Once upon a Time: How to Use Storytelling to Attract Top Talent

Use storytelling to attract candidates to your company.

People of any age can’t resist a good story, whether it’s the fairy-tale movies of our youth, sagas about wizard boys or Netflix binging. Stories make for wonderful entertainment — but they’re also an effective way to show potential candidates why they should work for your company.

After all, today’s job seeker is often distracted and overwhelmed with options. Using storytelling that’s compelling and consistent helps build an effective employer brand — the messaging about your company that appears on all channels, from your website to social media to the Indeed company page.

In a recent series of interviews conducted by Indeed about the hiring process, one job seeker said this: “There are some companies that instantly stand out to me as places where I’d love to work. You can almost feel what it’s like to work there just by reading the job description.”

Wouldn’t you love it if they were talking about your company? To connect with candidates through storytelling, you’ll need to include the elements of a good story: a personal connection, conflict or struggle, interesting characters and a great setting.

Make a personal connection

Today’s candidates are looking for a personal connection with a company — 65% of job seekers  surveyed by Indeed in 2017* said they would feel connected to a company with a mission or vision that resonates with their values and beliefs.

To start crafting the story that will resonate best with job seekers, here’s a simple exercise: think about your company’s story and why you feel personally connected, and then create a list of words you would use to tell that story.

Now, pull up your careers site or the description of a role you’re trying to fill. Do the words in the posting match the words you wrote down? Are the best parts of your company’s story highlighted? If not, it may be time to consider a change.

Introduce conflict, adversity or struggle

Clarify the problem your company is solving by including an element of conflict, adversity or struggle. This also creates dramatic tension that makes the job seeker want to keep reading to see the resolution.

The “our stories” video series by the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) is a great example of this. HCZ is a comprehensive educational and social support system that includes schools and family, community and health programs in Harlem, New York. It began as a one-block pilot project to address serious issues in the community such as inadequate housing, drug use, poor schools, violent crime and severe health problems. Today, it occupies 97 blocks and serves over 25,000 people.

The videos feature personal stories of how HCZ has helped staff and students overcome difficulties to succeed; for example, founder Geoffrey Canada shares how he grew up in a dangerous environment and vowed to help other kids if he ever made it out. The videos appeal to the emotions of the viewer and immediately draw a connection between the problems HCZ is solving and the importance of its work.

Think about the problems and challenges you tackle — they may not be as dramatic as this, but adding them to your company storytelling will provide job seekers with a compelling answer as to why they should come work for you.

Include interesting characters

All great stories have interesting characters, so introduce your own. Associating human faces with your company helps job seekers identify with the people behind your story.

For example, take KFC and the iconic Colonel Sanders. Harland David Sanders first licensed his secret fried-chicken recipe to various restaurants in Utah before starting the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) franchise chain. Since then, the global brand has updated his image and doubled down on using the colonel for promotion, thanks to his outsize personality and audience appeal. His likeness and name are synonymous with the brand, and he’s featured in the company’s logo.

You don’t have to be a multinational brand to do this. Talk to your company founders, other employees or even customers to find those with particularly compelling personal stories. Feature them prominently on your website and highlight them on social media to grab job seekers’ attention. Telling stories that let their personalities shine through and sharing interesting tidbits will help connect with readers.

Create a great setting

A great story makes you feel like you’re there. When you talk about your company, describe what life there is like day to day.

Juiceland — a juice chain based in Austin, Texas — is a prime example, highlighting their happy work environment. The company lists “fun” as their first value, saying, “We are proud of the fact that our staff enjoys coming to work and spending time with people they love being around.” Juiceland makes the fun of working there even more tangible through photos of staff outings on social media and a music video for recruitment on their website.

In today’s world, it’s easier than ever to share your story through photos, inexpensive video options and social media, which can spread an idea faster than you can say “retweet.”

Conclusion

Creating an effective employer brand is about telling compelling and consistent stories to reach people on an emotional level. Using the key elements of storytelling is a great way to connect more deeply with job seekers and grab their attention. In a saturated job market, this can help you draw applicants to your brands and outshine the competition.

If you dig into employee and company stories, there is likely a wealth of content you could use to promote working for your company to candidates. And with so many easy-to-use platforms available, there’s no reason not to give storytelling a try. So what are you waiting for? Jump in!

*Decipher/FocusVision on behalf of Indeed (2017)

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