10 Essential Tips for Creating a Candidate Profile

Illustration of a woman reviewing candidate profiles

A candidate profile is a powerful tool that helps recruiters to create an outline of the ideal personality traits needed for a specific job role.

This is not a job description but rather a summary of the ideal candidate for the role. It includes ideal characteristics, traits and skills you’d like the hired candidate to possess. Obviously, these depend on the role you’re hiring for, but examples could include adaptability, critical thinking and sales-mindedness. Within your candidate profile, you can also include educational background, motivation and preferred places to spend time online.

When the process is complete, you’ll have a very clear picture of what you’re looking for in a candidate, which will make it much easier when it comes to assessing job applications. Ultimately, this will help your dream candidate to stand out during the interview and recruitment process.

Creating a candidate profile is a step-by-step process which must be well organised and set out.

Here are 10 simple steps and insightful tips to create a clear and concise candidate profile.

1. Research the duties of the role

Your first step is to research the duties of the role and what work will be expected from the new hire. Get as much information about the role as you can, speaking with the hiring manager and other team members to find out information such as:

  • The department the individual will be working in
  • The daily duties the individual will need to carry out
  • The professional skills needed for the role

Also, check out similar vacancies posted by your competitors! What job requirements are listed in the job description? Obviously, you don't want to copy your competitors, but doing as much research as you can about similar positions will give you an in-depth understanding of what the role entails.

2. Describe the unique qualities of the role

Next, describe, in detail, what the successful candidate will be responsible for, and what makes this a compelling role.

In addition to describing the role, you should also describe the professional development and leadership opportunities that come with the role. What is it about this particular position that would make it appealing to a potential candidate? How does the company’s market position distinguish it from the competition?

3. Define your company’s identity and culture

While someone may be the ideal fit in terms of their professional background and work experience, they may not be the ideal fit in terms of personality.

What attitudes and behaviours does your company exude? What is its vision and mission? Once you’ve established this, you should then ask:

  • What type of person would reflect these attitudes and behaviours?
  • Who could you bring to the company to help it progress?
  • What personality traits will ensure your company meets its top goals?
  • How can that individual bring your company’s overall vision to life?

4. Define hard and soft skills

One essential step when building your candidate profile is to define both the hard and soft skills you seek in a candidate. For instance, hard skills include specific technical knowledge and training, while soft skills refer to personality traits that contribute to an individual’s success in the workplace.

For example, SEO/SEM marketing and marketing campaign management are considered hard skills, while creativity, dependability and problem-solving are considered soft skills.

That said, be careful not to place too much emphasis on hard skills. While these can be learned, it can be more difficult to cultivate certain soft skills.

5. Write a list of what you're looking for

It’s a good idea to create a list of what you’re looking for – and what you’re not looking for – in a candidate, as this will help you define the ideal candidate.

Start by creating five columns of types of qualities, starting with the most important (success traits and must-haves’) right through to the least important (doesn’t matters and absolutely nots).

Within these columns, you need to identify the traits, talents and experiences that you’re seeking in a candidate, and separate them in order of importance. This pushes you to evaluate what’s truly important, what’s insignificant and what’s non-negotiable.

Adopting this approach will help you to save time and money, as you can easily refer to this list when reviewing applications. By searching for the keywords and experience/characteristics listed in the first two (or three) columns, you’ll be better able to narrow down your search to the highest-quality candidates.

Success traits

This involves identifying the success traits of previous or current employees who exhibit the key qualities you want your next hire to possess.

Must-haves

Here you want to include specific traits that candidates must possess in order to be considered for the role. This section plays a very important role in the creation of your profile.

Nice-to-haves

Here, you should list the traits that you’d ideally like your new hire to possess. They are supportive to the role but remain important.

Doesn’t matters

This column should feature nice-to-have qualities that if the candidate doesn’t possess them, it won’t influence their success in the role.

Absolutely nots

This section should include characteristics that stand out as non-negotiable for the role, such as attitude, lack of flexibility or poor communication skills.

6. Have realistic expectations of a potential candidate

During this process, it’s easy to expect perfection, but be aware that it’s almost impossible to find a candidate who fits every single requirement of the role.

Yes, you need to identify the traits, qualities and skills of potential employees, but refer to the five columns mentioned above to avoid expecting everything to feature in the first two.

Maybe a potential candidate has most of the soft skills you’re seeking, such as teamwork and open-mindedness, but not all the hard skills.

Set realistic expectations by prioritising the must-haves and success traits, but remember that there’s no such thing as perfect. If you strive for perfection, you run the risk of missing out on outstanding talent.

7. Assess your top performers

Observe your top performers, analysing their key skills and personality traits. What makes them so successful within your organisation? Questions to ask could include:

  • What do they do on a daily basis?
  • How do they handle issues that arise?
  • What do they love most about their role?
  • What do they like about your culture?
  • What skills do they possess that help them succeed?
  • Where do they spend their time online?

Use this information to determine some of the key characteristics that stand out in your top performers, and to establish your expectations in a new hire, especially in terms of personality and soft skills.

8. Discover how you can connect with your ideal candidates

The next step is to get into the mind of your ideal candidate to discover what they’re looking at online and where they spend most of their time. Ask questions such as:

  • Which social media platforms do they spend the most time on?
  • What professional organisations are they a part of?
  • What job boards do they use?
  • What matters to them in a role?
  • What’s their preferred method of communication?

Then, once you’ve answered the above questions, you’ll be in a better position to know where – and how – to reach out to your ideal candidate. This is a great headhunting technique as it allows you to identify quality candidates who fit your candidate profile.

9. Bring all your research together

Next, it’s time to create a detailed job description based on the research you’ve carried out for your candidate profile.

Make sure your job description is as specific and detailed as possible, ensuring all aspects of the role are included. The more refined and specific your job description is, the more likely you are to find top candidates. Also, use language that’s tailored to the type of candidate you’re trying to appeal to.

When the job description is ready, post it in strategic locations where you know your ideal candidate spends their time. This will help you to ensure your posting is seen by the right candidates for the role.

10. Keep the candidate profile at the forefront of your mind at every stage of the recruitment process

There’s no point going through all the above steps if you don’t use the candidate profile during the entire recruitment process.

Instead, keep it at the forefront of your mind during every stage of the process, from initial CV screenings right through to second or even third-round interviews.

This will not only enable you to quickly dismiss candidates that don’t meet your criteria but also help you in identifying and hiring the best candidate for the role.

There are countless benefits to creating a candidate profile. From creating targeted job descriptions to more effectively conducting interviews, candidate profiles are a great way to refine your expectations in a new hire and to ensure you choose the best candidate for your latest job opening.

Got any questions about creating a candidate profile? If so, let us know in the comments section below!


This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 24 December 2016.