Hiring Hourly Employees: Know Your Target with Talent Personas

Hiring hourly employees seems like a simple endeavor. Put out a Help Wanted sign, maybe an ad on Craigslist, and let the candidates come pouring in.



But every vacant position is actually a missing puzzle piece in the beautiful, picture-perfect ideal of your company at large. Every job posting is a list of responsibilities and credentials, but for the purposes of hiring, consider going one layer deeper — build out a hiring persona for every position which will act as an additional filter telling you if you’re talking with the perfect puzzle piece to round out your work in progress.


This is especially important for hourly employees, who make up nearly 60% of the total US workforce, but who also represent the demographic with the fastest and highest turnover. And turnover ain’t cheap.


On paper, it may look like any number of candidates fit the bill. But you can create a much more detailed filter that will ensure a better fit for culture, career goals, and longevity.


What is a talent persona_

This idea is adapted from marketing, who use heavy market research to build out semi-fictional representations of ideal customers. For a B2B company, buyer personas are based on industry, title, and the specific pain points that align with solutions offered by the company.


These personas guide everything that marketing departments do, from branding to choosing which ad channels to focus their efforts, to picking topics to build content around. Focusing on personas helps marketing generate leads and helps sales decide which leads are worth pursuing in the sales process.


Likewise, a candidate persona can help you do more with less. Some basic research — including surveying those current employees you wish you could replicate — will provide a roadmap to get in front of the job seekers you want and will help you decide which applicants to invite in for an interview and which won’t be a good fit.


With these talent personas, you can write more relevant job descriptions and post them to the most strategically relevant channels to get the most relevant applications.

How to create a talent persona


Doing the research lowering turnover


Marketers build out traditional buyer personas through research, surveys, and interviews of current customers (good and bad), past customers, and target customers.


To build out your talent personas, evaluate your current employees. Survey data of both your top performers and those leaving something to be desired will be beneficial in highlighting what you do and don’t want.


The core of the candidate persona is discovering a holistic picture of what makes for a successful employee in a specific role at your company, which will be of evergreen importance.


The big things to ask are:


  • Where did you discover the job posting?
  • Why did you choose to apply for the position?
  • Which of responsibilities are you most interested in?
  • What would you change about your position?
  • What are the three places you spend the most time online?
  • What skills help you succeed in this role?
  • What are your major career goals?
  • Does this position align with your career goals?


Be sure that your data is collected in an organized fashion but that it remains anonymous. Employees are less likely to respond honestly if they think their answers will affect their employment or relationship with management.


To keep organized while retaining anonymity, choose one or two crucial variables that you use to decide who gets surveyed when. For instance, your first survey might go out to high performers in a given department who have been with your company over five years. The next blast might go to those who have been with the company between three and five years, and so on.


Besides using internal data, do some research on the hiring landscape and what your demographic looks like at the moment.  





Spotting the trends hourly recruitment


You’re probably wondering how much data is enough. The answer is, “It depends.” It’s not enough data until you begin to spot discernible trends. When the data starts telling a clear story, you’re getting there.


For example, you might find that your best call center agents with the greatest longevity are between 25 and 30 with some college education. Surveys of management might show that, before their promotions, they fit into this category as well. This trend would indicate a trend worth focusing on.


Your next question might be about how many personas you need. The short answer is “as many as there are positions you’re hiring for.” But that’s a daunting task for a hiring manager with a stack of requisitions that needed filling yesterday.


Marketing operations at a young company aren’t wholly put on hold until detailed persona profiles are completed to their minutest detail. And hiring is no less imperative.


Start with the highest volume of openings or the positions of greatest importance. Continue hiring as open positions come up. But sharpen your hiring sword today and over time with continuous research, testing, and refining.





Putting it all together hiring retention

When you’ve gathered all your research, it’s time to create that model employee, the “semi-fictional representation” we mentioned above. This is called a persona story, and it gives you a rounded-out view of your persona so you and your team can internalize the profile of a target candidate.


Let’s take a look at a talent persona for a call center agent, whom we’ll call Agent Andy.



  • Associates Degree in communication


Roles & Experience:

  • 2-5 years of experience in sales or another customer service oriented position



  • Proficient with Microsoft Office
  • Confident speaking voice



  • Competitive sports (e.g., weekend soccer or basketball)
  • Staying up to date on the latest blockbuster movies


Digital Watering Holes

  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • Quora


Cultural Characteristics

  • Prefers socially oriented tasks over solo work
  • Likes to take on new challenges



  • To develop into a mentoring position
  • To work across departments and develop more office relationships



  • Doesn’t like variable schedules that interfere with work/life balance


Eventually, the depth of research and organization you’ve done will allow you to easily create more detailed personas as well as ready personas for individual positions. But as you build out your initial personas, organizing by department or role will suffice. Remember, these personas are not static. You should be regularly looking to sharpen the focus with each new job posting.

Talent personas are just one arrow in your quiver of recruiting strategies. Filling positions, especially for hourly workers, is just getting harder. With unemployment at a 20-year low and freelance opportunities more abundant than ever, it’s crucial that you do everything you can to attract those painstakingly constructed ideal candidates.



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