A Marriage of Marketing and Storytelling: Using Personas in Your Job Search

A Guest Post by Karen Siwak

Storytelling sells. Marketers know this. Sales executives know this. Journalists know this. And jobseekers are beginning to know this. Being able to tell a good career story gives a job-seeker a competitive edge – his/her resume is more likely to be read instead of just scanned, their interviews are more likely to be memorable and engaging.

However, knowing what story to tell is key. It isn’t enough to string together disconnected SMART statements [learn more] and hope the hiring  manager is wowed. It isn’t sufficient to tell an interesting career anecdote and hope the interviewer is impressed. Job-seekers need to tell a story that is relevant to the potential hiring manager, that speaks to the hiring company’s challenges, needs and goals.

But how do you do you know what story to tell? Take a page from the marketing experts.


Applying Profiling to the Job Search

Companies that don’t take the time to understand their target customers can end up wasting their marketing budget on ineffective advertising designed to reach a mass audience in the hopes that something, somewhere, sticks. In the job search, this approach is akin to sending out thousands of resumes to any and every company you can think of, hoping that somebody, somewhere, will like your resume enough to call you for an interview.

To get better bang for their advertising dollars, smart companies have abandoned mass marketing in favor of target marketing. They segment their customer base into distinct groups, and tailor their marketing campaign to “speak” to the needs of each group. To assist with this segmentation, a technique called Profiling is used. Fictional “personas” are created to represent each customer type, and stories are built around those personas – where they live, what they do for a living, marital and parental status, age, cultural background, interests, career aspirations, values – the more details that go into fleshing out the persona, the better able the company is to create a marketing strategy that speaks to and engages their customers. [Read more about personas.]

Profiling can be a very powerful tool in a job search. By creating personas of your ideal next employer, you can get very clear on how to tell your career story in a way that engages the interest of potential hiring managers.


Crafting Employer Personas for Your Job Search

1. Define the “product”: What kinds of problems are you good at solving? What challenges do you like to step up to? What kinds of results are you excellent at delivering? What knowledge, training and attributes do you have that make you good at solving those problems and tackling those challenges ? What proof do you have from your career to validate your claims?

2. Segment your target market: Armed with a well defined “product,” start to create employer profiles – what kinds of companies have the problems you are good at solving – well established or still growing? Large corporation or small-to-midsized enterprise? Business-to-business or business-to-consumer? For profit, not-for-profit, or public sector? What industry? Targeting what markets? What kind of workplace culture? Valuing teamwork or valuing individual excellence? Innovative or conservative? What kind of hiring manager? What kind of team? What are their priority needs and goals?

3. Conduct market research: Take your time to answer these questions with as much detail as possible. Draw on past experience, discussions with networking contacts, and online research to validate the assumptions you are making about who needs your problem-solving skills.

4. Develop employer profiles: Use your research and the answers to your segmentation questions to create employer profiles. Some job-seekers may have only one employer profile – their expertise is so specialized that only a small group of very similar companies have need for it. Other job-seekers will discover that there are two or more kinds of companies that could use their expertise, or that they have different kinds of expertise, each suited to a different kind of company.

5. Create a persona for each profile group: Create a mental image of a typical company in each profile group. The more detail you can add to this mental image, the easier it will be for you to target your job search. It can be a fictional persona based on general characteristics, or it can be an actual company (or companies) that most closely matches the profile.

6. Map out your career story: With the company persona clear in your mind, decide what the company needs to know about you for them to recognize you as the solution to their problem. Which accomplishments from each of your current and previous jobs are most relevant to the target employer? Which metrics will matter most to them? Which responsibilities are most important to showcase?

Final Thoughts on Using the Personas Marketing Approach to Boost a Storied Job-Search

Armed with clearly segmented employer profiles, well-defined employer personas and a properly mapped-out strategy for telling their career story, job-seekers can target their search and tailor their career marketing collateral to “speak” to those companies that need them most.

For more information, see also these sections of Quintessential Careers:


This article is part of Job Action Day 2014.

Karen Siwak, founder of Resume Confidential, is a certified resume writer and job-search strategist who helps executives, senior managers and credentialed professionals market themselves for their next career move.