There Are Four Archetypal Developer Personas — Which One Are You?

Meister HQ was recently taken over by students! Don’t panic, it wasn’t a hostile takeover. Best we explain a little more. We hosted a few international management students from the Vienna University of Economics and Business, who, as part of a project they were working on, went around and interviewed a couple of developers, ours included. This yielded a few interesting insights.
The article below is just an example of that. This is what they had to say about how, through personas, software companies can attract potential developers with a view to hire them.

What are Personas?

A persona is a fictional figure or archetype that has been formulated as a direct result of grouping individuals together. The way individuals are grouped together — whether it be by demographics, behavioral patterns, motivations or goals — will affect the type of persona created. 

A very broad (and basic) example would be grouping together all females with children as “moms”, then finding the characteristics and personality traits that all moms have in common in order to create the archetypal fictional figure — that would be the “mom persona”. This is very important, because personas need to be based on real people, real behaviors, real motivations and goals in order for them to be effective.

The History of Personas

The personas idea has its roots in marketing, but has gained popularity for its application in talent acquisition. Before we go into how personas can be applied, let’s outline the challenges recruiters face. Since our main focus was on software developers, we’ll focus on the challenges faced by software companies. 

Firstly, sourcing talent isn’t easy as the talent pool is often limited i.e. few developers, many jobs. Secondly, recruiters have to consider that great talent doesn’t always equal great fit — the applicant might have the suitable skills, but will they fit into the company culture? And, into the existing team? This is where the use of personas can help. 

Personas in Recruitment

Prospective employers that are aware of the specific personas relevant to their industry have an easier time navigating through the labour market. This is because personas can help sift through aspiring candidates and sort them from those who would be potential fits and those who would not. This could significantly narrow down the search and deliver only quality candidates.

We set out to uncover the different types of personas within the software industry in Vienna, Austria. This project involved finding software developers to interview. Sounds easy right? Wrong. We canvassed at universities, companies, and even online. Our research took us three months, hours of interviews at university campuses and various companies. The result…a goldmine of insights!

Piecing Together the Persona Puzzle 

We asked our interviewees a wide array of questions, ranging from demographics to career motivations. The aim was to gather enough data in order to get more of an understanding of what employees expect from their employers. This led to many interesting learnings, like: did you know that the team, work-life balance, the software product and career development are the most important factors that programmers consider when looking for a job? 

But developing concrete personas still involved going further and digging deeper.

Upon analyzing our research and comparing notes, we noticed a pattern emerging. Many of those we interviewed expressed similar feelings towards certain aspects of their professional life. These were our puzzle pieces. Adding these pieces together built the first four software developer personas: Kim, Robin, Alex and Charlie. 

(Note: for ease of explanation, we’ve chosen to give each persona group a name. However, the names are by no means a reflection of gender i.e. not all Kims are female nor are all Alexes male.)

Kim: The Early Beginner

Kim is someone in her early 20s. Still too young to remember the greatness of ICQ and Napster. She could either be working in her first job or still be a student, studying computer science at a technical university. Kim often has little or no prior work experience. And if she’s worked before, she hasn’t yet chosen her area of specialization (front-end/back-end/mobile etc.). Kim is often inquisitive and curious. She is often known for constantly asking questions, wanting to find out more about the ins and outs of programming. Due to her lack of experience, Kim is primarily focused on learning. This means that the “Kim” persona would look to work for a company with leaders that empower staff and that has a supportive culture that’s conducive to learning. She isn’t driven by salary and therefore has limited salary demands. She is usually single, extroverted and enjoys social activities.

Robin: Time for a Change…Soon

Robin is in his mid 20s and has completed his formal education, such as a Bachelor’s degree in computer science. He is probably on his second or third job but has reached the ceiling in his current job, as in, he has learnt a lot and gained experience but would be keen on taking the next step to further his career. Even though he probably hasn’t taken any steps to find a new job (applied), he is on the lookout for something challenging as well as purposeful. In his current role, he can be found working in a specialized programming area (front-end/back-end/mobile). On a personal level, he is probably in a relationship, he is also quite introverted and self-aware.  He enjoys working on complicated tasks and really wants to be involved and feel a part of the company. He values transparency and is happy working with inspiring leaders. He’s keen to know what is going on and where the company is headed. Salary isn’t his top priority (as long as it is not too far below average). Instead, Robin appreciates non-financial rewards, especially those that make him feel valued for his work.

Alex: The Focused Careerist

Alex is in his mid to late 20s. He has a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in computer science or a related field. Because Alex studied and worked at the same time, he gained approximately three or four years worth of programming experience, this makes him highly specialized. He knows that he is good at what he does. He’s also very much aware of his market value, which, according to him, is quite high. This makes the Alex persona career oriented. When looking for jobs, he won’t settle for anything less than working for the best company in his field of interest (or for a company with the best reputation). At work, Alex requires a high degree of autonomy and opportunities to progress in his career. Since Alex is very focused on his career, he doesn’t have much time for a relationship outside of work; you could say that he is married to his career.

Charlie: Work 2.0

Charlie is in her late 20s to mid 30s. She has a Bachelor’s degree but not necessarily in IT. She’s a self-taught developer. Her coding is unconventional and she mixes genius lines with simple errors. She seeks to reinvent her software development career but the how is still unclear. Charlie has a family, which makes financial stability and work-life balance essential. She’s new to the industry and thus looks for a company that offers a supportive, people-oriented environment, where she can learn and improve her skills. While the size of her paycheck is not unimportant, her salary demands are lower than those of Alex and Robin. 

Which Persona Are You? 

Obviously Kim, Robin, Alex, and Charlie don’t cover all developers. It’s possible that people are a mixture of two personas or perhaps share common qualities with all four of them. Take the questionnaire below to find out which person you are most similar to:

Attracting Personas: Defining Your Company’s EVP

So we’ve given you a brief history about personas, told you how the concept originated, and defined four software developer personas in Vienna. It’s time to circle back and give companies a way to use this information in order to attract and recruit new talent. 

The type of personas which your company should hire will depend on several factors such as: your company’s hiring and growth strategy, the company culture, and the personas you already have working within your company (as some personas work together better than others). A good persona-company fit is essential. Personas have the potential to impact company culture. Mapping out the existing personas represented in your company is a good place to start. 

Then carefully assess your current Employee Value Proposition (EVP). Talentlyft defines a company’s EVP refers to “the balance of rewards and benefits that employees receive from their employers in return for their performance at the workplace”. It’s an employee-centred approach that is directly linked to talent acquisition and retention. It brings together company culture, brand, internal processes, and employee benefits. All of these together make up a company’s EVP. 

Here are three simple questions that can help your company define its EVP and they are:

  1. What do my current employees love about my company?
  2. What are the benefits employees gain upon choosing to work at my company?
  3. What would make potential employees choose to work at my company as opposed to any other?

The answer to these questions should give you your company’s EVP. You then need to see whether it resonates with the EVP desired by the personas you wish to hire. If it doesn’t, take the necessary steps to bridge those gaps. But, if there is a match, your company should try and leverage this in its employer branding strategy in order to hire the most suitable personas.