Stories are baked into our lives and the way we make sense of the world. Every culture in human history has used stories to shape their identity, bring people together, inform, entertain, and give meaning to the experience of life.
Recruitment is no different. Companies that use storytelling in recruitment gain a ton of powerful advantages, allowing them to connect with more of the best candidates, fill their openings with top talent, and grow their businesses.
In this article, though, we’ll zoom in on why storytelling is a crucial part of interviewing and closing candidates.
Why is storytelling in recruitment so important for startups?
Stories are all around us, whether we notice them or not. The obvious places are the books we read, the movies we watch, and friendly cab drivers. But it goes far beyond that — look carefully and you’ll find examples of storytelling everywhere from your favorite painting to the packaging on your groceries.
The human brain is hardwired to respond to stories, latch onto the narrative structure, and connect and remember much more quickly and effectively. Weaving the information you want to share into a great story is much better than simply listing it. Here are some reasons this is so important for startups:
- As a startup, you probably aren’t an established name. You can’t rely on the raw pull of your reputation to draw candidates in, so it’s essential to use good storytelling to show them who you are (and why they should care) from the very moment you connect.
- Stories humanize your brand. They transform it from just another job opportunity to a living, breathing organization, made up of a community that other people want to be a part of.
Stories bring people together, helping your candidates feel like they could be a part of your company. When you interview them, you can use the power of storytelling in the process. Weave in stories about your company culture and employer brand to help new employees feel at home before they’ve even joined the company.
How to use storytelling in recruitment effectively
While stories come in many shapes and sizes, they tend to share a few similar features:
- Human interest. Compelling stories come with a cast of relatable and likable characters, people with unique personalities and charm but also flaws and struggles. Characters help your audience connect with the story and place themselves within it.
- A conflict. The conflict in your story doesn’t have to be an epic battle or a murderous villain. It can be something as simple as a tough project which required quick thinking and led to great results.
- A journey. Your character, or characters, should progress from one point to another. Your journey doesn’t have to cover the entirety of Middle Earth — or any physical space at all — but there should be some kind of progression, which usually involves overcoming the conflict.
Here’s how you can bake this into how you interview and close candidates.
Your outreach to candidates
When you reach out to candidates for the first time, it’s important to grab their attention as quickly as possible. You need to prove who you are, why they should be interested, and then show them why they should consider working for you.
A good outbound email can do all of this. Remember to:
- Use a compelling and relevant subject line. Specific is good — “Tech Lead Opportunity” is much more interesting than a vague “We’re Hiring”.
- Establish who you are and what you’re looking for, quickly. Use links to your website and social media profiles like LinkedIn. A story doesn’t have to be several paragraphs long, it can be as simple as, “We’ve been working as a team to create the world’s first [X], and now we’re looking to bring someone like you on board.”
- Develop and use a distinctive brand voice. This takes work, but the best emails sound like they could only come from you.
- Finish your email with an “About” paragraph sharing your company’s story. This should be at the end, so your reader has the option to read it only if they want to. Remember to include the initial problem that your business solved, how you did it, and what’s next for your team.
How you engage with candidates during interviews
A job interview is the perfect place to tell a captivating story about your business. This is what your candidate will be expecting, and at this stage, they’ll actively want to know more about your history, what you do, and how they fit into the picture.
Remember to focus on the key building blocks of stories — the people involved, the challenges you faced, and the steps you took to overcome them and achieve success. And don’t forget your future plans — stories don’t have to end in the past, and talking about what’s next allows you to bring your interviewee into the story.
Before you even start interviewing, sit down with hiring managers and think through some of the following questions. They’ll help you develop your story.
- What is your company tagline?
- What is unique about your product and mission — both in “change the world” potential as well as your impact on a single individual?
- What inspired you (and your co-founder) to solve this pain point in the first place?
- What makes you uniquely staged to tackle this problem?
- What historically made this a tough market or problem space?
- Who will be your target audience? Why are they exciting to build for?
- Are there any private or public competitors in this problem space? If so, how will you disrupt them?
- What traction do you have so far? (This can include impressive teammates and their backgrounds, customer observations, or impressive investors.)
- What exciting next steps do you hope to tackle in the next 3-6 months as you build out V1 of your product?
If you’re competing against established companies to land top-tier talent, you’ll need to hire faster than them. Storytelling can help you do so.
When interviewing candidates, ask: “How will you be making this decision? What other companies are you considering?”
Expect them to throw out some big names, because they probably are interested in jobs with the Apples or Googles of the world. Use it as an opportunity to highlight the calibre of employees who already work at your company by responding:
“I can tell you that it’s never been the case that someone’s gotten an offer from us who hasn’t gotten an offer from them. So, knowing that you’ll be getting an offer from these places, what’s really important to you in the next step in your career?”
Most candidates will say that they are looking for increased compensation, learning experiences, or the ability to make an impact. Here’s how you respond, using all of the storytelling that you’ve worked on behind the scenes:
“I’ll tell you right now that those companies are going to pay more — not a lot more, since we do benchmark ourselves to X% of the market — but if the decision is for role and the opportunity to contribute and have an impact, then I’d be happy to talk about why [your company] and the team doing [example impact] are a far better choice.”
Some companies will shy away from speaking directly about the hiring competition. But if you know how to tell your story well, you can tackle other potential employers head-on in conversations and come out on top.
Discover more ways you can dial up your recruiting
At The Swarm, our story is all about helping startups build the best hiring processes out there. We know hiring is a constant challenge, and we know many startups are stuck in the wrong patterns and relying on outdated methods. We dedicated ourselves to helping businesses overcome these issues and build the perfect team.
Harness the power of networks to make your recruiting more efficient. Start free at theswarm.com