We Want to Tell Recruiting Stories as Well as Hollywood

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Apr 5, 2019

Hands down, I have an excellent recruiting team, a team that is on the verge of crossing from excellent to the best in the business. We understand crossing from excellent to the very best in the business comes down to micro-movements, resolutions, and refinements. As a team, our common goal is simple: to be better tomorrow than we are today.

Our team is comprised of individuals with varying experience levels, as well as both internal and RPO professionals. We are all part of “The Team” and all are listened to and developed equally. This team, in its current iteration, has been together for about 10 months, since we transitioned to a new global RPO partner last April. As part of our continuous improvement process, we identified an opportunity: If we upped our storytelling skills we could connect and convert candidates more quickly in the process.

Every company/recruiter has a story to tell, and those stories often sound the same. It’s white noise in the market. Candidates aren’t hearing messages that truly resonate or stick with them. When we surveyed candidates, we got overwhelming and, frankly, disheartening responses. These responses said that either our reach-out felt generic, or that we didn’t take the time to tell a story or have a dialogue. We have been going too quickly into “Are you interested? Send me your resume” mode.

We also hear this in general (in the industry) about other experiences candidates are having. The volume, sameness, and lack of authenticity in messaging from TA organizations is a huge frustration. I can concur, as I secret-shop my competition all of the time and hear their messaging to candidates and how they tell their stories.

Therefore we knew we had an opportunity. We needed to truly, deeply differentiate our storytelling skills, break through the noise, and really connect with candidates.

Where we knew we would struggle is first in sorting down and distilling our messaging. As a company, we have 100 years of incredible history, top of the line benefits, great perks, etc. A lot of companies have the same thing and will tell you as much. It is not enough to just push that out there and think you are making an impression.

We knew what we didn’t want. We didn’t want a catch phrase or a hook. We wanted to elevate our communication skills to rise to a level where we were resonating and establishing the foundation for continued communication. We didn’t want an elevator speech, because an elevator speech is so 30 years ago. It is an attention grabber to be sure, but it’s surface sizzle and nothing more. We wanted more!  We wanted the ability to build stories, whether they are verbal or written, that will facilitate connection.

What we didn’t know were the elements which make a great story. We all talk about stories, and everyone I know in TA thinks they are a great storyteller. But we don’t all share memorable stories that capture, connect, and resonate. Mostly, we default to pushing quantity of words over quality. We rush for the payoff of a punch line, instead of focusing on connecting with our audience. Full disclosure: I trained for five years with Second City, worked as a stand-up comedian, have written stage shows, and two short films; Even I didn’t feel I had the storytelling chops to operate at the level we, the team, wanted to be at.

We started discussing it in the terms of modern entertainment. TV/streaming has hundreds of options that compete for your attention, just like recruiters compete for candidates’ attention. The other great commonalities are that the success rates are exceedingly low, but when you are successful you will be unforgettable.

We were left with the question of where would we find that expertise. I know all the greats in the TA and recruitment-marketing fields, but felt it was important to get focused expertise and find someone who didn’t have the years of biases built up with a career in TA. One of my connections on LinkedIn, Nily Refai, is a screenwriter, producer, mentor, and teacher (The Walking Dead, E! Shows, Vh-1, House of Cards, among others). I approached her with my idea to improve our storytelling skills.  Never shying from the adventures of story-sharing and telling, Nily jumped right on board.

During the course of our initial discussion, I learned that she has not only written and developed many stories internationally, but she reads upward of 1,000 scripts a year that others write. She immerses herself in the science and art of creating layered characters through relatable stories which resonate individually to move audiences. That is exactly the way I wanted my team to approach storytelling!

Nily has a wonderful process, and guided my team through a learning experience that will forever change and improve how we relate with our candidates and clients.  I’m not going to give away her secret sauce, but I will say, “the team” is now able to share unique stories which come from a place of individuality, to relate universally, and connect independently to the listener.

We also learned the value of pacing our interactions as we present the story. This was cathartic for both myself and the team. The move in recruiting is often to rush what you have to say, and immediately move to a call to action. It essentially follows this format: We have a great job. We are a great company. Send me your resume. This artificially constrains our ability to truly tell a story, and denies the candidate the opportunity to digest and engage with that story. There has to be a pause. This creates that opportunity for digestion and the chance for the teller to read their audience, and now weave the story into a dialogue. Since quality trumps speed, this was a valuable lesson!

Recruiting is a relationship-driven process.  We are not looking for Mr./Ms. Right Now, we are looking to engage with and develop a relationship with Mr./Ms. Right.

This is how your favorite show makes you feel. Great storytellers build stories that are relatable and engaging to wide audiences, yet still manage to feel very personal. They are building a long-term relationship with the viewer, not a one-and-done engagement. That’s what we are prepared to do now.

The team loved this training. We are so excited to begin to apply what we learned and further eclipse our competitors in the market! A week in, we are already changing our outbound communication, moving away from universal templating and creating personal stories, using their voice, experiences, and without giving away too much from, their own vulnerability.

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