No one wants to feel like a number

Why segmentation and personalization are key to telling a compelling employer story

January 22, 2016
This post is Part 2 of “Tell Candidates What They Really Want to Know: A step-by-step guide to storytelling for recruiting.” Introduction and other posts here.

If you’ve finished your worksheet, you should now have a good sense of what makes your company unique or exciting to work for — but you’re not done yet. In recruiting, a one-size-fits-all story rarely fits anyone just right.Candidates care about your employer story only insofar as they can see themselves as a part of it. To grab the attention of busy, high-demand candidates, your story needs to feel like it’s speaking specifically to them.

Ideally, you’d have a pitch personalized for each candidate, highlighting the values, teammates, and projects that would most appeal to them. But you don’t have time to hand-craft a new story for every potential candidate! So how, at scale, can you tell the most compelling stories to the right candidates? Using two essential techniques from marketing: segmentation and personalization.

Step 1: Segmentation

“Segmentation” simply means dividing candidates into groups based on shared characteristics or priorities. This allows you to develop stories that are likely to appeal to the people in a specific group. Whether or not you use the word, you almost certainly already do some segmenting. For instance, every campus recruiting program serves to tell stories to a group (students) based on their specific priorities. Now imagine drilling down into further segments: engineering students vs. political science students, or undergraduates vs. MBAs. The more specific your segments, the more successful your stories will be. Below we outline common segments for you to consider.

Every office has a different feel, influenced by things like location, architecture, and the teams working there. Depending on the size of your company, consider segmenting candidates based on the country, region, city, or office where they’d be working.

Job Level

Each time you create a new job posting, you’ve personalized copy to that role—but many recruiters link back to marketing material that is intended for allroles at the company. It’s important to have assets that speak to the the division, function, team, or even specific role for which a candidate would be hired.

Career Stage

We already mentioned students. Not surprisingly, their priorities will be different from those of new grads, experienced hires, or executives.

Veterans and Underrepresented Demographics
Companies may also want to segment stories to speak to specific groups they are hoping to attract, such as veterans or underrepresented demographics.

Beyond segmenting by demographics, it’s also possible to group candidates based on their behavior. For example — candidates who’ve never signed up for an event, those who’ve signed up but never attended, and those who have attended. Each group is likely to have different familiarity and feelings of connection to your company.

Putting It Into Action

First, identify any segments within your organization that you’d like to target. Start with the examples above, but also look for additional segments specific to your company. Then, prioritize those segments. For which segments are you hiring the most people? Which are the most mission-critical? The most competitive? Where segments are both competitive and mission-critical (engineers, for example), it’s often worth segmenting extra-narrowly.

Step 2: Personalization

You can think of personalization as the process of highlighting the specific employee value propositions that will most appeal to a specific segment. If you’ve taken the time to understand the motivations and concerns of each segment (marketers identify “personas” to clearly highlight these characteristics), you should already have a sense of which elements to include in their personalized story. You can either personalize a specific story for each persona, or create small stories around each segment and combine two or three to appeal to a specific persona (see examples below).


We love the Airbnb careers page because it starts with a high-level story that gives candidates a clear sense of the company’s values and employee value propositions — then it immediately drills down into the exact segments we mention above. Check out their top navigation, which starts with “Welcome,” then highlights “Departments,” “Locations,” “Engineers,” and “University.” Each section has messaging targeted to specific segments, with a list of positions open in that segment. Bonus points: rather than relying entirely on website copy, they also link to GitHub, events, blogs by the teams, and more.


PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) also does an inspiring job of segmenting — specifically, for different experience levels. Their careers homepage provides three different paths for candidates to explore: campus, experienced, and executive. Clicking “campus” or “experienced” takes you to a magazine-style page with value propositions, employee profiles, videos, and calls to action all targeted specifically to that experience level. For instance, “campus” highlights internship programs, puts social media front-and-center, and pushes the company’s commitment to building resumes and improving interview skills. “Experienced” focuses more on market size and flexible work hours.

What’s smart about both these companies’ approaches is that their hiring collateral can easily be mixed and matched to create a personalized story that feels like it’s speaking directly to an individual candidate. For example, an outreach email from Airbnb to a potential CS intern in the UK could include links to their engineering page, student page, and Dublin office page. Or if someone with five years of experience lands on the PwC career page, they’ll immediately self-select into the content that is personalized to answer their most urgent questions. This kind of mixing and matching of different stories is where segmenting and personalization can really boost efficiency, while still making candidates feel like the heroes of their own story.

Putting It Into Action

If you read our earlier post and completed the worksheet, you’ve hopefully identified the core components of your employer story. Now, fill out the worksheet again, this time focusing on your top-priority segment. Pay particular attention to where answers change — that is where personalization will make a big difference to candidates. Repeat as needed for each segment you’d like to target.

Next up, check out Post 3, all about refining and polishing your message.

BTW, We use storytelling to help high-growth startups scale their teams. If you’d like to hear more, we’d love to talk!

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