what they really want is to get out of the old. 

Competent candidates mask it well. Many pitch it in terms of Next Stepping or A New Hope, but when a candidate tells you they’re open to anything, finish that thought mentally with “anything that gets me out of here.”  Please note there’s nothing wrong with the person. They could actually be a great employee that is just fed up. They could have fear that has held them back, or personal conditions like family or medical issues that necessitate a change. But if you’re going to place them, you have to convert them to a new channel.

Verbal cues here aren’t as useful because the candidate rarely says - “just get me out.” They are often governed by emotions, and while they are in the grip of those emotions, they’re stuck. It’s like a guy in rapids without a life preserver. They’ll take any line thrown to them, but after you’ve hauled them to land, their thank you is short-lived. If they’re on the wrong river bank, or if their peer group is still in the water, they will regret taking that line. 

A Note About Channels:

Channels are useful personas to use in hiring situations because they’re true. They are logical progressions that lead job-seekers into a particular train of thought, which is why interview answers sound the same. An example is,“What is you biggest weakness?” The answer, “I’m a perfectionist.” It’s not really the answer - it’s the logical best answer to a silly question.   

The neat thing about channels is that you can’t sell people into them. You can’t train someone to get out of their mindset. You have to bring them to the point where the normal thoughts that everyone thinks in the channel are coming to them. That’s why it’s a channel. Once you’re in it, the normal person moves forward to the same conclusion. Your goal is not to create a script they can follow, but to nudge them into the right channel, and the channel will do all of the work from there.


Understanding The 3 Candidate Personas When Hiring By Jim Durbin


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