Example Personas, Problem Scenarios, & Interview Guide at Enable Quiz (Startup)

These examples support the personas tutorial on this site: Personas for Design, Development, & Growth.

This section presents a set of example personas and problem scenarios based on the customers of a fictional company, ‘Enable Quiz‘. For a template you can use to create your own (a Google Doc which you can download as MS Word or copy to your domain), try this: PERSONAS TEMPLATE.

Helen the HR Manager

Helen-the-HR-Manager-PersonaHelen’s been on the job in HR for 10+ years. She knows the routine but she’s never gotten particularly comfortable with the technical topics her managers cover. She’d like to know more, but a lot of her day is taken up with fairly standard issues like benefits management, vetting employee situations, and setting up infrastructure for new hires. She feels a little stuck in the admin area- facilities, accounting, etc. She’s like to engage more in the other functional areas of the business. Helen’s job in terms of hiring is to help the functional manager write the job description, identify channels for recruitment, and perform initial candidate screening.

She doesn’t have deep knowledge about software development, so she’s getting the functional manager to give them the detail they need on job descriptions to screen for specific qualifications. That helps but it’s kind of arbitrary. The system for getting the list is unstructured and highly imperfect. From her point of view, a more systematic ready-to-go system for screening candidates and passing validated screening information to the functional manager would be great. Bad hires are Helen’s least favorite part of the job- it’s a really unfortunate thing for the hire as well as the company. Unfortunately, she has little visibility into whether a hire will work out.

She does the screening and passes the recruit for the functional managers for further screening. Having a more systematic view of why hires don’t work would be highly desirable but she hasn’t gotten a lot of traction with the functional managers on doing those post-mortems. The HR department may or may not be involved in ongoing skills management for existing employees. However, it will almost always be involved in employee assessment for anything financial, such as raises or bonuses. If the functional managers use a quiz to determine a raise or bonus (particularly if the HR manager initially created the quiz as an objective criteria), Helen’s likely to be involved in the administration and/or review of the results. Helen likely pays the bills for Enable Quiz, especially in a larger company.

Thinks Helen thinks the hiring process should be so much better- more systematic, fewer bad hires. Professional development is something they’ve identified that they want to do better, but the functional managers aren’t engaged enough to get the whole thing started.
Sees Helen is at the tail end of every bad hire and sees the damage it does to the employee and company, alike. Helen sees that online learning has rocketed forward in the last few years. If someone wants to learn a specific skill, there’s a number of high quality options online, many of them free. They just need a way to help employees organize select into these courses.
Feels Helen feels like crap whenever they have to let someone go. She hates it. The employee hates it. The manager hates it. It’s incredibly destructive and de-motivating for everyone involved. Helen would love to be more involved, more included in functional skills evaluation and improvement. She’s love to have a success story to talk about. Most HR departments don’t do a whole lot in this area.
Does Helen is responsible for recruiting 6-12 new positions per year, screening 25-50 candidates for each position.

 

Problem Scenarios/
Jobs-to-be-Done
Current Alternatives Value Propositions
Helen sources and screens engineering candidates for open positions, sending only qualified candidates to the hiring manager. Many of the skill requirements are outside her background. She calls references to get a general sense of their performance on the job. We’ll offer her a new capability for meaningful screening of technical candidates, increasing % of successful hires and lowering Frank the Functional Manager’s workload on recruiting.
Helen writes job descriptions with Frank the Functional (hiring) Manager. In a perfect world, they’d continually improve these based on hiring outcomes and employee job satisfaction. Right now she just gets lists from the Functional Manager and basically passes them through (to job postings, etc.). We’ll offer a best practice of menu of possible skills linked to popular job descriptions. They can then pair each of these with quiz content to assess candidates’ familiarity with target skills.
She’d like to put a company-wide professional development program in place. A few of her peers at bigger companies are doing it and the employees love it. Vendors have come in to see her with various programs but she isn’t sure how to assess what skills the employees and managers would like to develop. Right now she just works with the functional managers if she can convince them to do something on a case-by-case basis. Presenting the quiz application as an entry point for the HR manager to make it easy for the functional manager to assess a starting point for a skills management program might be a good way to deliver on this problem scenario.

Frank the Functional Manager

Frank-the-Functional-ManagerFrank’s been a technical manager for the last 8 years. He started out as an individual contributor in development, then running a technical operations group and after that a product development team. He’s got the team down to a predictable rhythm but he still spends most of his time interfacing with other departments that need things from his group. He’s learned that recruiting is one of his most important success factors, but still spends far less time on it than he’d like. chronically under invest their time in recruiting.

In terms of hiring, his job is to write up a job description for HR, coaching them on how to screen candidates. Screening candidates, even just the resumes, takes up a lot of his time and it often ends up meaning that he delays interviewing candidates for a week or two longer than he’d like. Something that would give him a structured, comparable criteria for looking at new hires would be helpful. Bad hires happen. Some are surprises, some just don’t fit in with the team. Frank admits the surprises shouldn’t happen- he and his team should have the ability to screen new hires to make sure they have the right skill sets. Anything that could prevent that would be of interest to Frank. Frank would like to get a more systematic view of where his team is at on key skill sets.

He has a general sense but he has too many people to know where everyone is on everything. Plus, there are new technologies out there where Frank isn’t that well up to speed. There may be some hidden gems and opportunities out there. Anything that would help Frank get a sense of where everyone is would be welcome.

Thinks Frank knows he should spend more time on quality recruiting and professional development. He plans to- it’s on his list. It’s a stitch in time saves nine thing- the time he spends on managing around various skills deficits would be much better invested in tighter up front evaluations and a more systematic approach to skills to development.
Sees Frank sees big gaps in what he was hoping certain staff would be able to do and what they actually do. He works around it, fixes it when he can, it’s part of his job.
Feels When Frank makes someone a stronger contributor than they were when they started with him, he feels good. Frank’s never gotten a lot from HR other than rules and paperork he has to do- he doesn’t seem them as a strategic asset for helping him do what he wants to do.Frank likes programs, systems- if he can see something that way he’s much more inclined to get bought in.
Does Frank gets busy and drops the ball. A little coaxing from HR is OK if he sees the value. Too much and he gets annoyed and he’ll be much less likely to use the system. He is responsive to direct contact from knowledgeable coaches (from Enable Quiz).

 

Problem Scenarios/
Jobs-to-be-Done
Current Alternatives Value Propositions
Frank’s in a growth area and hiring talent is one of his most important responsibilities. He spends time with Helen as much as possible to source and screen talent, but he thinks he’s chronically under-investing his time and energy. We can help Frank easily provide a focused, testable job description and screening criteria to reduce the amount of time he has to spend and improve his outcomes.
Culture and personality fit is one of the most important factors in determining a candidate’s overall satisfaction with a position on Frank’s team. Frank needs to assess this. With all the time he has to spend screening candidates for the basics on skills, Frank doesn’t have enough time to do a good job here. We’ll free Frank up to spend more time on this by a) reducing the amount of candidates he interviews and b) giving him a strong first-order idea of where the candidates are on key skills.
Frank would like to put a focused professional development program in place and make it part of how he helps his staff develop their careers + keep up with the needs of their projects. He’s identified a few key topics and sent out some links to tutorials and online courses, but he’s not too sure who’s doing what and if/how it’s helping them with the work. What if we used the skills taxonomy and quizzes to help them identify where they’d like to be vs. where they are? What if we made that easy? We at Enable Quiz don’t have all the solutions in terms of learning resources but there are items out there that we could reference. The main thing is to make the whole thing easy for the functional manager.

Chris the Candidate

Chris-the-Candidate-PersonaChris has been on the workforce for seven years in a variety of roles. He wants to be challenged and work with smart people. He gets the basic idea on the key topics but, hey, we all fudge a little, don’t we? As an engineer, most jobs come relatively easy given the shortage of supply. Paradoxically, the harder he has to work to land a position, the better he regards the company and the position he’s won.

Thinks He wants to work with a strong team. He learns a lot and that makes the work more enjoyable. The opposite is that the team is weak and he’s going to have to carry people- he doesn’t like that.
Sees Chris sees an Enable Quiz user (for recruitment) taking the position seriously and filtering out the kind of people he wouldn’t want to work with anyway.
Feels Chris spends a lot of time on work. It may be his main source of fulfillment. He wants to be part of a club that’s hard to join.
Does Chris is eager to see what the firm thinks of him and how he did on the quiz.

Since the interview candidate is sort of an involuntary one-time user, detailed problem scenarios aren’t really a clean fit. Nevertheless, we took a shot to see how it would look.

Problem Scenarios/
Jobs-to-be-Done
Current Alternatives Value Propositions
Chris knows most job descriptions are done in a rush. He wants to know what the job will be like in actual practice. He tries to do a good job of asking questions but doesn’t want to seem pushy. Plus, not everyone’s all that organized during interviews. The topic list from the quiz is a good, basic description of what skills he’d be applying.
Chris wants learning experiences and while every employee says their committed to to learning, in practice the allowance they make for it varies a lot. There really isn’t a good, reliable way for Chris to ascertain this during interviews. If he’s interviewing with peers, he can ask, and once in awhile he gets a good answer. The quiz is a signal that the company has specific expectations about skill and ascribes importance to them. Pairing that with a skills development program (and using that to set the trajectory for new hires) for the current staff would be a great way to signal to recruits the hiring company’s commitment to professional development.

Steve the Staff Member

Steve-the-Staff-Person-PersonaSteve’s been on the job as a consulting engineer for two years. Most of the time he’s head down working on customer deliverables. He’s been doing a solid job but is curious about what it would take to broaden his horizons some. He also doesn’t see anything wrong with a little friendly competition- it keeps the job more interesting. He came to the company through a technical recruiter and she has been in touch about other opportunities. Steve likes what he’s doing and his team, but he does need to feel like he’s growing to stick around.

Thinks Steve’s early in his career and he knows he wants to be part of a success and a place that has a reputation for running a good program. He’s running around fulfilling his responsibilities and he knows he’s not spending enough time expanding his skill set.
Sees Steve sees peers that know less and some that know more. He tries to learn from the folks that know a lot but they’re busy. He tries to help out the folks that need help, but he’s busy too.
Feels Steve wants to feel like the company and his manager care about him, that they’re looking out for his best interests and professional development. Because lord knows he doesn’t have time to think about it with his workload.
Does Steve might have a little trepidation about a quiz, especially if there have been layoff’s recently. But if he understands it’s part of a skills development program he’s into it.

 

Problem Scenarios/
Jobs-to-be-Done
Current Alternatives Value Propositions
It’s important for him professionally that he’s keeping up with new topics and learning core best practices. While he can do it on his own initiative and time, Steve would like management to spend more time on their professional development. We’ll give management a tool where they can create skills-driven, testable job descriptions. They can use these both for recruitment and learning management.
A lot of the work is a loner’s game. Steve gets a little lonely, a little bored on a lot of afternoons. He loves to answer questions on Stack Overflow- it feels work-ish, at least, and he’s built up quite a reputation for answering questions in his areas of expertise. The employer could focus some of this energy back into their internal team with a skills audit. Done right, it could create a little friendly competition and ideally some peer mentoring as a follow-up.

Notes Interview Guides

The two sections that follow describe the interview guides for the HR manager and the functional managers they collaborate with when making a new hire. The functional manager is the person who will manage the new hire and created the job description for the team member they need. The HR manager collaborates with them by sourcing candidates, doing initial screening, and helping with the final decision.

Interview guides are not the same thing as questionnaires. The goal here isn’t to create statistically valid or even specifically comparable data. The idea is to get at what’s truly important to the subject, why, and how they actually behave. As an interviewer, you have to apply judgement toward getting the right information from your subject and managing the time and energy both you and the subject have available. Sometimes this means asking the same basic question a few different ways over the course of the interview, and sometimes it means skipping whole sections of your interview guide in order to focus on a thread of conversation that particularly useful.

HR Manager- Interview Guide

SCREENING QUESTION
How many open positions have you filled in the last three months? [Should be >1 if extenuating circumstances but probably >5]

PERSONA HYPOTHESIS

Question Format Example Questions (Enable Quiz)
Tell me about [yourself in the role of the persona]? Tell me about being an HR manager?
How did you choose that line of work? Why?
What do you most, least like about the job?
What are the hardest, easiest parts of the job?
I’ve heard [x]- does that apply to you?
Tell me about [your area of interest]? Do you do screen new candidates? If not, who?
Can you tell me about the last time?
Who else was involved? What was it like?
Tell me your thoughts about [area]? How do things work now vs. how would they ideally work?
What do you see in [area]? Where do you learn what’s new? What others do?
Who do you think is doing it right?
How do you feel about [area]? What motivates you? What parts of it are most rewarding? Why?
What about least motivating, least rewarding?
What do you do in [area]? Would you show me your interview guide?
Example notes?
What the vetting process was like on the last few candidates?

PROBLEM HYPOTHESIS

Question Format Example Questions (Enable Quiz)
What are the top [5] hardest things about [area of interest]? What are the top 5 most difficult things about making good tech hires? Why?
How do you currently [operate in area of interest- if you don’t have that yet]? OR Here’s what I got on [x]- is that right? How do you currently screen for technical skill sets?Who does what?How does that work?
What’s [difficult, annoying] about [area of interest]? What’s difficult about screening technical candidates?How do you validate they have the right skill set?
How are the actual outcomes? Examples?
What are the top 5 things you want to do better this year in [general area of interest]? What are the top 5 things you want to do better in technical recruiting and hiring?
Why is/isn’t [your specific area of interest on that list]? Why is/isn’t screening for technical candidates on that list?

Functional Manager- Interview Guide

SCREENING QUESTION
As a manager, how many new hires have you made in the last six months? [Should be >1]

PERSONA HYPOTHESIS

Question Format Example Questions (Enable Quiz)
Tell me about [yourself in the role of the persona]? What’s it like managing an engineering team?
How did you choose to go into management? Why?
What do you most, least like about the job?
What are the hardest, easiest parts of the job?
I’ve heard [x]- does that apply to you?
Tell me about [your area of interest]? How do you decide when you need someone new on the team?
How do you decide what you need?
What’s the process typically like?
What’s it like writing the job description?
How long does it take?
How do you decide which candidates to interview?
Can you tell me about the last time?
Who else was involved? What was it like?
Tell me your thoughts about [area]? How do things work now vs. how would they ideally work?
How did you make your last decision on a candidate?
What do you see in [area]? Where do you learn what’s new? What others do in the area of acquiring the right talent?
Who do you think is doing it right?
How do you feel about [area]? What’s it like bringing on new talent?
What parts of that process are most rewarding?
What parts are least rewarding?
What would it be like in your perfect world?
What do you do in [area]? How many new candidates did you hire last year?
Other than just increasing the size of your dev. pipeline, were there particular new skills you were looking for in those hires?

PROBLEM HYPOTHESIS

Question Format Example Questions (Enable Quiz)
What are the top [5] hardest things about [area of interest]? What are the top 5 most difficult things about making good hires? Why?
How do you currently [operate in area of interest- if you don’t have that yet]? OR Here’s what I got on [x]- is that right? How do you currently screen for technical skill sets?
Who does what?
How does that work?
What’s [difficult, annoying] about [area of interest]? What’s difficult about screening technical candidates?
How do you validate they have the right skill set?
How are the actual outcomes? Examples?
What are the top 5 things you want to do better this year in [general area of interest]? What are the top 5 things you want to do better in technical recruiting and hiring?
Why is/isn’t [your specific area of interest on that list]? Why is/isn’t screening for technical candidates on that list?