Creating the Candidate Profile
Your candidate profile is an internal document that 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 involves expert line drawing skills across a piece of paper. 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.
In this section you will add items 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.
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.
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.
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-Have’s” for an Executive Recruiter position we were searching 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.
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 afterwards. 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 about 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.
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. This 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!
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. 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 revisions of these sections before really honing in on your final draft. That’s good, though! That’s what the exercise is for.
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.
If you’re more of a visual learner… Check out and download a copy of our Candidate Profile infographic for easy future reference.