The Beginner’s Guide to Talent Attraction: Candidate Personas and Discovering Your Company Core Values (Part Six)

Back to Part Five – Developing the Employee Value Proposition

In Part 6 of our blog series on Talent Attraction, TalentSum’s Christopher Mengel explains the candidate persona and will show you how to discover your company core values that will be used to support (or feed into) your candidate persona development in the next session. It might help to think of this exercise as a bridge that will show you how to go from many individual data points to a few themes or ideas to the development of a clear set of core values used to support most of your future talent attraction efforts.

NOTE: If you haven’t already, please take the time to read our previous (2) breakout sessions:


The candidate persona is a detailed description of your ideal candidate and should be based on real information, not ideas or gut. Relying on actual data – such as characteristics, behaviors, traits, and more – will help to ensure that you speak to the right people in a way they will understand (and appreciate) and help you to target the right audiences and channels during your outreach efforts.

Having an accurate candidate persona in place focuses your overall strategy and helps you to identify the best channels for targeting audiences. It improves your ability to apply the right sourcing and recruiting resources to maximize impact. It increases your rate of applications coming into the company and dramatically improves your ability to craft effective hiring profiles and job descriptions. And if that’s not enough, an accurate candidate persona will help some potential candidates (ideally those you might not want to consider) to self-select themselves right out of your hiring process.

Below, we’re going to show you how to discover your company core values in an organized fashion. This will prove useful and support the development of your candidate personas and future your talent attraction efforts. Let’s start by imagining that your own employer survey workup data emphasized the following:

  • Leadership cares about transparency and practices “open-book” sharing of the P&L statements each quarter.
  • Leadership values independence, self-expression, open expression, authenticity, discipline, equality, and the ability to both ideate and execute well.
  • Leadership hires change agents who are curious, tenacious, disciplined, and come with a growth-mindset and able to adapt and are both smart and experienced.
  • Leadership hires strong personalities and team players with approximately 5-6 years of work experience from inside the industry.
  • Leadership judges performance primarily by individual contributions to the team, provide everyone a stake in the outcome and care deeply about tying accountability to responsibility.

And let’s also imagine that your own employee survey workup data emphasized the following:

  • Employees care that the employer values having a healthy respect for trial and error, A/B testing, and taking a scientific approach – and that there is a desire to try new things and to continue to learn.
  • Employees care for and respect for others, and see each other as equal. There is a strong belief in team and working toward a common set of goals.
  • Employees value the ability to adapt and have some level of flexibility in their role. They need to be accountable and there is a direct link between responsibility and accountability – to the work and to each other. They need the employer to respect people outside of work.
  • Employees were attracted to the employer because everyone seems to have a strong work ethic, fearless attitude, and a willingness to try new things. There are lots of smart people working and the employer emphasizes continuing education and personal development.
  • Employees like that the employer is a five time Inc. 5000 fast growth company and has a very entrepreneurial culture. The company has adapted through a few recessions and also takes smart risks. It looks to be a place where people can lean into the future, develop lots of close friendships, succeed and grow, and be of use and of value.
  • Many employees applied because everyone seems to love the founders/leaders.
  • Employees remain committed because have some level of autonomy and control. They care about change, accountability, teamwork, problem solving, and creativity. They ended up joining because of the potential for growth and get to work with friends. They love the direction of the employer mission, the leadership, accountability, personal growth and responsibility.
  • Employees love the culture and how it emphasizes friendships, fun, inclusivity, respect for others, respect for individuality, and real purpose. They see people doing hard work with lots of accountability, in a family-oriented atmosphere with others they enjoy being around.
  • Employees like the flat organization where everyone is valued. Everyone wants to work hard and take work seriously, yet everyone wants to have fun together, move like friends, and work together. People say the company is laid back, casual, friendly, hard working, with a positive atmosphere and quick pace, and focuses on both team performance and individual performance.
  • Employees like that everyone A/B tests everything. Work varies and people are not siloed in a single vertical. They say the people are great, there is no judgement, they have a voice, the place is transparent and is a teaching environment – a professional place. Everyone values individual strengths, the entrepreneurial culture.
  • Employees like that people work autonomously as individuals but also great as a team. There is a high level of trust and extreme value on connecting responsibility and accountability. When talking about management, employees use lots of words like trust, autonomy, maturity, performance, integrity, responsibility, accountability, proactive and high EQ.
  • Most employees have at least a 4 year liberal arts college degree – and there are very few with a business degree. Lot’s of jagged resumes. Very few straight line careers. Theres a lot of interest in educational career advancement and many with post-secondary study. Many have been serious athletes and have competed in endurance sports and most excelled in one or more competitive team sport.
  • and so on…


There’s a lot of useful information in the section above. But what’s the best way to make sense of it all? Well, one way would be to better organize (or group) our data/insights around a few ideas or themes. Here’s an example of this in action:

Art and science are two sides of a coin here. Most employees need the freedom to try new things and be creative. They value A/B testing and want to see ideas implemented and put into action. They do not want to get stuck in the past. Using best practice tools, approaches, and technologies is important to them.

Mutual respect is a cornerstone core value here. They value caring for each other. The idea of respect or “mutual respect” is a core value. This includes inclusivity, respect for others, respect for individuality, and an acceptance (or maybe more accurately, a “willingness to accept”) for the differences in others (or maybe a type of grace where they extend acceptance to others even when they do not deserve?). They believe diverse backgrounds make their team strong.

Responsibility and accountability must go together here. Accountability is very important to employees. There should be a heavy emphasis on attaching accountability to every responsibility in every job. The opposite is micromanagement.

Autonomy is a very big deal here. They care about having control over their work and processes. They value autonomy. They value working with peers and having say in the direction of the company mission, access to leadership, project responsibility and accountability, and access to personal growth. They value “hands off” – but to it must go hand in hand with trust, autonomy, maturity, performance, integrity, responsibility, accountability, trust,) group accountability, flat org, proactive and understanding (high EQ as team and leaders). Hands off to them is not about being inattentive, but rather extending a level of professionalism and trust. Trust is very closely associated with control and autonomy. Autonomy is big; hits a lot of the right notes).

Professionalism is glued to trust here. They value each person having a voice, that there is no judgement, that people at least try to be transparent. They value trust in team direction – and they (want to/need to) trust in everyone picking up and doing their own job and the idea that this adds up to something +1) – “trust”.

They see ideas through to the correct end here. They value the idea that they are working together toward a common goal. There is an idea they can ideate independently, draw the team in around the idea, collaborate and come to a conclusion (as a team), push the idea away or establish a new project – and this flow is important to them. They enjoy the creative and structured approach to problem solving. They value the ability to create (or ideate) and then activate the idea into a solution. They also value the role of being involved in execution of the solution – and even killing it if it’s not a viable solution.

They value having a growth mindset here. They value the ability to adapt and grow and change over time. Most employees here are “round” or fleshed out characters – people who are fluid, changeable, adaptable, and multifaceted and with a growth mindset – as opposed to flat characters who are steady-state and have a fixed mindset. For the most part, they value real people showing real emotions in a mature way. Everyone values the potential for growth. They believe that the work they do requires smart people who continue to evolve and grow. This “growth mindset” and belief requires the odd combination of humility and bold character. It requires whole, integrated people willing to own their mistakes and also admit they can still develop.

Flexibility is a character trait here. Flexibility is important – and we’re not only talking about flexibility of role. We’re also talking about people who are flexible open to the uniqueness and differences in others. Flexible might be code for autonomy in decision making, or independence as a mature worker, or freedom to make hard choices. This requires leadership that trusts the individual and does not squander control. They value that every day is somehow different and that they are not siloed into one vertical.

Good work is structured and authentic work here. There’s something here to the idea of valuing the right approach (or honest approach or “white hat” approach) more than doing whatever others are doing in the industry. They value that they are working on solving problems using an authentic and structured approach. This notion that there are always many ways to get somewhere but the best path is the right path (true path) even if it’s a longer one?

Discernment and work ethic is a type of professionalism here. This idea that they have the maturity to cooperate (as team and as individuals) in a way that is reliable, dedicated and productive – is shared by many. They value starting something and having the grit or work ethic to finish it. Not for finishing sake because they also value discernment – in this case, having the ability to know what projects need to be killed vs. which ones have real potential.

Fun is more like good hard work (and not ping pong tables) here. They care about work being “fun” – but not fun/fun. They respect that it is hard “work” but call it fun because it serves a purpose, has some meaning (to them), and is authentically connected to issues they care about, including: transparency, autonomy, purpose/meaning and so on. They use “work” as a way to express what they care about at the heart and soul level – things like being conscientious as a person, being authentic and accepting with others, being of use in the world, etc.

There is a healthy relationship with fear here. For this team, it’s okay to have the emotion of fear – to be afraid – but then size up the risk and act accordingly. Still be willing to try new things. This requires having a high emotional quotient or (EQ). And this willingness to try new things requires a mindset that believes change is good. That change is even necessary for survival. Being able to adapt and change might be seen as a way for people to thrive? Not steady state, not constant – but mature, adaptability and change over time is the path to survival?

Intrapreneurs are everywhere but it’s not the same as risk takers here. These employees are entrepreneurs but they do have a deep entrepreneurial spirit – an attitude to build up and an approach that actively seeks out change, rather than waits for the moment when they have to adapt to change around them. This doesn’t mean risk taking. It’s more about the attitude of a willingness or desire to lean into growth and use that to shape their future. Not play it safe and wait. They value an “entrepreneurial” culture – or the things that usually go along with a well organized young startup. New and different work every day, need to adapt and change, great people with wide/deep skills and tool belts.

Being smart means something more than IQ here. Everyone is both smart and humble. But they have also aligned the idea of being smart with “art and science” and professionalism – incremental change, testing approaches, coming up with the next good idea, executing correctly, holding people accountable to deliver better outcomes. Being smart here is’t about IQ, it’s about high EQ people with the maturity to work together well and take advantage of change. And this is an important distinction that we need to remember.

Not too many career paths are straight lines here. Liberal arts degrees. Jagged resumes and people who have shown the perseverance to stick with a end-goal. Consider people who show they match purpose with passion. They might have started out as chefs, musicians, endurance athletes.

There’s NO BS here. They value a relaxed work atmosphere, flat structure, transparency, flat organization structure, and must often work as team but need to break up into individuals to complete niche efforts that all roll up to single objective/outcome. They value that they are “organized” individuals and they appreciate the flat organization – and it works because because of the “mutual respect”. Take that away and it would be problematic. They respect that “everyone matters” and think of themselves as self motivated, not willing to put up with BS, are seen as laid back, and like to be thought of as “casual”, “friendly”, “hard working”. They value the positive atmosphere, quick pace, team performance – and individual performance. They value having a “no BS culture”.

There’s a confident professionalism here. They value the notion of “tribe”. They value (and like) the idea they get together outside of work, are going places, heading somewhere together, have a shared purpose. They value relaxed – but relaxed is not the right word. They are not relaxed. What they really mean is something closer to professionalism – confident in their ability, all pitching in to ideate and execute and work together to solve hard problems – and somehow still enjoy the process. Relaxed as long as everyone does their job functioning at high level. Not as defined as to chill, lay back, etc. More like acting as an owner – and the outcome/benefits of combining responsibility and accountability and a stake in the outcome.

There’s a healthy relationship with work here. They all value the ability to succeed and grow. They want to be of use. By this, not the typical “be of use” but a more deeper, more meaningful “be of use”. They are pragmatic but also want to matter. Their job is not only “a way to provide” but borders on a “calling” as well. Most likely, they lead active lives at home so they are not looking for work to solve all their problems. Instead, work helps to round them out. Work is an important facet of how they see themselves. The phrase “beating on their craft” might be more appropriate than working.


Now that you’ve organized your insights into a few themes, let’s go a step further and distill this down even more into a set of company core values. Below is an example of what it might look like if we were to use the content above as inspiration:

Growth Mindset – Our people are curious, interested in learning, and coachable. We are all able to demonstrate the potential to advance further, enjoy taking on new challenges, and look for ways to develop new skills. We value learning in and out of work and have come to see failure as an opportunity to learn from. We approach each challenge with the eagerness to learn and with a sense of humor.

Mutual Care – Our people all value human equality and treat others as we all want to be treated. We value authenticity and have a mutual respect or “care” for others around us. We aim to be “truth tellers” and “truth sharers”. We all have a friendly attitude and strive for mutual respect all around.

Autonomy – Our people value a flat organizational culture. We are all able to work well independently with little or no supervision. We all thrive in roles where responsibility and accountability go hand in hand. We are all able to make our own decisions.

Ownership – Our people can sell the company, the leaders, the viability of the company, draw others in, create an environment of energy, hope, and success. We know when to invest in others and can share multiple examples of how we have taken the effort to develop others. We all desire to have some stake in the outcome. We care about being included in decisions, compensation and ownership.

Collaboration – Our people care about other team members and their success – as well as our own. We are able to participate in lively collaboration, are comfortable communicating, and able to demonstrate the willingness to jump from task to task or even from project to project.

Performance – Our people want build a better mousetrap and care about helping the client solve important problems. We care about providing a solution to an idea. We value the journey, not just the summit. We think strategically and have the ability to make good decisions. We are able to relax and enjoy ourselves, not take ourselves too seriously, but also display a sense of drivenness and purpose. We are dedicated to meaningful work. We can all perform and contribute at a high level. We take on challenges, have a growth mindset and everyone on our team shows a high degree of intrinsic motivation.

Scientific – Our people are obsessed with creativity and productivity. We value ideation and experimentation – but especially smart execution. We see art and science (as it relates to our work) as two sides of the same coin. We have all run multiple experiments or A/B tested in the field.

Professionalism – Our people are whole-integrated with a high emotional quotient (EQ). We display empathy, a high level of self awareness, the ability to self regulate, and with a high degree of self motivation and visible social skills. Our online and offline personas are the same and/or complement the other. We are educated – and our curiosities and interests are on display. We bring life to work and lead active and full lives outside of work. We show the ability to live successfully outside the frame of work. We do not define ourselves by ONLY work. We demonstrate the potential for leadership and thrive in environments that value mentoring and continuous learning and teamwork. We are mature people with solid work experience. Our work interests all point to where the industry is headed.

Smart – Our people have all completed four year college degrees (or more). We’ve all learned from mistakes, continue to learn, and are now able to “connect the dots” in the field.

And below might be our list of common attributes and competencies:

  • They are professional over time
  • They maintain a high energy level
  • They are confident yet humble
  • They know how to self-monitor
  • They are intellectually curious
  • They are authentic (or value authenticity)
  • They are very conscientious
  • They are very disciplined
  • They work well with others in a team environment
  • They are able to communicate at a high level
  • They have an achievement orientation
  • They have a life outside of work and are fun/driven
  • They value creativity and innovation and have led/owned projects
  • They hold roles where there is proof that accountability goes with responsibility
  • They build up others around them
  • They are continuous learners
  • They are emotionally stable
  • They care for and respect others

We’ve accomplished a few important things in this exercise. We’ve not only transformed our data/insights into an organized set of ideas and themes, but we also discovered a clear set of (9) company core values to leverage as part of our brand architecture. Now, we’re in a much better position to use our real values as inspiration to craft marketing and messaging content in the future – or as an organized set of talking points (or guideposts or markers) throughout our recruitment marketing and candidate marketing efforts.

We can also break each of these company core values (or themes and ideas) down into any number of content ideas – which in turn can be deconstructed into dozens (or even hundreds) of individual blog posts and social media messages. We can even use the values as an outline for when we build up our hiring profiles, define fit (across culture, performance, and job or role), and as we begin to screen, interview, and scorecard our candidates.

In the next session, we’ll discuss how to further develop our candidate persona and build up the hiring profile.

Back to Part Five – Developing the Employee Value Proposition

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Christopher Mengel is the founder of TalentSum LLC, a strategic talent acquisition consultancy and best practices implementation firm. Some of the world’s most notable companies partner with TalentSum to activate a strong employer brand, attract more people who fit, improve engagement and experiences, and deliver high-performing cultures.

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The Beginner’s Guide to Talent Attraction: Candidate Personas and Discovering Your Company Core Values (Part Six)

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