5 tips for storytelling in recruitment

We are often praised by candidates for the way we present them offers from the job market. Sometimes they even mention the fact that they never experienced the offers in the way we present them and that they are excited about them.

Do not worry, this article does not aim to “massage” my own ego or to get a pat on my back. I would like to try to explain how crucial it is to communicate the offer properly to the candidate and what technique works for me. We will certainly agree that you have only one opportunity to make an impression and it usually doesn’t last very long.

The technique I have been using in recruitment to introduce job offers for years is called “storytelling”. You may have heard of it from other functions, for example, it is used in marketing or product management. It can be as powerful in recruiting as well. But first let’s explain what it is. Storytelling is a technique of telling stories through which the listeners can better identify themselves with a brand or product, in the case of recruitment it is identifying with the company and position.

I remember getting to storytelling even in Grafton (without knowing it at that moment). At that time, I met one investor from China who opened a new production hall in Brno and needed people. Negotiations were conducted in a standard manner. It was said what the company was planning, how many people were needed and when they should be hired. After that it was my turn to introduce our company. I have started with the classic presentation – we have 14 branches, 200 employees, we specialize in these positions, this is our vision and so on. After a while the Asian manager stopped me and told me that we could skip it. It took me by surprise, but then I understood. He had heard about hundreds of similarly boring presentations. Tiresome facts without context and emotion. Simply boring.

One week later I had the opportunity to sit with another investor, this time in Prague, and one of the owners of Grafton, Niall Keyes, joined the meeting. When presenting our company, he referred to the same facts as me, but his presentation was significantly different. The difference was that Niall took the presentation as a story. The story of how Grafton was born, how it started, why the company was founded, what the beginnings were, how we are doing, and so on. Instead of bare facts, he brought up stories that supported the facts. The client enjoyed it and was “hanging” on Niall´s lips. It was the first time I ever saw, how storytelling can change the perception of the same information and this technique has been a part of my tool box ever since.

It is at the stage of presenting the offer to the candidate that storytelling is very powerful. If you want to attract a passive candidate in the job market, it is not enough to work only with facts and information, you need to involve emotions. Emotions are a very good tool, especially at the beginning of the recruitment process, and only at the end of the recruitment process the candidate will start to engage more rationally – with factual things such as salary, business car, vacation days, etc., If you jump straight into rational facts during your presentation of job offer, there is a risk, especially with passive candidates, that you won´t make them interested in the offer. That is how most recruiters talk with them.

And how to do it? Every position you recruit for, has a story. The story of (your) company that has gone through some development, has experienced ups and downs, has a vision and is on the way to its fulfillment. The same goes for the story about the open position. Tell stories. Talk about what has already happened, but try to visualize the future. Help the listener to understand that he or she can become part of this story.

One could write ten long pages about storytelling techniques. I would personally summarize them in these rules:

1) Get to know your business and the open position

Only then you will be able to use storytelling effectively. If you do not know your business, its history or vision well, the story will be difficult to build, will be empty and will not be compact.

2) Don’t hide anything

Be open and honest. It is clear to me that every company has its own “skeletons”, but they need to be openly presented. Yes, you may lose a candidate. On the other hand, such a candidate would not be satisfied and happy anyway.

3) Engage emotions

If you tell the story monotonously, without emotion, you will not be able to communicate it well. But I do not mean to over-dramatize the story either. The key is to remain yourself.

4) Be prepared to edit the story

Everyone is different and the story can work differently for each of us. So it is better, if you already have some information about the candidate and can guess what to emphasize in the story or how to communicate it.

5) It’s always better to tell the story face to face

In these times of e-mails, inmails and other technological advances, personal contact is disappearing from recruitment. You are able to solve almost everything with the candidate remotely and you do not need to really see him or her. But for storytelling, personal contact is crucial. Without it, you won’t be able to pass on emotions or respond to your listener that well.

Strong stories attract candidates. They want to be part of something meaningful. You don’t have to work for Tesla or Spacex to have a strong story. You can certainly build a story around your business and your position.

Author of the article: Michal Toman

Translated by Ivan Kuzma

The original article in Czech language

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