Why is Ideal Candidate Profile Essential for Effective Talent Acquisition?

Volodymyr Bilyk
07 October 2021

The “ideal candidate profile” is at the nexus point of the recruitment operation. The concept brings together market research insight and business requirements and turns fulfilling business needs into a feasible task.

On the surface, nailing ICP seems pretty straightforward – you just need to describe the type of tech talent you are looking for and go off to the races. 

However, creating ideal candidate profiles is a much more complex operation that involves lots of internal and external research to map out different aspects of the profile and make an effective talent acquisition process.

This article explains what an ideal candidate profile means and how to make it work for your benefit.

What is an Ideal Candidate Profile?

The ideal candidate profile seems to be the easiest recruitment term to explain. It is more or less what it says on the tin. The definition goes like this:

    • Ideal Candidate Profile (aka ICP) is a recruiter’s tool for mapping out personality traits and professional attributes that approximate the “perfect candidate” for the specific role. In essence, ICP is very similar to sales\marketing buyer’s persona. 
  • ICP features overarching character traits and attributes that define the professional holding the specific position. Sometimes, the description also includes such things as career goals and motivation. 
  • There are several categories for each character feature – mandatory (must-have), optional (nice to have), red flags (the bad stuff), and so-called “high-concept” traits (the ones that make candidates interesting while not being essential for the position).

Functionally, ICP is a companion piece for the job description. In a way, you can describe their relationship this way. Job description depicts the machine, while ICP outlines the man in the machine. 

  • In one way or another, ICP serves as a blueprint to compare actual candidate profiles.
  • As such, ICP provides a basic understanding of what kind of people to look for. It navigates recruiters in understanding which candidate fits the initial requirements and can potentially move forward with the recruitment process.

Additionally, ICP and candidate profile analysis contribute to fine-tuning the company’s employer value proposition, employee benefits, and employee recognition frameworks.

But there is a bit more than meets the eye.

Why Creating an Ideal Candidate Profile can be Challenging?

The greatest challenge of working with ICP is that it seems so simple to nail it down. In reality, creating the Ideal Candidate Profile involves analyzing multiple streams of information, converging them into one point, thus making the applicable candidate portrait.  

Here’s how it works:

  • The “perfect candidate” aspect can be misleading. The thing is – the ideal candidate profile revolves around the position’s business requirements. As such, it reflects the company’s point of view and represents its vision. So that’s one source of information.
  • However, recruitment is not just about the company but also candidates who eventually become employees. After all, the company aims to hire people for long-term cooperation, which requires establishing a mutually beneficial relationship. Therefore, including this aspect from the get-go makes things a lot easier down the line. So that’s the second source.
  • Even more so, candidates don’t exist in the vacuum. Instead, there is an entire market surrounding them. Therefore, the understanding market context makes the ideal candidate profile much closer to the actual labor market and, in turn, makes the recruitment process more feasible. So that’s the third information source.

Because of that, it is critical to expand upon the company vision of the perfect candidate and implement labor market business intelligence, and also include the candidate’s point of view on “being the perfect man for the role.” 

Combining these sources creates a realistic ideal candidate profile that recruiters can use to find matching candidates who can turn into long-term employees.

How to make a compelling Ideal Candidate Profile?

Making an effective ICP depends on several critical aspects: 

  • Requirements breakdown in terms of hard and soft skills. These aspects provide a foundation of the profile. Usually, there is a kaleidoscope of mandatory traits, optional features, cool useless stuff, and totally unacceptable traits (according to organizational values and company culture, more on that later).
  • The accurate description of the role, specifically, what the employee will do and what the company expects from the candidate. This information contextualizes the profile. The report usually includes skills to get the job done, the role’s department, day-to-day duties, and everything in-between. 
  • The position value proposition expands upon the role description and brings details to the outline. In a way, it reflects the job description from the candidate’s point of view. However, instead of what the job is about, it illustrates what doing the job can achieve – the possibilities and opportunities.
  • Culture fit aspects, including what kind of attributes and behaviors the company welcome, including workplace emotional intelligence traits. Also, this section details how potential employees can contribute to the company’s success.


What else do you need to know about Ideal Candidate Profiles?

There are two informal methods of applying an Ideal Candidate Profile – threshold and the bar:

  • The threshold method means that ICP serves as the jumping-off point for candidate assessment. In this case, ICP is a foundational barebones assembly of prerequisite traits and attributes to filter out the matching candidates further. 

Such ICP is composed of layers that go from more general to more specific features. Each layer applies to narrow down the candidate selection up until you find the right person. 

  • The bar method is more common and takes an intuitive approach. In this case, the ideal candidate profile serves as an outline for further research and candidate assessment. In a way, it is very similar to a musician performing a jazz standard

Such ICP is usually twofold. First, there is the definitive candidate profile (the bar), and then there is more abstract variation that includes strands to explore with the candidate, such as culture drives, skills, behaviors, etc. 

  • These two sides go through a thorough comparison to define whether the candidate qualifies according to the ICP requirements.

An important thing to remember, “map is not the territory.” The ideal candidate profile is ineffective when the recruiter follows it to a tee. 

Unfortunately, this approach leads to hunting for the purple squirrel candidates, which turns the recruitment process into a chore and amps up recruitment costs considerably. 

What’s next?

Creating feasible ideal candidate profiles is critical for establishing an effective hiring process and bringing in high-profile tech talent that will transcend your company to the next level. 

If you need help with handling candidate profiles or want to fine-tune your workflows regarding candidate assessment – our consultants can help you out.