4 Steps to Creating a Candidate Profile

4 Steps to Creating a Candidate Profile

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Candidate Profil do's and don'ts infographic by The Hire Talent

Understanding Candidate Profiling

Your candidate profile is essentially a list of qualities, characteristics, or past achievements that you want in a candidate. Creating a candidate profile is a highly structured process. It means defining exactly what you want in a job candidate. With me so far? The end result should be a refined chart of four columns. Very professional, indeed.

Your columns are labeled in order of importance, with the first column indicating your “Must-Have” traits to the last column listing your “Absolutely Not” traits and everything else in between. Reducing candidates for jobs using this profile can help save time as well as money for a company. Certain qualities that will not mesh with staff or company culture. These can often be seen in a resume or an applicant’s social media accounts. 

Nailing down a candidate profile can be an extremely important step in the hiring process. Each role will have a different profile in terms of qualifications and desired characteristics. For example, a company will want an applicant to be data-driven if working in the finance department. The same company might not look at a data-driven person being a good match for a creative position. Specific questions can be formulated for each job role or applicant by using a scorecard for various desired characteristics. The following are benefits of creating a quality candidate profile:

  • Job descriptions can be improved easily by creating the right candidate profile. The right keywords and traits/experience can attract the highest quality applicants possible. The incorrect list of job duties can lead a candidate to look elsewhere as they feel disqualified from the role.
  • Improves the use of specific hiring platforms as different hiring platforms/websites might provide perfect candidates for various positions. Understanding where to look for certain roles can lead to improved hiring throughout numerous departments.
  • Leads to a more targeted & successful search as more quality candidates increase the likelihood of making a valuable hire.

If you want an obnoxiously easy way to rate your job candidates on these traits, check out our Candidate Scorecard.

Five Important “Don’t Do’s”

Getting lost in candidate profiles and complicated columns can be surprisingly easy. In the scenario that you start detailing your profiles and feel like there’s something wrong or missing, then make sure to remember these five important steps on what not to do.


  • Be unrealistic: There’s no such thing as the “perfect candidate,” although we promise you will come close once you work this profile step by step.
  • Expect everything: Realize that you won’t find every quality you’re looking for in a candidate, but you can ensure a handful of “must-haves,” and taking the time to comb through these traits will improve the overall process ten-fold.
  • Feel limited: Just because you can’t have every trait you want, doesn’t mean you won’t find a great candidate. This exercise forces you to evaluate what’s truly important to the role.
  • Get frustrated: Finding the right candidate with the right skills is tough, but this guide helps you weed out the traits you “think” you need for those more favorable traits that are actually going to be the key to success.
  • Forget the opposite: Sometimes you’re so caught up in what you want to do that you forget to attend to those items that are deal-breakers! Ensure that doesn’t happen.

Taking a couple of steps to avoid the worst pitfalls of the process is a wise measure. Have you caught up on everything? Then we can get started with the candidate profile.

Candidate Profile


In this section, you will add items and skills that are an absolute necessity. If you are building a spaceship, it’s probably pretty important that your candidate knows how to engineer the building of that spaceship.

Our Skill Assessments can help you double-check the candidate skills you need.

In addition to skills, this section can and should also include experiences and past measures of performance. So, for example, you want to hire an outside salesperson. A good item to add to this column would be “a demonstrated successful history of new business development activities resulting in top performance.” These demonstrated activities and past successes of a person should be in line with the volume of business you are looking to hire someone for.  A lack of these successes in a professional setting can be telling as some applicants might do the minimum to get by.

The key to creating a “Must-Have” section is to identify a true list of traits, talents, or experiences without going overboard into thinking or trying to justify that your candidate really needs all 75 things to be successful in this position. By asking for too many traits, talents, and experiences for a role the candidate number might be scarce. A candidate that has worked autonomously in their previous positions could be a concern in a team environment. The applicant having experience as a former college athlete can dispel this concern the hiring team brings up. An applicant involved in charity or social organizations would be another great example of experience that can work well in a team setting.

Don’t forget! Each one of these must-have items should tie back to a measurable expectation.

How’s THIS for a good list of “Must-Haves?”

Here is an example of a few “Must-Haves” for an Executive Recruiter position we were searching for recently:

  • Fill 15+ job requisitions annually
  • Fill all new requisitions within 30-45 days
  • Acquire 1 new retained recruiting job or 5 new contingent recruiting jobs per month through your own prospecting and new business development efforts.

The first thing you’ll notice about our example list above (not the picture!) is that each of them can be measured. They’re quantifiable, which makes them easy to manage. We’ll know in black and white terms whether someone has successfully accomplished these tasks while they’re on the job.

Here is another example of “Must-Have’s” for a digital marketing manager:

  • Success in helping increase organic traffic and sales for the company website.
  • Ability to create marketing strategies in the following areas: PPC, AdWords, SEM, SEO, Content Marketing, and Influencer Marketing.
  • Demonstrated success managing at least $1,000,000 of marketing budget quarterly.

 We even have a tool to keep track of how your job applicants rank for each of these traits!


This section should outline the secondary traits that you want out of your candidates. The caveat here is that these traits are somewhat negotiable because they’re not “Must-Have’s,” which means you might still consider a candidate even if they do not have these traits. In this way, this column functions as a support to your “Must-Have” column.

Ideally, you could even add everything you want your candidate to have in this column and then refine the list by creating the “Must-Have” column afterward. This allows you to distinguish what is truly the most important from other qualities that are important but not absolutely, “we can’t-survive-without-this,” necessary.

For most positions that aren’t specific to a certain degree or level of education, level of education might even fall under this category. Many employers outline how they want their candidates to have college degrees, and for most jobs, this is true. Employers won’t consider a candidate without a certain level of education, which is fine.

In the rare case that someone comes along and has all the right experience, is a pay and otherwise cultural fit, but doesn’t have a degree, unless you have a red tape company policy that you can’t make an executive decision to ignore this one time, you’re not going to just let that perfect unicorn walk out the door to your competitor, are you? Heck no. Hopefully, not, anyway.

Separating the “Must-Have” and “Nice-to-Have” columns can be a difficult task. It’s all by design though, as it forces you to consider what really matters and pushes you to examine what you thought you needed in a great candidate in order to be successful, but really don’t when compared to other, more necessary traits.

A great way to separate the columns can be through the analysis of top performers that are currently at the company. Traits or experiences that are prevalent among top performers in a department should be considered valuable. A sales team full of college athletes or extremely competitive people can help drive sales through a healthy team-driven environment.

Doesn’t Matter

I’m not sure how else to say this, but…this column is reserved for the traits that, can you guess? Don’t really matter. Listing out these items can make it easy to identify traits that do not matter in a job role. A trait could be considered negative if thought is not put into this column.

Candidates are disqualified from positions across the country due to traits that simply do not matter. It may seem counterintuitive to even have a column like this, but it’s not. Watch.

After selecting several items that you know and feel with conviction are your “Must-Have’s” and those you’ve determined would be “Nice-to-Have,” you’re free to recognize all of those other traits that you thought originally mattered but really don’t. Those all go in this column.

When you are strict with yourself by only allowing a handful of truly important traits and experiences to grace your “Must-Have” and “Nice-to-Have” columns, you realize just how many miscellaneous traits you thought you needed but don’t really. This is an important exercise because it not only helps you identify the key traits needed but helps you refocus your objectives for the position as well. The only downside to this exercise? You’ll start noticing just how bad all these job descriptions out there really are!

For example, a sales professional that has excelled in various industries can be a great hire. Requiring that this sales professional has worked in a niche industry should not matter. The trait could even be moved to the “Nice-to-Have” column but shouldn’t be in the “Must-Have” column. Lack of experience with a specific sales platform if user-friendly is another example of a “Doesn’t Matter” trait that eliminates quality candidates daily.

Absolutely Not

In case you’re unsure, this section will include traits or characteristics that are non-negotiable items for your position. For example, if your position requires driving and your candidate has a poor driving record, 25 speeding tickets, 40 DUI’s and 2 reckless driving charges, that item might be in this column since you totally can’t even consider them a viable candidate for those reasons.

The same would go for a financial services position that is responsible for handling or disbursing money. If you run a background check and find that your candidate has a history of embezzlement, poor credit, or mismanaging money in a previous role, you might include something like that in this section.

Unfortunately, these “Absolutely Not” traits aren’t always that clear-cut or easy to identify. You may find yourself going through a couple of revisions of these sections before really honing in on your final draft. That’s good, though! That’s what the exercise is for. Below are some tips to create the best “Absolutely Not” column possible for a role.

  • References do not check out or do not exist.
  • Criminal records that could put current staff in danger of theft, violence, or harassment.
  • Severe lack of experience. For example, an entry-level type employee applying for an executive or management position.
  • Applicants that have been terminated from a previous position for bullying or harassment.
  • Applicants that only stay at each position for a year or two before departing for another company.
  • Available start date far past the date when the role needs to be filled.
  • Any blaming or mudslinging by a person that comes in for an interview should not be considered. The behavior of blaming does not stop once this type of hire enters the office. Unfortunately, far too many people in the professional world climb the corporate ladder by blaming others strategically. Fostering this type of behavior can lead to terrible office morale as well as destroying the desire for collaborative work.

Once you’ve created your candidate profile, you can begin using it as a blueprint to kick off your recruiting search for your perfect next hire. This profile will serve as the foundation of every candidate that you’ll look for. It’s really just a matter of identifying what you feel like for dinner, collecting all of the ingredients, and following the recipe to prepare the meal. Keeping the blueprint in mind throughout the hiring process can make it easy to narrow the candidate field down.

Interview questions should also keep this profile in mind as some candidates tend to embellish experiences/characteristics. The candidate profile will be a valuable tool to use during the hiring of any role. Patiently create the most realistic and thorough profile to increase the percentage of quality hires being made.

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